Fire systems foster positive results in reducing false alarm levels

Thursday, April 1, 2004

The advent of addressable fire detection and alarm systems seems to be putting one of the industry’s biggest problems - false alarms - to rest.

Industry participants noted the increased intelligence of the sensors, detectors and addressable panels has had a positive impact on reducing the level of false fire alarms.

A big part of that, said John Haynes, director of marketing for Simplex-Grinnell, is having systems that can detect and notify users about dirty sensors. “You can schedule maintenance more effectively,” he said.

Photoelectric and heat-detecting sensors also have improved intelligence, he noted, based on more complex algorithms, to distinguish between a real fire and a non-event.

An intelligent system, said Jeff Hendrickson, director of marketing for Fire-Lite and Silent Knight, “makes maintenance easier, cheaper and more reliable.”

He said the key is addressability - ”you can find out exactly what a sensor in a lobby is doing” and bring that information to a technician.

Other advances that have helped reduce false alarms, said Nick Martello, director of marketing for Notifier, include alarm verification, which provides a short delay for verification before the alarm is sent; improved sensitivity, which compensates for special situations such as steam in a cafeteria; and day-night settings, which adjusts sensitivity for “background noise” such as dust that is higher in the daytime when people are around, but lower at night.

An addressable system with a cooperative sensing mode, Martello said, has the ability to take the information from three adjacent detectors and take the sum of the smoke in the three chambers to make a determination about an alarm.

“It’s all part of the Holy Grail of making more stable sensing devices,” he said.

As a result, users are continuing a migration toward addressable systems, especially as prices for addressable systems become comparable with conventional installations.

“We’re on a great wave of bringing addressable everywhere,” according to Hendrickson.