Cookie cutter, fixed design just isn’t the case

SSN Staff  - 
Sunday, August 1, 2004

In an editorial in the June 2004 edition titled, “Today’s fire panels are just not the same,” the author indicated a problem with one and two SLC addressable panels. The letter stated that panels are “cookie cutter” having a “fixed design” software package with no flexibility and that the industry is flying backwards. If you look at a lower end control panel you may come to this conclusion, but when looking at the changes and trends in the industry, I see the last 10 years as being the most exciting period yet.

On the peripheral side we’ve seen significant changes. Earlier smoke detectors provided the most basic functions. Now there are a host of choices, some including those using ultra sensitive laser components, and detectors that acclimate to their environment and combine the effects of both heat and smoke. Addressable modules have improved in both speed and flexibility offering options for fire phone circuits, speaker circuits, strobe circuits, dual contact relays, as well as direct plug in manual station modules. While some product lines may only offer single module solutions requiring a “4 to 5 feet” high cabinet to fit 22 relays, others offer multi modules of all types that will fit the same amount of points and more in a one and a half-foot high cabinet.

The small control panel side of the industry has advanced by leaps and bounds. Economy control panels are typically “fixed design” with limited functions and flexibility. These panels are designed for smaller projects that require the most basic features and are not intended for use in medium to large applications, which tend to be more sophisticated and require more computing power.

Traditional large control panels are beginning to make way to powerful one and two loop panels networked together with intelligent audio components to act as one. The result is reduced installation costs and more survivable systems. This trend is indicated in recent changes in NFPA 72 with changes requiring survivability in certain applications as well as a boost in system performance requirements. Applications that once required banks of relays and diode matrixes are now being performed with a few keystrokes using Boolean equations.

The audio evacuation side is seeing major advancements. The increased use of DSP technology combined with switching power supplies and amplifiers are resulting in much physically smaller audio systems that produce crisp digital quality audio. The days of audio fire evacuation sounding like someone talking in a can are numbered. With switching technology, technicians that once needed biceps and trunk space to carry a 50-watt audio amplifier can now practically carry one in their pocket. The list goes on and on.

The next 10 years in the fire alarm industry promises even more innovations and improvements. Together with the continued help of high quality technicians and installers our customers will enjoy attractive, high quality systems while increasing their ability to handle an emergency.

Jim Kimpel
Product Manager
Fire Control Instruments Inc.
Westwood, Mass.
Fire panels offer more than stated
I write in response to the article “Today’s fire panels are just not the same” that appeared in the June 2004 issue of Security Systems News.

The Honeywell Fire Systems Group offers a number of fire alarm control panels in the $1,000 to $2,000 price range that will accomplish precisely what Mr. Clinger believes they will not. These high-tech fire alarm control panels offer considerable flexibility in hardware and software platforms that are far more capable than the systems used 10 years ago.

Mr. Clinger states that today’s hardware offers only single modules to be mounted in double-ganged boxes. In truth, today’s Honeywell systems offer single cards with up to 10 addressable circuits on each card. These cards provide initiating device circuits, notification appliance circuits and control relays. Up to six of these modules can be mounted in a single dedicated enclosure, giving you the capacity of up to 60 addressable circuits in a 1' high by 2' long by 0.5' deep. These modules are ideally suited for monitoring water flow and supervisory devices, controlling HVAC equipment, driving custom graphic displays and replacing entire systems of conventional circuits in a very small area with far less labor than ever before.

Powerful software gives these fire systems the capability to develop solutions for such common applications as elevator recall, floor-above/floor below and door release in just a few minutes.

Jeff Behuniak
National Training Manager
Honeywell Fire Systems Group
Northford, Conn.