Addressable fire alarm panels are given their name because each device on the system (detector, call point, sounder, etc) is assigned a unique address by which the panel can directly communicate with that device. This facilitates a huge number of benefits over conventional and 2 wire fire alarm systems.
Firstly all devices from any zone can be installed on the same cable which is typically run as a loop from the panel, to each device in series before returning back to the panel. As the panel can uniquely identify each device it is capable of assigning any device to a particular zone. This cabling saves a considerable amount of installation time & costs compared with those associated with conventional or 2 wire systems which require devices for each zone to be fitted to separate cable runs.
You may wonder why the cable should return back to the panel when ending at the last device would save this extra cost. This is down to the BS5839 fire standard specifying that should a cable break occur at most a single zone of devices may be lost. As devices from multiple zones are on the same cable, should a cable break happen at the start of the run then all devices across all zones would be lost if this run does not return to the panel. When wired as a loop the panel will communicate with all devices from both sides of the loop so in the event of a cable break the system integrity remains intact and the panel will simply inform you of this fault.
Alarm identification is almost certainly the primary benefit of addressable systems which means the panel will show the exact device along with a text description (if set) should that device go into alarm (for instance “Ground Floor Office 1”). Although the exact device is shown, addressable systems must still follow the BS5839 zoning so devices are still assigned to particular zone and this zone number is shown in the event of a fire.
Generally speaking conventional and 2 wire systems operate on a common basis which means should a detector or call point trigger an alarm, then all connected warning devices (sounders, flashers, etc) will activate together. Most addressable systems however can also operate on a programmed basis so you can decide which input triggers which output(s). For instance in an application such as a hotel, should a detector go into alarm perhaps only the sounder in the control room sounds allowing someone to investigate the alarm before a full evacuation occurs.
As with every system there are going to be some careful considerations and in the case of addressable systems the following are, in our opinion, the main ones;
- Every device on an addressable system must of course be addressed (some systems allow this to be done via switches or similar in each device whilst others dynamically assign addresses via the panel or software) and it is vital that the installer is aware of how this is done.
- Addressable fire equipment is more expensive compared to conventional or 2 wire system so it is important to decide whether the aforementioned benefits are cost effective.
- Unlike most conventional fire alarm systems you cannot mix & match any manufacturer’s panel with any manufacturer’s devices. Addressable panels communicate with devices using an addressable protocol (can be thought of as a language). Some manufacturers only allow their protocol in their own panel & devices whilst others share this protocol meaning you can use a variety of equipment.
If you need assistance choosing the right addressable fire alarm panel feel free to contact us on 01792 452 700.
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