Fire alarm systems have gone through many changes over the years and are continuing to evolve at a fast rate. The original fire alarm systems were wired straight to the fire department! Gamewell’s original birdhouse fire alarms were located outside of the buildings on street corners. In comparison, today’s wireless fire alarm systems can communicate the exact location of a device through IP or Radio communications.
wired and wireless systems exist today, and they both have their proper applications.
Wired fire alarm systems consist of two types, conventional and addressable. Conventional systems require a facility to be divided into zones. When an alarm is triggered, the description at the fire alarm control panel is a general location.
In contrast, an addressable fire alarm system is also a “wired” system, but the devices are addressed and when they go into alarm, the description of the alarm can provide exact location of the device that is in alarm. With connection to a central station monitoring entity, the exact location of the device in alarm can be communicated to the responding emergency team.
Wireless fire alarm systems use addressable system technology with two different wireless technologies:
- The first technology makes the smoke detectors and pull stations transmitters. A receiver or transmitter can be installed to transmit information long distances from the devices to the main control panel or main fire alarm control panel.
- The second technology makes every device capable of receiving and transmitting which can provide a redundant path back to the control panel. A router is installed to receive the communication from the wireless devices and is hard-wired back to the control panel.
In both instances, wireless devices are installed which receive their power from a battery.
Many end-users are beginning to move from Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) lines to either Internet Protocol (IP) or Radio (cellular) communications. POTS lines are slowly becoming obsolete. Cellular communicators can be installed in many places to communicate the condition of your fire alarm panel to a central station. IP communicators can also be installed which require a network connection back to a router. Many homes and most business have a network within their facilities which makes it possible to install an IP communicator.
Fire alarm systems and their means of communicating back to responding emergency forces have changed over time. The industry has moved from conventional panels which required POTS lines to be installed, to wireless fire alarm networks that can use cellular communicators or the internet to provide the exact location of an alarm. New technology has made fire alarm systems and monitoring more capable and more flexible in providing solutions to the end-user.