5 Ways Advanced Technology Is Enhancing Fire Alarm Projects

Learn which technological innovations are providing systems contractors with smoother, more cost-efficient fire alarm installations while creating increased value for the end customer.

Fire alarm systems are essential to the protection of life and property. Contractors who install these systems must be committed to complying with applicable codes and standards, making buildings safe and secure, and completing the installation with optimal speed, cost efficiency and success. Advancements in technology are playing an increasingly critical role in the fire alarm industry, helping to enhance protection and enabling installing contractors to achieve their business objectives.

Security Sales & Integration‘s 10th annual Fire Market Report will focus on five key benefits that advancing technology is bringing to fire alarm system installations. You’ll also find exclusive research interspersed throughout the report gathered from SSI‘s 2014 Installation Business Report, plus a sidebar focuses on latest smoke alarm data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

1. Faster, More Efficient Installation

When it comes to fire alarm system installation, faster is definitely better. Installing contractors like to get on and off the job as quickly, efficiently and profitably as possible. The good news is that advanced technology can go a long way toward making fire alarm system installation faster, easier and more cost efficient.

Addressable notification technology is one of the latest advancements to provide significant benefits for installing contractors. Addressable notification systems leverage smart technology that differentiates them from conventional hardwired systems. Conventional systems are limited in flexibility and programmability and more difficult and costly to install, reconfigure and expand. Due to the complexity of the design of conventional systems, wiring changes or errors can be difficult to locate and resolve – consuming valuable project time and labor.

In an addressable system, each device has a unique address and built-in intelligence to continuously report its status to the fire alarm panel. This means the supervision of the circuit is not limited to the wiring and is not dependent on an end-of-line resistor or the in and out wiring to each device on a loop. Rather, the addressable communication to each device is direct to that individual device, regardless of the wiring path.

The addressable technology also means that if a device needs to be added in the future, wiring can be accessed at the nearest junction box as opposed to wiring back to the main panel. The result is that addressable notification systems have a more open wiring scheme and are easier to install. In fact, installation time can be cut by more than 30%. With the flexible wiring architecture, more appliances can be connected per circuit and fewer power supplies, batteries and dedicated AC lines are required. The addressable technology also means the system is “forgiving,” allowing wiring to easily be adapted or equipment added as an installation project progresses.

The ability to set notification appliance candela levels from the fire alarm panel also contributes to reduced installation time and is much more efficient than hard setting the candela levels. In addition, a report showing each device and its candela setting can be generated. Troubleshooting is also faster and easier with an addressable system. Faults can be isolated down to the device level. With a conventional system, faults can only be isolated to the circuit level. Similarly, testing of a repaired device can be per-formed at the device itself, without needing to activate the circuit.

2. Quicker, Smoother Commissioning

By the nature of their business, installing contractors focus on completing projects on time and under budget. Delays of any sort are troublesome, because they can postpone project completion and jeopardize the timely issuance of an occupancy permit to open the building.

Given these dynamics, it is encouraging that technology can make a difference in fire alarm system commissioning. The latest technology developments include a tool, specifically designed for addressable circuit wiring, which can streamline the commissioning process. This is essentially a portable fire alarm panel. It enables contractors to quickly verify that wiring and peripheral devices are installed correctly and operating properly – even before being connected to the fire alarm control panel.

Battery operated and simple to use, the instrument uses advanced software technology to scan hundreds of addressable fire alarm system devices and pinpoint potential problems such as ground faults, shorted wiring, or incorrect or duplicate addressing. Typically, the use of the tool in fire alarm installations means there are fewer troubles associated with the start-up of the system. Test information can also be downloaded to a laptop or tablet for electronic report generation and archiving.

Another advance in technology with the potential to stream line the commissioning process is a new cloud-based solution that enables a remote connection to a fire alarm panel. This allows a technician, working in concert with an installing contractor, to test devices and initiate alarms remotely and use a mobile device to view the results as displayed on the panel. In addition to speeding the testing of fire alarm system devices, the technology enables the panel to generate follow-up reports that are time and date stamped. This provides authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) a validated record showing that all devices were tested.

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