Fire Alarm Systems

Fire Alarm Systems

The Basics of Fire Alarm Boxes

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Modern fire alarm boxes are small electronic devices, most commonly used in expansive settings like public buildings, warehouses, factories, large office buildings, and schools. Usually, fire alarm boxes are wired directly into the overall security system.

Pulling the lever or pressing the button on these boxes alerts the security system as to the area of trouble, informs other building occupants that they should evacuate, alerts the local fire department that there is an issue, and can even trigger a fire suppression system.

Detection Technologies

A modern fire alarm may function with different smoke detection technologies, like:

fire alarm boxes

Photoelectric. Photoelectric cells will measure changes in light intensity to detect minute smoke particles in a building. These smoke detectors are an essential first warning device. Typical pricing per unit can be between $20-$70.

Laser. A laser alarm can sense a miniscule disruption of a laser light beam from smoke particles in the air. These units are highly sensitive to partials in the air and often cannot discern heavy particles in the air from smoke, thus they are not suited for areas where a lot of heavy dust is present.

For areas where there is not a lot of dust and the air quality is almost always pristine (such as an office building or laboratory), the units are very useful. The average cost per unit can be between $150- $400 depending on the make and options.

Ionization. An ionization alarm will measure a decrease in ion currents if carbon monoxide or other particles enter a room. An ionization detector will also sound an alarm if smoke is present. These are the old standbys in smoke detection and still the most used detectors today. They are also highly economical at $20-$80 per unit, even if most lack the electronic integration ability of the newer generation detectors.

Light. Light meters are used to analyze wavelengths to determine when flames are present. In areas where a lot of flame, but not much smoke might be present, such as some hot burning chemical storage areas might benefit from this type of detector. Though not entirely price prohibitive, these units can run from $100-$300 depending on the quality and brand you might purchase.

Video. A video fire alarm will record visual cues to assess rising smoke or flames in a large, open building. The theory behind these units is based on the assumption that smoke in a larger building, such as a warehouse, will concentrate more slowly than in a smaller space, thus allowing a fire to burn longer before being detected.

Additionally, these cameras can also act as an intruder detection device as well. These units can be expensive as there are video monitors and software to be installed as well. Pricing can range from $300-$1,500 per unit depending on chosen functionality and the cost of installation.

Understanding Fire Alarm Installation

Since fire alarm pull stations are hard wired into a larger fire alarm system, they need to be installed by a professional. Some models are designed to minimize the amount of wiring required, but even these simple models need to meet NEC codes and UL wiring codes.

There are also more specific fire codes that apply to many businesses, including local, state, and national standards. Even the cable structuring associated with these units might need to meet specific, local codes.

To ensure that your fire alarm box meets all the relevant regulations, you have two basic options:

1. Hire a private electrician or installer who has experience installing fire alarm boxes.

Many data, or structured cabling firms also do alarm installations. You might or might not responsible for providing the wire its self, depending on the bid. It is recommended that the customer not purchase the wire for the job, but rather work out a "per foot installation" cost with the contractor.

Typical by the foot installation of cabling can cost between $10-$30 depending on the customer's location. Unit pricing can be between $20-$50 per unit to install.

2. Using an installer recommended by the manufacturer.

These individuals have intimate knowledge of the units they are installing, thus giving them the advantage in gained efficiencies. Many fire and security alarm companies will offer you a discount on installation if you use one of their technicians.

Remember, that even though the company you will be purchasing your fire detection system from might have a reasonable installation package, they might not be the best solution. You should compare itemized bids for the best deal possible.

Preventive Maintenance

To ensure that your fire alarm boxes remain in working order, they will require regular maintenance. This includes:

Keeping up with the maintenance of your fire alarm box is important to keeping your company safe and secure. The US Fire Administration recommends testing a hardwired fire alarm system on a monthly basis at a minimum. All backup batteries in a system should be replaced at least once a year; an entire fire alarm system should be replaced every 8 to 10 years. Replacement and maintenance recommendations may vary based on manufacturer.

The best fire alarm installers will work closely with you to help you choose the right fire alarm boxes, smoke detectors, and other components, then provide detailed plans for ongoing maintenance and testing.

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