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Fire safety systems may not evolve as rapidly as some other building systems, but there is still plenty of innovation in these fire safety systems that facility managers should be aware of.
For example, upgrading a fire alarm system is a significant investment. But some changes in technology can reduce costs, either for installation or ongoing operations. Addressable technology reduces maintenance costs by providing device-level information that can include dirty detector indication, high ambient temperature levels and, when coupled with fault isolation, the location of faults that previously were very cumbersome and expensive to locate.
There are also economies during installation. Because all of the components of a well-designed system communicate via data transmission, most circuit runs result in less cabling. Microprocessor-based, distributed fire alarm control and amplification systems means that fire alarm systems that previously required large conduit risers and large floor penetrations now require &frac22-inch or ¾-inch conduit installations, which dramatically reduce installation costs. Because engineers can distribute the network components of new fire alarm and voice communications systems without performance loss, large banks of amplifiers are obsolete, freeing valuable real estate.
New fire safety system technologies are also more user-friendly. Manufacturers are using intuitive liquid-crystal displays and well-labeled switches that make navigating through all of this information as simple as using a smart phone. Manufacturers have integrated navigation wheels and touch screens to make navigation intuitive and closely parallel the electronic tools that we have all become accustomed to using daily.
Modern fire alarm systems have the ability to perform remote status querying, which ultimately improves user interface and allows facility managers to remotely, via the Internet, connect to their fire alarm system to interrogate its status. No alterations may be made remotely, but this interface has improved the ability of facility managers to interact with their fire alarm systems and dispatch the right maintenance assets quickly.
As well, many manufacturers have developed fire alarm system integration methods with building automation systems that enable seamless communication among all building systems. These interfaces can use industry-standard building automation networking protocols that allow status sharing between systems. These capabilities as well as fire alarm system advancements enable smoke control, smoke exhaust, post-fire smoke exhaust systems, and automated fire compartmentalization to be controlled by one centralized system.