Fire detection and alarm system
Most fire detection and alarm systems operate on the same basic principles. If a fire is detected, then an alarm is triggered. This warns building managers and occupants that there may be a fire and that evacuation may be necessary. Some systems include remote signalling equipment which can alert the fire brigade or a remote monitoring centre.
Fire can be detected by; heat detectors, flame detectors, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and multi sensor detectors, or an alarm can be triggered at manual call points. Alarms may consist of bells, sirens, horns, lights or a combination these. Two power supplies are required, generally a mains supply and batteries providing 24 hours back up.
It is important that a thorough assessment of need is undertaken before a fire detection and alarm system is designed or purchased.
- L, (L1 to L5): automatic systems intended for the protection of life.
- M: manual systems, fitted with sounders and call points.
- P, (P1 and P2): automatic systems intended for the protection of property.
Fire detection and alarm systems can be divided into a number of general types:
- Conventional systems.
- Addressable systems.
- Analogue addressable systems.
- Wireless systems.
- Self-contained units.
Conventional systems generally consist of a series of detectors and call points wired to a control panel which drives the detectors and a minimum of two sounder circuits, includes LED indicators and allows de-activation and resetting. Typically, separate circuits will be provided for each fire 'zone' (usually a floor of a building or a fire compartment). This separation into zones means that the approximate location of the fire is known and so the appropriate response can be instigated. It also allows for easier diagnosis of faults.
Addressable systems are similar to conventional systems, but the central control panel can identify exactly which detector or call point triggered the alarm (rather than just a zone), or whether communication has been lost with a detector. In this system the circuit is wired in a loop, with a number of detectors or call points on each loop. The loop can be powered from both ends, so that it continues to function even if there is a break in the loop (separate loops may still be provided for each zone).
The control panel can be programmed to show specific information, or trigger specific responses for different detectors within the system. Addressable systems are generally used for larger or more complex installations because of the benefits of more accurate detection, and so fault finding, and the reduced wiring requirement.
Analogue addressable systems, or intelligent systems can include an analytical capability in each detector which can assess local parameters to determine whether there is a fire, a fault or a maintenance requirement. This can be useful in preventing the occurrence of false alarms. A pre-alarm warning may be indicated if a detector is approaching a trigger condition.
Wireless fire alarm systems connect detectors and call-points to the control panel using wireless signals.
NB, The 2014 BRE briefing paper, The causes of false fire alarms in buildings, found that; 'False alarms generated from remotely monitored fire detection and fire alarm systems cost businesses and Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) authorities an estimated £1 billion a year in the UK. In the period 2011-2012 a total of 584,500 fire and false alarms were reported in Britain, 53.4% of these were not fires and therefore considered “False alarms”. This is a considerable drain on FRS authorities as well as causing business disruptions leading to a loss of productivity and reducing the confidence of the general public.'
The paper proposed that education could contribute significantly to reducing false alarms and that the increased use of multi-sensor detectors is a cost effective way of averting false alarms from common causes such as cooking fumes and steam.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Access control.
- Automatic fire detection and alarm systems, an introductory guide to components and systems BR 510.
- Commercial security systems.
- External fire spread, Supplementary guidance to BR 187 incorporating probabilistic and time-based approaches.
- Fire and rescue service.
- Fire dampers.
- Fire detector.
- Fire door inspection scheme.
- Fire protection engineering.
- Fire safety design.
- Global overview analysis of fire and security.
- Heat alarm.
- Intruder alarm.
- Ionisation smoke alarm.
- Joint fire code.
- Multi-sensor alarm.
- Optical smoke alarm.
- Perimeter security.
- Safety signs.
- Security and the built environment.
- The causes of false fire alarms in buildings.
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
- The role of codes, standards and approvals in delivering fire safety.
- Wet riser.
Featured articles and news
IHBC book review: Charles Barry’s monumental struggle to rebuild the Houses of Parliament.
Read about RSHP's British Museum extension which has been shortlisted for the 2017 Stirling Prize.
Read our introductory article to building a house extension.
More updates from DCMS about the large-scale testing of cladding systems and the number of buildings affected.
UandI secure resolution to grant planning consent for major new regeneration project.
IHBC article considers how heritage is dealt with when infrastructure schemes are authorised.
It was the tallest structure in the world for 3,800 years, but to this day the exact construction techniques are a mystery.
Shortlist for the industry's most coveted award announced.
Government responds to Mark Farmer's review of industry, rejecting the call for a levy on clients.
Peter Hansford to examine what wider lessons can be learned from the fire.
Every project is subject to uncertainty. How can construction better understand uncertainty for performance improvement?
MAD Architects reveal their designs for a futuristic campus for electric car manufacturer.
Homebuyers could borrow more with better forecasting of energy bills, according to industry consortium's new report.