Fire alarm panels are essential components of any fire safety system, and understanding what they are, the types available, and when they should be updated is key to maintaining a safe and secure property. This article will discuss a fire alarm panel, the types of fire alarm panels, how long they last, and the general problems associated with old fire alarm panels. Finally, we’ll look at the advantages of updating your fire alarm panel regarding safety, longevity and cost.
I. What is a Fire Alarm Panel?
A fire alarm panel is the central control panel of a fire alarm system, responsible for detecting and messaging a fire alarm and connected to several manually operated and automatic fire sensors embedded in the property. The manufacturer’s manual shows the list of devices connected to the fire alarm panel. However, it can generally relate to various detection devices and other systems, such as building management or access control. They can also be connected to an existing fire hydrant system to allow for automatic shut-off of the hydrant should a fire be detected.
II. The Types of Fire Alarm Panels
There are three main types of fire alarm panels available: conventional / non-addressable fire alarm panels, wireless fire alarm system panels, and analogue addressable fire alarm panels.
1. Conventional / Non-addressable Fire Alarm Panels
These panels are ideal for smaller establishments such as single-story offices, homes, and stores that do not require complex control systems. They are relatively inexpensive to install and are self-sufficient in terms of programming, as they do not require complex communication protocols. The conventional systems generally use zone wiring and zone indicator light systems to indicate which zone within the building has set off the alarm.
2. Wireless Fire Alarm System Panels
Wireless fire alarm systems are becoming increasingly popular as they offer an easier, more economical way to install fire detection systems in more significant buildings. These systems feature the same components as their wired counterparts but allow the user to programme the system wirelessly, eliminating the need for expensive cabling installation and the associated costs. The wireless system also makes maintenance and testing easier as wireless sensors can be located to cover otherwise challenging-to-reach areas such as attics and basements.
3. Analogue Addressable Fire Alarm Panels
Analogue addressable fire alarm panels are typically used in large buildings such as shopping centres or office blocks since they provide a complex control system that can be easily integrated with other systems. These systems often feature repeater panels and multiple detectors in each zone with addressable discs on the back of each circuit. Each sensor is programmed with a unique address, allowing the user to identify each one.
Fire Alarm Panels Don’t Last Forever
While fire alarm panels are designed to operate for several years, they still need to become obsolete over time as technology advances and regulations change. Most fire alarm panels have a life expectancy of around 10-15 years, and older systems may become less reliable due to worn-out components. It is also essential to remember that manufacturers often make changes to the fire alarm systems in terms of features, battery type and operating conditions as new regulations are introduced.
Problems With Old Panels
There are various problems related to launching a system that is not up to date. A few of these problems include:
1. End-of-Life Equipment
Equipment that has reached the end of its life may not be able to detect new fires beyond its age. End-of-life products can often be difficult to source and much more expensive than a new system.
2. Safety Features Change
Industry standards and regulations surrounding fire safety are constantly changing, and older systems may need the safety features that a new system would. This means that a more senior panel may need to be able to provide the same level of protection as a more up-to-date system.
3. Fire Regulations May Increase
Regulations often change to reflect the realities of safety and thus influence the necessary fire safety upgrades. This could include installing additional detection devices or the need for broader coverage for more significant buildings.
4. Pricing May Increase
Installing a new system can be expensive, as equipment and installation costs can be much higher than that of an older system.
5. Compatibility Advancements May Be Less Than Satisfactory
Technology does not stand still, and many of the systems we use today need to be updated compared to the available advancements. This means plans may need to be compatible with the obsolete hardware that comes with the older designs.
6. Firmware Upgrades May Be Needed
Firmware upgrades may be needed to improve safety and keep up with changing regulations, and they can be expensive.
7. Old System Might Not Be Adequate for Renovated Space
If you’ve recently updated or renovated part of your facility, the old system might need to adequately detect a fire that breaks out in the renovated area.
8. System is Too Sensitive or Not Working When it Should
The sensors in an old system can become too sensitive or fail to detect a real fire. This can be caused by worn-out components or out-of-date programming.
Update Your Fire Alarm Panel Today
Upgrading your fire alarm panel is essential for safety, longevity and cost. A new, up-to-date fire alarm system can detect more recent threats, respond quickly when needed and is generally more economical than attempting to repair an outdated system. Furthermore, a modern fire alarm system can also help to keep your building compliant with updated safety regulations and provide peace of mind that your building is protected.