Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works

I'm Looking for a Fire Alarm System

All of them work. It's user interface that's important. Make sure the one you get has an easy to read display for the firefighters, easy to use alarm silence, reset, and panel silence buttons, and stay away from touch screen controls.

I am looking to purchase a complete fire protection system for a Power Plant. I have searched and found some of the big names in fire alarm.

I am looking to purchase a complete fire protection system for a Power Plant. I have searched and found some of the big names in fire alarm such as XXX Manufacturing, YYY Manufacturing, ZZZ Manufacturing, Etc.

The whole system will be divided into different loops, most of the systems available have the following material for each loop.
  1. Detectors - Heat, Smoke, Flame, LHD (Linear Heat Detection or Heat Detection Wire)
  2. Control Points (output control modules for deluge valves, sprinkler system, dampers, fans, etc.
  3. Manual push buttons, horns and strobes, etc.

I want your guidance on the following point -

Local zone alarm display is required in multiple areas for showing the status of detectors of that zone. The display must have an embedded controller module box instead of a full computer. An example is a simple hardware box which may be connected within the loop and may display in the form LEDs in a pattern or a small Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) interfaced with a controller. Basically, the system should avoid a full computer at each display point because there are almost 20 display points.

I want to know the following . . .
  1. Which company should I try
  2. What are the possible ways of doing all this

My previous experience:

Designing, development, and programming of a fire-fighting control unit. I used an embedded micro-controller (CORTEX-M3 ARM microprocessor integrated circuit chip), and used control points numbering in the range of 400 to 500 for controlling fire extinguishing systems. Information from all the detectors were received from the fire control unit, and based on the information the designed fire-fighting control unit would take the necessary actions.

Now I want to install an already available off-the-shelf full solution.

Thanks for your time, awaiting your response . . .

Regards, A M - Electrical Engineer

Brand of Panel

Well, starting with the brand of equipment being used, all of them have good points and bad points.
  • Some of them are easier to operate by the building owners than others
  • Some of them are built more reliably and have fewer maintenance problems at a later date than others
  • Some of them are more flexible and can be designed into a greater variety of situations than others
  • Some of them, after installation, have more factory support than others
  • Some of them can be later modified by local companies better than others

In other words, from the customer's point of view, great care must be taken with the after-sale-and-installation part of the system point of view. Whereas most brands can be designed to accomplish what you desire, once the system has been designed, installed and out of the warranty period, some brands are more difficult to be used and serviced by the owners.

When deciding which brand of system to use, may I suggest talking to the building engineers of several systems of similar fire alarm / fire control systems that have been in service for at least 5 years? These are the people who have to directly deal with the systems, and these are the people who will provide a better picture of what your building's people are going to have to deal with once the system is installed.

If you don't find a particular brand of system among the people you talk to, stay away from that brand because you really don't know how good that brand is.

Zone Alarm Display

For the remote zone alarm display units that you describe, there are two main options. One is a common annunciator and the other is a graphic display with building maps.

Common Annunciator

A common annunciator is just a remote control of the fire alarm system. It is not the system itself, but can be anything from just a few lights and buttons to LCD (Liquid Crystal Display - alphanumeric displays showing what is on main panel's LED display) and many buttons. Some brands and models can be programmed to just display and control parts of the building (or zones) of the fire alarm system.

Touch Screens

Some of them are even touch-screen controlled. There are two problems with touch-screens. One is that after a while the touch screen becomes harder to control with the touch, and the other is that in an emergency, touch screens require the operator to pay attention to the touch screen rather than the equipment they are trying to control.

I know about pressing buttons. I spent 15 years as a television broadcast engineer, I used many buttons in the course of each day. If I had to use touch-screens for equipment control, just to press the right button at the right time, I would have had to pay attention to the touch screen rather than the equipment I had to watch. Using a touch screen, I would have done a poor job of running a TV station.

Stay away from touch screens, touch screens just slow down the control process, especially during an emergency.

Graphic Display

A graphic display is really a translucent panel with LED lights in certain places behind it. It's an intuitive human interface display. The front of the display could be a building map, a building riser diagram, a stylized equipment layout, or words describing different possible problems, etc.

The LED lights behind would be placed to tell the operator what is going on with the building or process.

There can be buttons or switches included.

Some brands and models of fire alarm systems are easier to set up and be programmed for graphic displays than others.

Bottom Line

The best way of finding out which is the best fire alarm manufacturing company to use is to talk to those who have worked with a system for 5 years or more: the ones who actually press the buttons. They're the ones who know if the system is a good one or bad one.

Douglas Krantz
Mr. Krantz

Thanks a lot for the detailed information. This was very helpful. As usual, while reading your reply I have learned more new things.

Regards, A M - Electrical Engineer
Life Safety
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