Fire Side Chat: Providing Protection They Can Bank On

Proper fire detection is essential not only for life safety but also to avoid false alarms or system malfunctions that could cost the business a bundle. In particular, this holds true for financial institutions.

[IMAGE]12057[/IMAGE]“One of the most important developments the past couple of years is intelligent sensing. Intelligent sensing uses the various sensors, the detection algorithm, and the processor in the panel to make decisions in trending,” says Peter Ebersold, director of marketing with Notifier, Northford, Conn.

“Trending technology enables the fire alarm panel to determine the presence of one or more elements that are commonly found in a fire situation. Carbon monoxide, for example, signals the presence of fire because where there is fire, there is usually traces of CO,” says Nick Markowitz, a fire professional from Verona, Pa.

Even in the earliest incipient stages of a fire there will likely be CO present in the atmosphere.

“When the level of smoke in an area rises slowly but steadily over a period of time, today’s intelligent analog addressable panels can detect that and respond in a variety of ways,” says Ebersold.

The most common way to deal with a situation similar to that cited by Ebersold is for the panel to provide a very-early supervisory signal. This will allow bank personnel to deal with the situation before it results in an open fire, which would cause a valid evacuation signal to occur.

Installation, Code Key to Results

Other areas of great concern to financial institutions are poor installation practices and a general lack of code compliance. This is where the proper placement of initiating devices comes into play.

When a smoke detector is positioned in an area considered hostile to sensitive electronic gear, false or missed alarms can take place. Automatic smoke detectors in elevator pits, for example, can cause problems because of dust, dirt and oil found there. Boiler rooms can also prove hostile to ordinary smoke detectors where the ambient temperature exceeds the manufacturer’s specifications.

Code allows for the substitution of smoke detectors in such instances, in which case heat detectors can be used.

In Section, NFPA 72, 2010 Edition, it says, “The selection and placement of smoke detectors shall take into account both the performance characteristics of the detector and the areas into which the detectors are to be installed to prevent nuisance alarms or improper operation after installation.”

The following offers a variety of settings where smoke detectors are not to be used:

  • Areas where the     ambient temperature drops below 32º F
  • Areas where the     temperature can rise to 100º F and above
  • Where the relative     humidity exceeds 93 percent
  • Where air velocity is     greater than 300 feet/minute

“The location of smoke detectors shall be based on an evaluation of potential ambient sources of smoke, moisture, dust, or fumes, and electrical or mechanical influences, to minimize nuisance alarms” (Section, NFPA 72, 2010 Edition).

If maintenance, inspection and proper testing of fire alarm systems are not conducted in the manner prescribed by National Fire Alarm Code, also known as
NFPA 72, problems can occur — problems that can cost banks a lot of cash. Thus the routine compliance with these practices helps ensure a banking client’s operations can continue smoothly without incident.

“To ensure operational integrity, the system shall have an inspection, testing, and maintenance program. Inspection, testing, and maintenance programs shall satisfy the requirements of this Code and conform to the equipment manufacturer’s published instructions. Inspection, testing, and maintenance programs shall verify correct operation of the system.” (Sections, NFPA 72, 2010 Edition).

The advent of new and exciting fire detection technologies combined with new and more stringent fire codes promise to reduce the number of false alarms and needless work stoppages in banking institutions. Not only will this help assure a bank’s financial viability, but also further the safety aspects associated with working and visiting our favorite banking institution.

Al Colombo is an award-winning writer who has covered electronic security and life safety since 1986. Visit his Web site at www.alcolombo.us, and check out his Security Sense blog.


About the Author


Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.

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