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Fire Alarm -- Description

Supervision is a polling or asking Are You OK?
Addressable Supervision is the Fire Alarm Control Panel polling or asking a device "Are You OK?", and the device answers "I'm OK!"
Douglas Krantz -- Fire Alarm Engineering Technician, Electronic Designer, Electronic Technician, Writer

How Does the Fire Panel Know Addressable Detectors are OK?

By Douglas Krantz

It's assumed that fire alarm systems have to work all the time because fires happen anytime... but, then again, this is the real world. Problems with the fire alarm system do occur, and that's when it may not go into alarm. To know when it needs to be fixed, the whole fire alarm system needs to be supervised.

If there's trouble inside the fire alarm panel, the panel does its self-diagnostics and indicates trouble. However, when there's a problem in the wiring or devices outside the panel, that's another story.

Polling is an I'm OK Check

Conventional Class A and Class B wiring directly supervises only the wires; it does not really supervise the devices. The Signaling Line Circuit (SLC), on the other hand, is different; it supervises the devices.

Unlike the conventional methods, the SLC is a kind of two way street. To supervise, the SLC uses Polling of the Devices. Polling is similar to an I'm OK survey of the entire fire alarm system outside the panel.

To Poll the devices, the panel uses a signal to say 'device 27 report', and device 27 reports back with a signal that says essentially, 'I'm OK.' If device 27 doesn't report back, or if it does report back but says it isn't working correctly, the message on the fire alarm panel indicates trouble on device 27.

Failure of the device to report back could be trouble with the device, or trouble with the wiring. However, because the panel specifies the device in trouble, the troubleshooting process of the fire alarm system is sped up.

Supervising the Wire

With conventional Class A or Class B wiring methods, in order to directly supervise the wire, a current is passed through the entire wire loop.

The devices connected to the loop aren't supervised; the panel never checks the devices to see if they work. Unless a detector in the field opens the loop, or a horn or strobe shorts (almost never happens), the fire alarm panel won't indicate trouble.

On the other hand, with the exception of Styles 6 and 7 (equivalent to the conventional Class A), the wires in an addressable loop aren't directly supervised.

Instead of passing a current through the wire, the SLC wiring is indirectly supervised. If, during the polling process, the returning I'm OK signal is received at the panel, the panel assumes that the wiring is complete. That's the indirect supervision of the wire in the loop.

Alarm Signals -- Input and Output Device

For input devices, of course, if smoke detector 27 goes into alarm, the panel gets the signal from device 27, and using words on the display, identifies smoke detector 27 as the source of the alarm.
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Then again, to turn on the horns or strobes is a specific area, the panel can also send signals along the same SLC to the specific output modules it needs to turn on.

Addressable I'm OK Supervision -- It's All About Confidence

Using the "I'm OK" signals of the polling process, the addressable fire alarm system directly supervises the devices on the SLC. With this direct supervision of the devices, the fire alarm system has confidence the building wiring is intact.


Douglas Krantz

Describing How It Works

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Electrical Flow

On this website, most references to electrical flow are to the movement of electrons.

Here, electron movement is generally used because it is the electrons that are actually moving. To explain the effects of magnetic forces, the movement of electrons is best.

Conventional current flow, positive charges that appear to be moving in the circuit, will be specified when it is used. The positive electrical forces are not actually moving -- as the electrons are coming and going on an atom, the electrical forces are just loosing or gaining strength. The forces appear to be moving from one atom to the next, but the percieved movement is actually just a result of electron movement. This perceived movement is traveling at a consistent speed, usually around two-thirds the speed of light. To explain the effects of electrostatic forces, the movement of positive charges (conventional current) is best.

See the explanation on which way electricity flows at