Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works

What are Lights and Buttons For on the Fire Alarm System?

The lights show you what's going on: Is there power?, Is there and alarm?, Is there something being supervised?, Is something in trouble? - - Using the buttons, you can acknowledge that you've read it, you can silence the alarms, you can reset the system.

Lights on a Fire Alarm Panel - Green for Power - Red for Fire Alarm - Amber or Yellow for Supervisory and Trouble
The green light indicates the panel has power and is working. The red light comes on when there is a Fire Alarm. Amber lights come on when a system the panel is Supervising is in Alarm or when there is trouble with the Fire Alarm System.

By Douglas Krantz

You're now in charge of the building, be it an apartment building, office building, business complex, or industrial complex and now you have to deal with the fire alarm system. What is it, what does it do, and how do you deal with it?

Purpose of the Fire Alarm System

First off, a fire alarm system detects fire and tells people to get away from the fire, helps control the spread of smoke and fire, and usually notifies a monitoring company to call the fire department.


A Fire Alarm Control Panel has lights to indicate its status:

Fire Detection

A Fire Alarm System detects a fire:

Actions of the Fire Alarm System

Once a fire is detected, a series of events occur:

What Should You Do When the Alarm Sounds?

What should you do once these events start? At this point there are two possibilities:
  1. If you have not been given official company policy telling you what you should be doing -- leave the building with everyone else and let the fire department deal with the fire. (Also, no matter what you think the fire alarm system is going to do, remember to call the fire department yourself.)

  2. If you have official company policy telling you what to do -- follow that policy, and:
    • Call the fire department-- let them know the situation
    • Read the fire alarm panel-- it tells you where the fire is located
    • Don't breathe smoke-- it is toxic and it can kill you
    • Don't let the fire get between you and your way out

Just a note -- fire alarm systems are life safety devices -- they work in absolutes:

You absolutely have to reset a red light alarm to return a fire panel to normal; a person has to be there to silence and reset.

You absolutely cannot reset many light supervisories, trouble or monitor condition; the cause of the condition has to be repaired before the panel will reset.
Life Safety
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