(254) 772-6100

If you own, manage, or are building any commercial structure, you are likely too aware of the codes requiring your building(s) to have a working fire alarm system. Nevertheless, we still have a lot of questions that need to be addressed when it comes to this vital fire safety system. What is a coded fire alarm panel? How does a fire alarm panel work?

We must understand how these systems work and frequently need to be clarified with individual fire protection apparatuses, like smoke detectors or fire sprinklers. But fire alarm systems are a far more complex and comprehensive approach to fire protection than any individual device.

In this article, we'll learn the role and primary parts of a fire alarm system and how these parts work together to protect your establishment and its occupants in the event of a fire.

What Are Fire Alarm Panels?

Fire alarm control panels perform a vast range of life-saving and property-protecting tasks. Some activate fire sprinkler systems or fire suppression, while others don't. Some transmit a signal utilized to alert first responders, while others sound alarms in or around the building. Every fire panel serves as a middleman between devices that watch for hazards and those that face danger or issues with fire protection systems.

What is a coded fire alarm panel?

Here is how that works: when a fire begins, a smoke detector, hand-activated pull switch, heat detector, or manual call point transmits a signal to a fire panel. Fire sprinkler systems equipped with an alarm pressure switch or flow switch – devices that detect sprinkler activation – can signal the panel when water flows through an activated sprinkler system.

The fire alarm control panel responds to these signals by making noise or lighting up, activating other signals or local bells, and sending a signal to a private monitoring agency or fire officials tasked with notifying the authorities.

Many of these panels must be equipped to send water or activate fire sprinkler heads, which often activate one by one in response to rising ambient temperatures. Nevertheless, panels installed with some deluge sprinkler systems, for instance, can open or close a deluge valve, which allows fire suppressants to be distributed to numerous sprinkler heads simultaneously.

Panels for fire alarm systems in certain facilities go even further, locking or unlocking doors, turning off the electricity, disabling elevators, or shutting off or turning on ventilation.

Fire panels can also be used with building management systems and security systems. In these instances, the functions of a fire panel take priority over different systems, and "the other systems can't interfere with the operation of the fire alarm." For instance, if an access control system locks down certain outer doors in a building due to an external security threat, that command must be overridden during a fire evacuation.

Types of Control Panels

Coded: What Is a Coded Fire Alarm Panel?

Coded panels were the original design for fire alarm control panels. These systems used a code to alert the employees of a fire. The panel would deliver a sound based on the code setup. They use horns or bells to distribute the code throughout the entire building. The code is reflected by the total number of bell rings or times in which the horn blows. Each system requires an employee to pull a reset switch to disengage the panel.

There are three common types of control panels.

Conventional Panels Uncovered

The conventional panels operate on more than one circuit. They have sensors that connect to the panel and are wired by an electrician in a parallel style. When the sensor readings exceed specific thresholds, the circuit resistance of the wiring is reduced.

The limitations of the systems depend on the total number of circuits used in it. The information density received by the panel cannot exceed the number of circuits to which it is connected. However, it allows for zone-based boundaries identified by circuits. This is beneficial for commercial buildings that have multiple stories.

Understanding Addressable Panels

An addressable fire control panel gives an exact address for the location of a fire. The address reflects a specific device located inside the building. This gives the owner time to shut down the device and prevent further property damage and injury. It also detects the conditions that could lead to a fire.

The control panel provides information about the circumstances. This lets the owner or manager know if a fire has occurred or if conditions are favorable for this event. The information provided by these panels is considered more reliable than that provided by other panel options.

These features help the owner or manager mitigate risks to their workers quickly. They could pinpoint the exact location of the fire and evacuate these areas, reducing the risk of serious injuries and fatalities. With these features, the employees could use the information to determine what fire and safety training protocol to follow based on the circumstances identified.

The 3 States of Fire Alarm Systems

Fire alarms are a significant part of a building's fire safety system.

As stated above, the fire alarm panel monitors and always indicates the system's state. Most systems have three operating states: Normal, Alarm, and Trouble.

When all devices, appliances, wiring, and circuitry operate correctly, and no alarms are activated, the system operates in a Normal State.

Once an initiating device is activated, the system enters an Alarm State. The indicating appliances will sound, alerting the building occupants to danger, and the alphanumeric display on the control panel will specify from which area of the building the alarm is originating so that emergency personnel can immediately respond to the correct area.

Should an open or short wiring develop in the circuits connecting the initiating devices and fire alarm panel, or within the panel's zone cards or wiring, or if the system's phone line connection isn't functioning, then the system goes into Trouble State, and is shown on the control panel.

The panel will specify which zone the problem is in, and a buzzer will sound to warn maintenance personnel of the concern. While the buzzer is loud enough to be heard, it's not nearly as loud as the indicating appliances and won't be confused with an alarm.

What To Consider Before You Get A Fire Control Panel

There are things to consider before getting a fire alarm panel.

If you're ready to buy a fire panel for a new building or replace an old panel in an existing building, you should first consider the features you want. You can stick with a basic fire panel that will sound an alarm and call the fire department if you already have a sophisticated system, such as fire sprinklers throughout the building.

Suppose you want a more comprehensive fire panel. In that case, you can buy one full of features, such as the ability to lock or unlock doors, turn off the electricity, disable the building's elevators, or even fully integrate with your security system.

You will also need to consider if the fire panel you want can handle the needs of your building. It has to support the number of devices and zones in the structure and must be compatible with any alarms, smoke detectors, and other safety devices your building already has.

If you have questions about which fire panel or alarm system is right for your building or are ready for professionals to install the one you've chosen, contact us at Therrell Alarm Protection Service today!