Thankfully, fire detection and prevention technologies have become increasingly sophisticated, intelligent, and powerful in recent years. Following are some advanced technologies that facilities professionals should consider when looking to safeguard their buildings.
With a preaction sprinkler system, water (held back by a preaction valve) is prevented from actually filling the pipes until an event occurs, such as the activation of a heat or smoke detector. Preaction sprinkler systems provide an added level of protection against inadvertent water release and are used primarily in water-sensitive environments such as computer/data centers.
Waterflow detectors are also extremely useful safety tools because they eliminate the possibility of sprinkler malfunction. Specifically, waterflow detectors monitor the flow of water to sprinkler heads with a specially designed paddle.
If someone turns part of a fire detection system off (such as the sprinkler), the entire system is compromised. Supervisory switches help ensure the maximum protection by proactively monitoring the operational effectiveness of the fire protection device. Supervisory switches can monitor the open position of fire sprinkler control valves and can detect the accidental or intentional closing of the water supply.
Laser smoke detection systems have become increasingly popular in recent years because they are significantly more sensitive than traditional detectors; they can pinpoint fire and smoke early on, which can significantly reduce the time it takes to extinguish them. Laser smoke detection systems are also reliable, stable, cost-effective, easy to install and maintain, and can be seamlessly integrated with a variety of other security systems.
Fire alarms are an integral component of effective security management. Used to announce the outbreak of a fire, fire alarms can produce varying sounds and can be triggered automatically or manually. Many advanced control panels on the market today are fully networkable fire alarms, which means these systems can be programmed and controlled via a Web browser.
In some cases, water or foam fire suppression systems can cause serious building damage - even more so than the fire itself. In response, a number of security technology companies have introduced systems that use clean fire suppression agents to combat fire. Not only do these waterless suppression systems minimize damage, but they also quickly extinguish fires and reduce harmful combustion byproducts.
Although manual pull stations provide an added layer of protection for any building facility, integrated pull alarms can take it further. Imagine integrating with other security systems, such as CCTV; as soon as the pull station is activated, the event can also be recorded.
Voice evacuation, a critical component of a public address system, provides clear yet compelling commands that quickly guide people to safety. For increased safety and security, voice evacuation/public address systems can be integrated with fire detection systems; when a fire alarm sounds, an emergency announcement can be made simultaneously.
David Bitton is COO at Supreme Security Systems (www.supremealarm.com), based in Union, NJ.