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How a Commercial Fire Alarm Works


1. An Alarm is Triggered

We’re all familiar with the flashing lights and high-pitched noise that a fire alarm emits. But what actually causes this alarm to sound? That depends on the type of system you have. Commercial fire alarm systems can be manual, automatic, or a hybrid of the two.

In a manual system, someone must physically trigger the alarm. Designated pull stations (those little red levers labeled “Fire”) are positioned around the building, typically within 5 feet of any exit, to make it easy for any building occupant to trigger the alarm and notify others of the potential danger. Many buildings place fire extinguishers near these stations for added safety.

In an automatic system, no manual interference is needed (though it is still required that there be 1 manual device present in the building). Detection devices are placed around the building to pick up on the presence of fire, smoke, heat, and gas. If they detect any danger, a signal is sent to the main control panel of your fire system and the alarms are triggered.

Hybrid systems contain both detection devices and manual levers. These systems are generally seen as the safest option and are used in most commercial buildings.

2. Your New Jersey Monitoring Company is Notified

Now, this step in the process isn’t exactly guaranteed. While it is rare in New Jersey, some commercial fire alarm systems are “single station” systems that are not connected to an outside source such as a monitoring center or the fire department. This means that if an alarm is triggered on your property and no one is around to hear/see it, emergency responders will not be notified. We probably don’t need to explain the amount of damage that could be caused to your building if a fire is reported too late. Luckily, most professional security companies will include a monitoring service along with your commercial system.

3. The Fire Department is Dispatched

Whether you have a monitoring service or not, the fire department will most likely be dispatched at some point. They’ll clear everyone from the building and do their best to extinguish the fire and limit damages. How quickly they do their job is somewhat reliant on the type of system you have. Along with being either manual or automatic, systems can be conventional or addressable.

A conventional system divides a building into sections or zones. Each of these zones is equipped with detection devices that are connected to the main control panel of your system. When any of these devices detect fire, smoke, heat, or gas, they will send a signal to the main control panel and all of the alarms in the building go off. While this is fantastic for notifying all building occupants of the threat, there is a downside to this type of system: it’s incapable of communicating which detection device went off first, making it difficult for emergency responders to find the source of the fire.

Addressable systems, on the other hand, can show which device was initially triggered because each device has its own unique address. This makes it incredibly easy for firefighters to locate the fire and can also assist you in identifying faulty devices.

4. You are Notified

Lastly, if you have a monitoring center, they will call you, inform you of the fire, and let you know that emergency responders are on the way.

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