September 02 2022 0Comment
August Blog - Hart Engineering

What Makes A Good Fire Alarm Panel?

Fire alarm panels are a reliable way to protect your property from fire damage. While no one can predict when or where disaster will strike, having the right fire alarm panel in place can help minimise the damages. But how do you choose the right one for you? And most importantly, how do you know if your system is up to par? Let’s take a look.

Fire Alarm Control Panel

The fire alarm control panel or FACP serves as the brain of your whole fire alarm system Since it is the central control unit for a fire alarm system,  it monitors and controls all the devices, including smoke detectors, heat detectors, and manual call points. More importantly, it  sounds an alarm to alert people to a fire. The FACP receives messages from initiating devices and performs the following:

  • Turn on notifications: In the event of an accident, fire outbreak, or other hazardous situation where people’s safety might be compromised, you will want to know about it as soon as possible. The FACP will turn on the necessary notification devices or outputs, allowing quick updates on what has occurred. 
  • Shuts down HVAC: The HVAC system is essential to your building’s safety and comfort. When the FACP detects smoke,  most fire alarms will shut down air handling units to prevent the spread of flames or other hazardous materials throughout a facility – thus saving lives.
  • Putting Elevators to The Ground Level Or Any Alternative Level (if ground level is on fire): This feature is helpful since it is safer for people to use the staircase instead of elevators in the event of a fire.
  • Trigger the Public Address System: It can relay messages to the general public about the fire situation and facilitate evacuation if necessary.

Many manufacturers build  such panels; each one offers different features like multiple zones, battery backup or hardwired connections, and wireless communication. Unfortunately, there are so many variations that it can be challenging to choose the right one for you, but we are here to help! 

 

Why Do You Need One In Your Building?

If you are in the market for a fire alarm panel, there are a few questions you need to ask first.  Do you need it for commercial or residential purposes? What is your budget? How many zones do you need? Once you have answered these questions, you can begin to narrow down your options.

A fire alarm control panel is essential for any building, especially those with hazardous materials. The point is to activate it quickly and safely, so everyone in the area has time to make their way out. However, different panels have varying capabilities depending on the purpose for which they were designed; some may sound alarms or call emergency services while others might trigger sprinkler systems if installed correctly by your contractor. 

Here at Hart Engineering Pte Ltd, we know that each customer has unique needs and requirements, which is why we offer many different models. So whether you’re looking for something basic or something with several capabilities, we’ve got what you need.

 

Types of Fire Alarm Control Panel 

There are two types of fire alarm control panels, namely: 

Addressable Fire Alarm Control Panel

A separate addressable panel monitors each alarm component with this type. It allows the panel to know the device’s status, such as whether it’s working or not. For example, an addressable system will let people working at a hotel front desk know where an event is happening by looking at the alarm panel display. It may also include other features such as: 

  • Fire suppression systems
  • Heat detectors
  • CO2 Detection
  • Water level sensors
  • Sprinkler systems

Non-addressable Fire Alarm Control Panel 

It is also known as a zoned or conventional panel. This type of system separates alarm devices into zones. Then, when an alarm goes off, you must physically check each device in that zone to find which one is ringing. For example, if you have a non-addressable system and the alarm goes off, it would tell you something like “Alarm Zone 2, Third Floor.”

Conventional panels have been around for a long time. They are not used as much in large buildings but are common in schools, stores, and apartments. A conventional fire alarm control panel uses circuits to connect to initiating devices such as smoke detectors, heat detectors, duct detectors, manual pull stations, and sometimes flame detectors.

 

Capabilities Of A Comprehensive Fire Alarm Control Panel

A fire alarm control panel is one of the most critical parts in any building because it’s supposed to activate quick response when there’s a problem. The features and capabilities will vary based on what kind you buy. 

And when we say comprehensive fire alarm panel, we mean a panel that can do it all. And by all, we mean detecting and indicating fires, sounding alarms, and notifying the proper authorities. That’s a tall order, but a good fire alarm panel will rise to the challenge. Here are some of the things that make a comprehensive fire alarm panel: 

Alarm

It is also known as a ‘general alarm’ and is an indicator that will light up when an alarm is started by smoke detectors, heat detectors, sprinkler flow switches, manual pull stations, manual call points, or other devices. There is an emergency when this indicator is lit, and you must evacuate the building. 

Silence

Also known as ‘alarm silence’, it is a function in some alarm systems that turns off the sound and light signals. It is helpful for emergency responders so they can communicate better, as well as during construction or other situations when the building is not ready for occupancy yet. Signal silence usually happens after the emergency has been taken care of and the system is reset.

Supervisory 

This signal means that a part of the building’s fire protection system has been turned off, like a closed fire sprinkler control valve. Depending on the system’s design, the supervisory point may stay on until it is reset (latching) or turn off automatically after some time (non-latching). 

AC Power 

This indicator means that the system is getting power from the building’s electrical system, not the backup battery. If there’s a change in the AC power, this indicator will turn on and tell building personnel about a power failure. Likewise, if no lights are lit, there is no power source for the panel.

DC Power

This indicator means that the batteries are being charged or used. When you use DC power, it will remain in a fault condition (which means it can fail due to electronic failure not caused by any equipment malfunction).

System Reset 

It will clear any alarm conditions from the panel. After a system reset, all initiating devices are repaired and returned to normal during an emergency until they’re triggered again by another event, such as smoke inhalation detectors sensing low levels. At the same time, other types may need more direct attention before sounding their alarms but still won’t go off without being manually pulled down. 

Class Change

The Class Change button will make a different sound on the notification appliances to let people know there is a class change or break. It is used in schools to make sure that everyone knows the alarm’s sound and test the notification appliance circuits multiple times each day.

Drill 

The drill function, also known as manual evacuation, activates the system’s notification appliances. It is often done during a fire drill. When you use the drill function, an alarm will not be sent to the fire department or monitoring centre. However, building personnel often tell these agencies ahead of time if an alarm is accidentally sent.

Trouble

It is also known as ‘fault’. When this indicator is held steady or flashing, the panel has a problem. It could have been caused by a dirty smoke detector or an electrical issue. Usually, the indicator goes off automatically when the problem is fixed, but in some systems, the panel must be reset to clear the alarm.

 

Features Of A Good Fire Alarm Control Panel 

When looking for a good fire alarm control panel, you should look for specific features that will ensure the panel is effective and durable, such as:

Annunciator 

An annunciator communicates the status of the fire alarm system to people in the building. It uses both audible and visible indicators. The remote annunciator is located in a different part of the building than where the FACP is.

The remote annunciator tells people in the building that there might be a fire, a smoky condition, or a system problem. It also includes controls that allow people to reset the fire alarm system and control other functions manually if needed.

Acknowledge (Ack) 

The Ack is a function used to acknowledge an abnormal situation, such as an alarm or supervisory issue. It usually stops the panel piezo (the small sounder) from sounding and makes the active LED solid.

Flash Memory

The system also keeps track of events. This information is stored in the system’s flash memory, which you can view or print at any time using the event browser. When the memory buffer is full, the oldest data is deleted and replaced with new data.

Connectivity

The fire control panel has ports for devices like external keyboards and printers. In addition, you can configure the panel to use the devices for specific tasks.

Remote Access

Remote access allows you to use your system in a more advanced way. For example, you can access your installed fire alarm systems from a distance to program, maintain, and even watch what is happening with devices like fire detectors and alarms.

At Hart Engineering Pte Ltd, we know FCAPs inside and out. By showing what makes a good fire alarm panel, you can trust Hart to provide products suited to your needs. Visit our website or contact us today to learn more.