Fire Protection and Prevention Innovations
Fire safety technology has certainly evolved over the last 125 years since the first automatic fire alarm system was patented and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) was launched. While innovation in the fire industry can be slow and sometimes plodding, it seems that external forces more than technology advancement has driven the development of new solutions and products. With the spiderweb of varying state fire codes and regulations, evolving infrastructures and construction mandates featuring a growing emphasis on LEED compliant and green building certification programs, innovative fire protection technology has had to adapt to the growing complexities of the world.
Innovative Smart Technologies Emerge
As “smart” technologies expand across the Internet of Things (IoT) landscape, advanced smart devices are transforming the way security and fire safety professionals approach building design and fire suppression and prevention methods. Smart devices transcend the abilities of simple connected devices, which simply share data directly with other devices on the network. The smart devices take connectivity well beyond enabling them to run myriad sensors, microprocessors, APIs, software and storage options across an embedded operating system.
The fire protection industry has begun to include Smart Connected Things (SCoT) in systems that will enable both owners and service providers to determine system status and perform some inspection and testing functions remotely, which can allow end users to perform remote inspection and testing, and help contractors develop installations and methods for monitoring water-based systems that meet all current NFPA installation standards (NFPA 13, 14, and 20) and the ITM standard (NFPA 25) for the use of this technology.
According to Robert Solomon, the Director the NFPA’s Building Fire Protection Division in a recent article in the NFPA Journal, the addition of smart technology to fire and life safety building systems will present many benefits with minimal risk. “I’m fascinated by this stuff,” he said. “The more data we can collect and use from these devices, the more efficiencies we can create.”
Innovative Fire Prevention Gets Smarter
Smart technology innovation in fire prevention increases the proactive aspects of monitoring and alert notification, like notifying building owners if there are faulty heads or pipes in the sprinkler system or the danger of frozen or busted pipes. Smart sensors can also monitor water pressure and flow rate in the building’s sprinkler system so the water can adjust to meet the intensity of a building fire, meaning that this technology innovation can actually save lives.
Advancements in video and voice systems are becoming more prevalent among building owners and commercial businesses, as sophisticated analytics push fire/life safety options to the limit. Although Video Image Smoke Detection technology is not new, the use of video-based detection is expanding in demand and application. It is a given that smoke detectors save lives and property, so as the VISD technology expands it is becoming popular in critical infrastructure and unique applications. These include power generation, manufacturing, warehouse and distribution, transport, aircraft hangars, tunnels and prestige buildings — to protect people, property and production operations.
According to Eric Camiel, PE, CET, a manager and senior fire protection engineer at Jensen Hughes, video image detection systems rely on the resolution and accuracy of standard network security cameras (CCTV). Either a central analyzing computer or stand-alone cameras with internal processing and relays can be installed. Images are passed through carefully developed software algorithms that use different techniques to continuously analyze the video images in real time to locate the fire incident within the field of view. In case of an event, an alarm output is sent to the fire alarm system control panel. Depending on field of view, obstructions, movement of smoke, reflections of flames, the VID may not show where a fire originates. The system can provide control room operators with 24/7 situational awareness. Control room operators can monitor the video images in real time and assess the severity of the fire as the situation develops.
Integrated voice evacuation technology provides the user the ability to customize evacuation directives, which are critical lifesaving tools. Generally used in public spaces, voice evacuation systems facilitate orderly evacuation in emergencies by using personalized recorded vocal smoke alarms that play a verbal message to inform people of emergencies and to instruct them on how to proceed safely. Using a spoken emergency message has been found to cause far less panic than using a simple alarm tone.
Recently, manufacturers have taken the integrated voice evacuation solution to the next level by offering speakers that can transmit messages necessary to meet code with a variety of options to meet various market applications. One emergency communications system has a platform that can store 250 audio messages for playback in any order and supports thousands of addressable devices, annunciation indicators, and control switches, which provides designers more flexibility to map out the implementation of their emergency plans over an advanced networked fire alarm and emergency communications platform.
Other innovative methods of fire prevention include smoke alarms specifically designed for the hearing-impaired that alarms incorporate strobe lights and bed, or pillow shakers designed to wake people who cannot easily hear the noise of a standard alarm. On the residential side, the popularity of personalized vocal smoke alarms has increased, allowing parents or caregivers to record a message in their voice which deploys when the alarm is triggered. Children are more likely to wake up and follow fire instructions with a familiar voice.
Don’t Forget Surge Protection
While smart sensors, video and voice evac systems remain fire safety embellishments for most building owners, the importance of having basic surge protection as a first line of fire protection is a given. Today’s fire alarm systems, and their controllers and fire panels, are sensitive electronic devices that include sophisticated detection and alarm functionality. They are often equipped with multiple sensor types, annunciators, and numerous communication features including telephone, data, and cellular connections to emergency responders. Their sensitivity and interconnectivity, however, also makes them particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of power surges, which can quietly and invisibly cause damage until the entire system fails, requiring urgent action to bring it back into operation.
When it comes to surge protection innovation for fire systems, DITEK’s DTK-120X12 sets a new standard for 120VAC power and low voltage surge protection. It protects your system power and up to twelve (12) pairs of SLC, IDC/PIV, NAC, network or dialer circuits. This combo unit comes equipped with a DTK-DF120M, 120VAC, replaceable surge protection module and a 6-position mounting base for replaceable, low voltage surge modules. Adding DTK-2MHLP/2MHTP modules for data/signal and dialer circuit protection provides a complete solution for your fire alarm system.
No matter how advanced you want to go with your fire prevention solutions, don’t ignore the foundational benefits of surge protection.