Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works

How do I Set Up a Fire Alarm System?

By Douglas Krantz | Descriptions

A fire alarm system consists of fire detection, control, and a means of warning people of fire

Greetings Douglas,

I want to know how to setup a fire alarm system.

Thank You, MB

A fire alarm system is very simple electronically, but because the idea of protecting lives and property is added to the electronics, the term "Life Safety" is included in the term "Fire Alarm System".

Fire Alarm System

A fire alarm system is a Detect Fire and Alarm System. It detects that there's a fire, and warns people of the fire. The reason that fire alarm systems even exist in the first place is to prevent people from dying fires, and prevent buildings from burning down because of fires.


Whether it's a fire alarm system or a traffic control system, a system is more than individual sections, but to understand how any system works, the sections have to be understood.

A fire alarm system has:
  • Input Devices
  • Output Devices
  • A Control Panel
  • Power Supplies and Backup Power, like Batteries
  • Communication and Power Distribution Networks

  • Input Devices - The input devices detect fires. These are devices like smoke detectors, heat detectors, manual pull stations or MCPs (Manual Call Points), waterflow switches, etc.

  • Output Devices - The output devices sound the alarm. These are devices like fire horns, strobes, speakers, chimes, bells, etc. The output devices also perform other functions like closing fire doors, preventing air handlers from spreading smoke, controlling access when there's a fire, etc.

  • A Control Panel - The control panel determines what is done when a fire is detected. It watches for alarms to be sent from the input devices, and turns on the appropriate output devices. It also allows the owner or firefighters to control what happens.

  • Power Supplies and Backup Power, like the Batteries - The control panel has an internal power supply, and also there are auxiliary power supplies. The power supplies convert the utility's power to power that can be used by the fire alarm system. The power supplies also have backup power from batteries, so when the utility power is temporarily interrupted, the power supplies will continue to supply power to the fire alarm system.
  • Communication and Power Distribution Networks - Between all the panels and devices is a network of wiring, fiber optics, and radio frequency (RF or Wireless) communication and power distribution. This is how the devices, panels, and power supplies are connected together.

Custom Built

There are no sections of a commercial fire alarm system that come totally pre-packaged. Except for fire alarm systems in factory-built buildings, all fire alarm systems are custom designed, and custom built. There are no two fire alarm systems that are really alike; there is no one-design-fits-all fire alarm system.

Because all fire alarm systems are custom built, learning how to design, install, test, and maintain fire alarm systems requires a lot of time to learn about already installed fire alarm systems. It's the time seeing how others have designed, installed, tested, and maintain fire alarm system after fire alarm system to see how it's done.

Start out working with an already established, local, fire alarm company. Spend time testing different fire alarm systems. Then spend time installing fire alarm systems. Spend time maintaining fire alarm systems.
  • Once you have tested many, many fire alarm systems, you will know what is involved in a Fire Detection and Alarm System.

  • Once you have installed many, many fire alarm systems, you will know what is involved in the wiring for Fire Detection and Alarm Systems.

  • Once you have maintained many, many fire alarm systems, you will know what goes wrong with fire alarm systems, and how to fix the fire alarm systems.

  • After you have learned what's involved, what's needed to wire, how to fix a fire alarm system, then you can start to design fire alarm systems.

Start with what's easy; learn what's easy. When gaining experience, you can have as a goal designing fire alarm systems, but first you have to know what's needed in a fire alarm system.

Douglas Krantz
Life Safety
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