For many of us, a fire alarm is something that simply exists somewhere in the internal workings of public buildings. We do not think much about how a fire alarm works, we just know it is in the building, and we respond when it goes off. But a fire alarm is in fact a complex system that is controlled by a fire alarm panel.
The fire alarm panel is essentially the brain of the fire alarm system. Fire alarms come in many forms. They range from simple smoke alarms as we have in our homes, to large-scale systems that are tied to emergency responders and have complicated sprinkler systems built into the system.
Once we begin to consider all that may go into a fire alarm control panel, we get a sense of how complicated these systems can be. As businesses and builders take account of safety considerations and the regulations that impact fire alarm systems, they need to assess the type of fire alarm control panel that will best suit the needs of a building or business. This means we need to get a sense of how fire alarm control panels work.
What is a fire alarm control panel? What do fire alarm control panels do? And what are the different types of fire alarm control panels? This guide will help you understand fire alarm control panels and how to determine which will work for your business.
What is a Fire Alarm Control Panel?
A fire alarm control panel (FACP) is simply the central control component for a fire alarm system. The panel is designed to receive information from all points in the fire alarm system, and it is programmed to set in motion specific responses. These responses include notification of the fire department and other emergency responders, activating sprinkler systems, and activating alarms.
The fire alarm control panel follows an automatic sequence that will supply energy to any or all points in the fire alarm system. Fire alarm control panels come in four basic types: coded panels, conventional panels, addressable panels, and multiplex systems.
What does a Fire Alarm Control Panel do?
There are five key elements to a fire alarm control panel. These include:
The initiating devices are the parts of the alarm panel that includes smoke and fire detectors. These detectors come in many forms like smoke and heat sensors. The initiating devices will trigger alarms, and some will trigger sprinkler systems.
Indicating devices are the parts of the alarm control panel that set of alarms to warn occupants of the building. Indicating devices can include horns, chimes, bells, and some cases they include strobe lights for the hearing impaired. Indicating devices are deliberately loud so they cannot be mistaken for any other ambient sounds.
Fire alarm panel
This is the central control panel that works as an interface for all other parts of the fire alarm system. The fire alarm panel has a control element that allows people to see exactly the state of the alarm system at any given time. This is to ensure that the system is active and powered. The fire alarm panel includes indicators for troubleshooting, reset, and the ability to manually switch the system into active modes. The fire alarm panel provides a supervisory function for the entire fire alarm system.
These cover the main power for the breaker. Power supplies for a fire alarm control panel always include 12V backup batteries in the event of a power outage. These may be contained in the control panel proper, or in a separate enclosure. In the event that a power outage outlasts the batteries, most fire alarm control panels, especially for spaces with critical use, will be linked to an external power generator.
Fire alarm control panels contain a number of auxiliary devices like visual LED indicators that show exactly where a fire has broken out, electromagnetic door holders, fire doors, elevator captures, and shutdown procedures. In the event of an actual fire, there are many steps that need to be taken to ensure the safety of occupants and to contain the fire. Shutting down elevators and locking doors open ensure the safety of occupants. Fire doors and containment systems prevent the spread of the fire.
Types of Fire Alarm Panels
There are four types of fire alarm control panels. These include coded panels, conventional panels, addressable panels, and multiplex systems. Each serves the same basic function, but each has its place for various uses.
This is the oldest type of fire alarm control panel. The panel and each point in the fire alarm system are coded to correspond to each other based on specific detection devices. For example, if an area numbered 1 detects smoke or fire, this would correspond to a specific code on the control panel that put in motion the alarms and fire containment procedures. Each area is coded to allow control from the central panel over that area’s alarms, containment devices, and auxiliary devices. These are still found in old wings of hospitals, for example. Coded panels are not common anymore as newer and more sophisticated systems have allowed them to be phased out.
Conventional panels have also been around for many years. These are not in use as frequently as they once were, but they remain in some older buildings such as small schools, restaurants, and apartment buildings.
The conventional alarm panel utilizes circuits that are wired to one or more detection devices. Heat detectors, smoke alarms, duct detectors, and manual pull stations are all wired into the central conventional panel. Once any of these detectors and sensors produce circuit resistance in the central panel, the fire alarm system will be activated along with alarms, lights, and in some cases sprinklers.
Conventional panels can be quite sophisticated even though the older systems are not necessarily controlled by a computer system. The circuit systems are set up with complex sets of connections to allow for complete monitoring of the building and complete deployment of the fire alarm and control system.
This is something of the transition between conventional panels and modern computerized systems, Multiplexes control the entire fire alarm and control systems. They can also be wired directly into the entire building through the HVAC system which makes them more solid and reliable than conventional systems.
Addressable fire alarm panels can detect fire and smoke and pinpoint the precise location better than any other fire alarm panel. Using microprocessors to control the system and in the detection points throughout the system, addressable panels respond to any sign of fire before it becomes a problem. Emergency responders will use the addressable panels to determine the best ways to approach an emergency. The entire system is essentially a micro-computer that processes signals from detection sites with maximum accuracy.
Types of Fire Alarm Signals
A fire alarm control panel will provide three types of signals to alert operators and other personnel of different types of issues that require attention. Because the system itself must be monitored as well as the potential fire hazards it is there to control, different signals designate specific issues.
This is just what it sounds like. Alarm signals are bells, horns, sirens, strobe lights, and other forms of alarms that signify an emergency. Whether smoke, heat, or fire, the alarm signals are meant to alert everyone that they need to respond to a real emergency.
These signals are designed to alert system operators to a problem with the system itself. Since the control panel can only provide safety if it is in working order, any problem with the panel will set off a supervisory signal. These are most often yellow lights on the control panel that designate things like power failures, valve problems, or pressure problems in things like kitchen hoods. Modern panels provide a digital signal that provides details of the problem.
These alert operators that there is some kind of failure within the system. Power failures or connection failures will trigger a trouble signal. These need to be addressed immediately to keep the system working.
How does a Fire Alarm Control Panel work with a Fire Alarm System?
The system works as initiating devices such as smoke detectors, fire detectors, or pressure monitors are activated. No matter the type of control panel, these devices will send signals to the fire alarm control panel.
The control panel is set up to begin alarm mode. This will sound horns, bells, strobes, or other types of clear signs that fire has been detected. The control panel may also be set up to automatically shut down elevators and control certain types of doors in areas that can be sued to control the spread of fire.
In the next step in the process, the control panel will alert emergency responders. Modern fire alarm control panels are equipped to automatically send messages to fire departments. This is effectively the same as a 911 call.
Modern fire alarm control panels have computer-programmed systems in place to activate alarms and help guide occupants safely out of the building. Track lights and other signs can be activated so people know exactly how to exit safely. These same systems send detailed messages to authorities so they can be prepared to respond properly.
The control panel operates as the central point around which all other pieces of the fire alarm system. Smoke detectors and manual pull alarms will set off alarms, but they do not, in themselves, initiate all the steps necessary to evacuate the building, control the potential spread of fire, and alert the fire department. With the control panel, all of these things happen at once. The control panel also self-monitors to ensure that all points in the fire alarm system are working.
Fire Alarm Control Panel FAQs
What is a Fire Alarm Control Panel? A fire alarm control panel (FACP) is simply the central control component for a fire alarm system. The panel is designed to receive information from all points in the fire alarm system, and it is programmed to set in motion specific responses. These responses include notification of the fire department and other emergency responders, activating sprinkler systems, and activating alarms.
What does a Fire Alarm Control Panel do? A fire alarm control panel is a central site through which detection, alarms, and emergency response can be initiated in order to minimize or eliminate the danger. The fire control panel controls alarms, detection devices, and communication. These control panels also include signals that flag any problem within the system itself.
What are the four types of fire alarm control panels? These include coded panels, conventional panels, addressable panels, and multiplex systems. Each serves the same basic function, but each has its place for various uses.
If you need to install or get a better understanding of fire alarm control panel systems, or you just want to talk to professionals about installing fire alarm control panel systems, Helios Security Systems can provide you with more information. Helios Security Systems can give a complete run-down on the details of fire alarm control panel systems and how these can be integrated into a complete security system.
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