Learn about smart alarms systems with our guide.
Buying a fire alarm and integrating it with your access control system is one of the most important things you can do to keep your spaces secure. Fire alarms help alert you when a fire occurs, so you can quickly respond with appropriate action.
To mitigate risk and protect lives and property from the consequences of fire, it’s crucial to set up a high-quality fire alarm system and accompanying sirens. Proper fire alarm system maintenance is just as important as the installation to ensure it’s always operational.
In this article, you will find all the information you need to select the best fire alarm system and sirens. You’ll also find a step-by-step guide on integrating it with your access control system.
Fire alarm system overview
A fire alarm is a unit made of several devices, which uses visual and audio signaling to warn people about a possible fire, smoke, or carbon monoxide occurrence in the area of coverage. Fire alarms are usually set in fire alarm systems to provide zonal coverage for residences and commercial buildings. The warning signal is either a loud siren/bell, a flashing light, or it can include both. Some fire alarm systems use additional warnings, such as sending a voice message or making a phone call.
Depending on the functionality and the integrated components, there are several classifications of fire alarm systems.
- Automatic fire alarm systems are activated through fire detectors, such as smoke or heat sensors. Manual fire alarms are activated with manual call points or pull stations. There is no reason for a fire alarm system to exclude one or the other. You can include both in the same system.
- Conventional fire alarms work as one unit, and are unable to pinpoint the exact area of activation unless inspected. Addressable fire alarms have a specially dedicated address for each fire alarm detector connected to the control panel for easier identification of the danger source.
- One-stage fire alarm systems warn everyone in the building that a sensor has been activated. Two-stage fire alarm systems warn only certain authorized people to take appropriate action before the second stage. This system is designed to serve large public areas, like healthcare facilities, to prevent panic and inadequate response due to fear.
Selecting an alarm system
To choose the most suitable fire alarm system, identify your specific needs. Think about how many detectors you’ll need to install in your building.
Make sure that when you decide on a fire alarm system, it is compatible with your current security setup. Shop around for equipment that fits within your budget, without sacrificing quality. It’s a good idea to work closely with the vendor to correctly install the fire alarm system and properly integrate it with your existing security and access control setup.
Consider systems with additional features, like a hush button, voice alarm, and backup battery, to improve usability. If you’re unsure if a specific feature of a fire alarm system suits your needs, contact the support team of one or more vendors.
Contacting the fire department and familiarizing yourself with relevant fire codes and regulations is also a good idea. Comparing the various vendors’ fire alarm systems before deciding which one to buy can help you make sure your decision is the right one for your facility.
Read online reviews from current and previous customers to get a sense of the quality and reliability of the fire alarm systems you are considering.
Key components of a fire alarm system
A conventional fire alarm system consists of the following devices:
- Fire alarm panel
- Detectors and bases
- Call points
- Sounders and flashers
- Power supply accessories (fire alarm batteries)
Wireless fire alarm systems do not use any wiring between the fire control panel and the other devices. Most fire alarms used today are wireless. The advanced ones use smart technology and can be integrated with various software applications.
The fire alarm panel (or the fire alarm control panel - FACP) is the base or the control hub of the system. It controls the settings of the other components and communicates the information through the system.
Fire detectors can be heat, smoke, or carbon monoxide sensors. They are placed around the facility to trace the presence of such emergencies. Some advanced sensors can even detect radiation. Call points or pulls belong to manually-controlled fire alarm systems. Most residential properties don’t use them, but many business facilities still do. Sounders emit a loud siren signal. Flashers are for visual warnings and emit intermittent or rotating flashes (typically red or white).
A fire alarm system can use the main electricity power supply as a primary source. In case of power failure, the system switches to the secondary power supply, or a fire alarm battery. Conventional fire alarms need frequent battery replacements to ensure continued functionality.
Fire alarm control panel
Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) controls everything related to fire emergency response. It communicates with fire detection devices like smoke detectors and manually controlled systems like pulls. If any of these devices detect a fire, they alert the FACP, which triggers a response. The FACP can set off alarms, strobes, sprinklers, and it can call emergency services.
Sirens, including wall horn strobes and alarm bells, are powerful auditory warning devices designed to alert individuals in emergency situations. These devices are commonly used in fire alarm systems, industrial facilities, and public spaces where rapid and clear notification is crucial for ensuring safety.
They are also often employed in intrusion detection systems, where their piercing sounds serve as a deterrent, alerting occupants and scaring off potential intruders. Kisi’s intrusion detection can directly integrate sirens with a Kisi Controller Pro or indirectly with a third-party alarm control panel.
Watch the video below for more information on sirens, their benefits, use cases, and how to integrate them with the Kisi access control system.
Installing a siren with Kisi access control
This step-by-step guide will show you how to connect Kisi Intrusion Detection with a siren directly wired to the controller. For this installation, you will need:
- Kisi Controller Pro with a spare relay
- Contact sensors for the doors you want to monitor
Hardware: Wiring the siren to the controller
- On the Kisi Controller Pro 2, select the fifth relay. On the Controller Pro 1, select the second relay.
- Identify the NO (Normally Open) and COM (Common) pins on the relay.
- Wire the NO pin of the controller to the positive red wire of the siren.
- Wire the COM pin of the controller to the ground wire of the siren.
- On the controller, set the jumper in the proper position. If using an external power supply, set the jumper into the dry position and wire NO to IN and COM to GND on the power supply instead.
- Verify that all connections are secure and that there are no loose wires.
Software: Set alarm controller
- Sign in to Kisi.
- Open your place.
- Navigate to ‘Hardware’ and select the ‘Controllers’ tab.
- Click on the desired controller.
- Toggle on the ‘Alarm Controller’ option.
- Click ‘Save’.
How a fire alarm system works
Contemporary fire alarm systems use automatic functions to detect the occurrence of an event that may result in a fire. They receive a signal from a fire sensor (smoke, heat, or carbon monoxide detector) and automatically transmit it to the fire alarm panel.
In wireless systems, the signal from the detectors to the control panel is transmitted with radio frequency. Heat detectors usually have built-in thermistors to sense the heat. Carbon monoxide detectors use integrated chemical, electrochemical, opto-chemical, or biomimetic cells to trace the gas. Smoke detectors use photoelectricity or ionization to detect smoke or combustion particles. Combined detectors use a number of detection mechanisms.
The fire alarm panel activates the flashers or the sounders, turns on sprinklers (or they can be activated along with the detector), or makes a call to the authorities or the occupants. If the fire alarm system is addressable, the source of the occurrence will be pointed out on the control panel. Users on separate floors or connected buildings can be notified in several ways, like horns, gongs, and loudspeaker messages advising appropriate action for each department.
Fire alarm system features
Most advanced fire alarm systems use wireless technology and smart devices to protect and manage automated buildings from a remote control panel, typically a mobile app that can be downloaded, installed, and managed from a smartphone.
The computerized logic of the control panel analyzes multiple detectors at the same time to decide on the most appropriate course of action. These modern, smart fire alarm systems are more sensitive than classic models and are better at avoiding false alarms.
With improved design and stronger resistance, they can be placed in areas difficult to reach and give instructions about the best escape route to people in the building. Smart fire alarm systems can perform integrated automatic actions, like discharging fire-suppression systems in closed designated areas, and they can vary the notifications to support people on their way out, while protecting expensive electronic equipment inside.
Smart wireless detectors use long-life batteries that can last up to 7 years. This is also the shelf life of the smart unit itself. Users can activate, deactivate and assign fire alarm functions to each sensor from anywhere. Two extra benefits of most advanced fire alarm systems are the sleek design and the more pleasant audio warnings that don’t enhance the panic already there.
Connecting fire alarm systems with access control
Fire alarms are necessary, and installing an access control system that doesn’t meet all fire safety measures would be negligent to the safety needs of your facility. Implementing an access control system that fully integrates with fire alarms and any other safety sensors on the property enhances your security and protects public safety.
Schedule a demo to see how Kisi access control can integrate with your systems to increase your security, help you streamline operations, and give you peace of mind.