Fire is one hazard that we all hope we don't ever encounter. Thankfully, the incidence of death and injury from fires has been greatly reduced in the United States, mostly due to increasing safety measures such as fire protection systems and fire alarm systems.
What is a fire alarm system? A fire alarm system is designed to alert people to the presence of heat and smoke coming from even a small source; it is used mostly for industrial and commercial buildings, and is different from the simpler smoke detectors typically found in homes.
Extensive training on fire alarm systems is required for jobs related to the firefighting industry. However, anyone from any field can benefit from knowing about the basics of fire alarm systems training. If you'd like to brush up on your knowledge, then read on:
- Know the difference between manually activated and automatic fire alarm systems. A manually activated fire alarm system, at its most basic, works when a person pulls down a lever to send an alarm to the fire alarm panels and to other people within the building during a fire. An automatic fire alarm system, on the other hand, consists of detectors that sense the occurrence of heat and smoke and send signals to a fire alarm service or activate any fire incidence operating systems.
- Know the components of the system. An automatic fire alarm system has several components. First are its initiating devices, or the sensors that first detect the smoke and flame. Fire detectors could be photoelectric smoke and heat detectors, ionization smoke detectors, heat detectors, or in-duct smoke detectors. Second are the indicating or notification appliances, which serve to alert people of the danger; these include bells, chimes, horns and lights. Some other indicating appliances are currently in use, including voice instructions on how to evacuate a building. These may even be repeated in different languages. Third are the fire alarm panels, which show the state of the system, control output and supply troubleshooting information. Fourth are the fire system's batteries or backup power supplies. These should be able to keep the system working even when the primary power supply fails to work. Each component must be regularly monitored and tested, to ensure that they are in peak condition and will work properly in the event of an emergency.
- Regulatory mandates. There are some institutional mandates that regulate fire alarm systems use, like the NFPA (or National Fire Protection Agency) 101 Life Safety Code that regulates which occupancies must have fire alarm systems; NFPA 70 or the National Electric Code that regulates the wiring and equipment of the fire alarm system; and NFPA 72 that gives fire alarm parameters, including design, testing and maintenance procedures and operational protocols. Learn about other procedures by reading other institutionalized sources such as the Fire Protection handbook and various NFPA journals.
- Know the guidelines on how to properly install fire alarm equipment. There are several guidelines that you should follow in fire alarm service installation: Know which decibels to set the indicating appliances to ensure people hear it clearly even in a high-traffic environment; know that the power supply for the fire control panel is dedicated specifically to the fire alarm system; and know the proper locations to install your fire detection equipment based on the building zones that at the most risk.
These points are just to help you get started on getting basic training on fire alarm systems. No matter how vital fire alarms are, the most important things to know are still the preventative measures that will help you avoid the incidence of fire in the first place. Hopefully you'll brush up on your knowledge of these too! Stay safe, and remember that adequate knowledge could just possibly save your life.