Fire Alarm Systems: Hard Wired vs. Wireless

Originally posted on International Fire Protection Blog.

The Evolution of Fire Alarm Systems

Fire Alarm Systems maintenance

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Fire alarm systems have gone through many changes over the years. Moving from the“birdhouse” Gamewell alarm boxes wired straight to the fire department, to wireless fire alarm systems that can communicate the exact location of a device through IP or Radio communications. Both systems exist today, each with their proper applications. All system types are beginning to develop at an extremely fast rate, but this article will focus on Wired Alarm Systems and Addressable System Technology.

Two Types of Wired Fire Alarm Systems
Conventional Systems require that a building or structure be divided into zones. When a device goes into alarm on a conventional system, the description at the control panel is a general location.
Addressable Systems devices are addressed to give a description of the exact location of the detector that is going into alarm. Some addressable systems provide a central station monitoring entity. With this in place, the location of the device in alarm can be sent to responding emergency forces.

Addressable System Technology with Wireless Fire Alarm Systems
• The first technology is responsible for creating the smoke detector and pull station transmitters. A receiver/transmitter is installed to transmit information from devices to the main control panel. If the distance between the device and control panel is close enough, the device will communicate straight to the main fire alarm control panel.
• The second technology allows every device the capabilities to do both receiving and transmitting, which can provide a redundant path back to the control panel. A router is installed to receive the communication from the wireless devices and is hard-wired back to the control panel. In both instances, wireless devices are installed which receive their power from a battery.

Out with The Old
While the old Gamewell “birdhouse” was tied directly to the fire department, new systems now have the option to use “Plain Old Telephone Service” (POTS), IP, or Radio communications to relay messages. Many end-users are beginning to move from POTS lines, hard lines installed by telecommunication companies at a home or business, to Internet Protocol (IP) or Radio (cellular) communications. With the advancement and popularity of cellular technology, hard lines are slowly becoming obsolete. Many homes and businesses now have a network connecting back to a router, leading to even more growth in popularity for IP communicators.

Fire Alarm emergency response communication has evolved greatly over time, and will continue to do so. Conventional panels have become alarm networks and wireless cellular communicators have replaced POTS lines. New technologies and innovations will continue to make fire alarm and monitoring systems more adaptable for the end-users.

To learn more about other innovations within the Fire and Life Safety Industry, check out this article.

By: Steve Nelson Jr. IFP, Inc.