The key to understanding how a commercial fire alarm system works is knowing that systems today are based on specific codes and regulations, required by law, which dictate what systems and monitoring must be in place. For example, new and replacement fire alarm systems must comply with the requirements of NFPA 72, which is the National Fire Protection Association’s guidelines for commercial fire alarm installation.
A good security dealer should have a working knowledge of these requirements and how they pertain to your specific building and business/company, so be sure to ask them about this.
Commercial Fire Compliance
With compliance dictating what commercial fire systems must be used, it is important to understand some of the key requirements and what they mean for your facility. In addition to NFPA 72, which provides requirements for fire detection, signaling, and emergency communications, some additional commercial building regulations, and codes that will influence the type of system you need and how it works include:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires ADA-compliant entrances, walkways, elevators, etc., in and around a building.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which was established to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.
- The International Building Code (IBC), a model building code developed by the International Code Council (ICC).
How Does a Commercial Fire System Work?
Today’s commercial fire alarm systems must be able to not only detect smoke and flames but also changes in temperature and even gases such as CO2. These sensors/detectors and alarm systems must all be monitored and connected to sprinkler and other suppression systems, and when an alarm goes off, a signal is sent to the monitoring center, which then needs to verify if it is a legitimate alarm, as false alarms are a big problem in many cities today.
Many businesses today are using video verification to eliminate the problem of false alarms. By setting up cameras, which should be in place for security purposes anyway, your monitoring center can look at a video clip of the alarm to verify if there is indeed an emergency before calling for a response from fire and other first responder personnel, thus minimizing false alarms.
Commercial Fire Monitoring Services
Part of the process of finding a good security dealer is finding out what monitoring facility or central monitoring station the company uses. Some run their own, while others work with an established third party. Either way, you need to make sure the monitoring company can handle your needs, from security and fire to any other services that you may want to take advantage of. For example, you may want to have supervisory devices, such as supervised water-flow devices, or specific suppression or notification systems depending on your business and needs.
A good standard to use when determining the merits of central station/monitoring facility is whether or not it is TMA Five-Diamond certified. This designation ensures that the monitoring facility is meeting minimum standards set up by The Monitoring Association, formerly the Central Station Monitoring Association, a leading authority on monitoring matters, standards and protocols.
What’s Involved in Setting up a Monitored Commercial Fire System?
As noted above, finding a dealer that has experience working in commercial buildings and businesses in the St. Louis area is critically important, as they will understand the myriad building, security and fire codes that you must be in compliance with. You also want to work with a company that is certified to inspect systems, such as sprinkler systems that require periodic inspection, which are required in some jurisdictions.
A professional dealer can also help you determine what type of alarm system is best for your business/building, such as conventional versus addressable fire alarms. Addressable fire alarms, for example, provide the exact area of the alarm sensor whereas a conventional system, which may be considered by some to be the old school method, identifies the zone where the alarm was triggered. Costs for each vary as well.
Making the Right Commercial Fire System Choices
Once you know the basics of the types of commercial fire systems you may need, you must be sure that the company you are working with is reputable and has a proven track record of good customer service.
First and foremost, a reputable dealer should be licensed with the National Institute for Certification of Engineering Technologies, and be in good standing with the Better Business Bureau. Once you have a short list of local dealers you would like to pursue, ask if they will come and do an inspection and analysis of your building and provide an estimate and complete breakdown of equipment needed, including costs for installation, maintenance, and warranties, if applicable. This will help you to differentiate between different company offerings and expertise as well as customer service approach of each.
Bringing it All Together
Another key differentiator is if a dealer has experience with commercial system integration, specifically with integrating fire, security, access control, video, life safety and other systems within a building and business, as this is where, as a business, you can really begin to leverage your investment and realize savings, operational efficiencies, even some good ole’ ROI.
For example, bringing all of your key buildings’ systems into one platform allows you to manage them, even remotely on your phone, which equates to energy savings through better control over HVAC and lighting, for example. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Businesses can also leverage the latest camera technology and analytics for business intelligence and improved staffing, as well as to discover business and other patterns over time. Not to mention reductions in shrink, theft, and losses that system integration provides.
Smarter Buildings and Businesses
System integration also creates a smarter building, which allows your security and maintenance staff to be more proactive and preventative, while improving the ease of entrance for fire and other emergency personnel responding to an alarm.
For example, during a fire or other emergency, you can provide easier exits for those in the building and more guided access for first responders, saving time and possibly lives. Access to certain doors or areas can also be given in real time, which can be a critical control feature to have during an emergency.
Reach out to 2nd generation family owned Butler Durrell for more on adding fire and other security-related systems.