Fire Alarm Systems in Buildings

A fire alarm system is a system that can provide early warning of a fire to the occupants of the building. With this early warning, occupants are expected to evacuate as quickly and efficiently as possible. Thus, casualties and material losses can be minimized. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a fire alarm that works well can significantly reduce casualties. The NFPA also stated that in 1000 fires, there were 5.8 deaths in houses whose fire alarm systems worked well and 13 deaths in homes without fire alarm systems, or if any, not working. In Indonesia, the installation of fire alarm systems is regulated in the Regulation of the Minister of Manpower of the Republic of Indonesia Number: PER.02 / MEN / 1983 concerning Automatic Fire Installations. The fire alarm system has four main functions (i.e., to detect, warn, monitor, and control).

Basic components of a fire alarm system

The fire alarm system consists of five basic components:

  1. Initiating Devices (IDC)

IDC is a device that can activate a fire alarm system by detecting things that are signs of fire. This activation can be done manually or automatically. An example of a manual IDC is a manual pull station. We can activate the alarm by pulling the lever or pressing a button. For automatic IDC, examples of devices are smoke, heat, gas, and flame detectors. Automatic IDC is divided into conventional and addressable systems. Conventional systems provide fire location information based on zoning. On the other hand, addressable systems give the specific location of the activated detector(s).

  1. Notification Devices

This device notifies all occupants in the presence of a fire or other emergency. The notification devices include sirens, bells, or strobe lights. The notification can also be given through loudspeakers. In this case, the person in charge at that time can also provide verbal directions regarding the evacuation scheme.

  1. Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP)

FACP, sometimes referred to as Master Control Fire Alarm (MCFA), is the brain behind the operation of fire alarm systems. When signs of fire are detected (by IDC), IDC sends a signal to the FACP. This signal is then processed and used to animate the notification devices.

  1. Primary Power Supply

The main electrical power sources for fire alarm systems usually range from 120-V to 240-V and use the AC type.

  1. Backup Power Supply

If the power goes out, the backup power supply will provide electricity for the operation of the fire alarm system.  It is powered by a 6-V or 12-V battery. The power is sufficient to ensure the fire alarm system continues to operate as it should.

How the fire alarm system works

When IDC detects any sign of fire (e.g., smoke for smoke detectors), IDC sends a signal to the FACP. This signal will then be processed and verified. If it is verified that there is a fire, the FACP will turn on the alarm. Some fire alarm system products also have more features,  such as automatically disconnecting electricity, calling the nearest fire station number, etc.

Writer: Fitri Endrasari - Fire Engineer Ignis Fire & Risk

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