Imagine this fairly common scenario: Your facility’s fire alarm system has reached the end of its operational life. Constant troubles and service calls for the system are becoming a regular part of your life. Frustration and stress is heightened and the building’s maintenance budget is lowering. If this is the case, it’s probably time to upgrade the system. The first question you need to ask is whether you actually know what those organizational fire protections goals are. If you do not know, now is the time to investigate. If you find that maybe your organization doesn’t have any, then now is definitely the time to create some. The analysis of your organizational fire protection goals will center on the following 5 categories: life safety, property protection, mission continuity, heritage preservation and environmental protection.
- Life Safety: The main focus surrounding your fire alarm system is providing life safety to the occupants of your building. Early detection is the absolute key to being successful in meeting this goal. Sometimes electronically supervising your fire sprinkler system is enough, while some situations may call for smoke detection, and others may need heat detection. It is important to discuss your buildings needs with a fire protection engineer to help determine the best methods for detection. Remember, the intent of this life safety goal is to provide early detection and early notification for the occupants of the facility and the responding public fire department. The more capable your system is in accomplishing this, the better. The protection of lives has to be the number one priority for any system upgrade.
- Property Protection: With a property protection goal, building owners and representatives are seeking to limit the damage to the facility and meet all the insurance company’s requirements. Meeting this goal, representatives of the building may choose to detect fires of a certain size or rely on the capabilities of an automatic sprinkler system. If the idea is to detect the fire before sprinkler system actuation, then the design of the fire alarm system will require more detection than building code’s minimum requirements for detection. Again, depending on the type of detection and the limits of the size of fire detected, limiting the extent of damage may provide equal benefits for the environment as the life safety design.
- Mission Continuity: The goal of mission continuity is to retain your organization’s ability to keep business activities intact after a fire. The average building code fire alarm system design will not always meet this goal. The detail of the detection type needed to meet this goal, in a lot of cases, greatly exceeds the design used for detection to meet a life safety goal. Fires cause intense and often irreparable amounts of damage. Having the proper types of fire detection gives your building the chance to have a fire stopped in the time necessary to prevent such damage. Not committing to strong mission continuity goal can lead to major costs and significant down time.
- Heritage Preservation: In some instances an owner/representative could be dealing with a historic building. In these cases, the fire protection required for heritage preservation involves a detailed analysis of what elements inside a facility that need to remain intact following a fire. This will also impact how the installation is completed making sure the new fire alarm system is installed in a way that does not damage the building. Even if your facility does not have any historical significance, your building may have records or documents you will want to protect, often buildings with data centers may use fire suppression systems in order to protect the buildings important data saved on its servers.
- Environmental Protection: When the goal of environmental protection is primary, the impact a fire could have on the environment in certain types of facilities trumps other goals. A fire in a paint warehouse could cause an environmental disaster if the water runoff used during firefighting efforts contaminates the water supply. Some buildings were built in an era where the building materials used were found to be poisonous when exposed to fire. Smoke control is a major item to look into and will require meeting with an air handling contractor/engineer to better understand what types of damper, shut downs, and fans are needed to control smoke. A lot of research is required with older buildings when trying to discover what sort of environmental impact could be in play. With such cases, every part of the fire protection design needs to be considered to ensure the fire is contained to the smallest possible area within the facility, and promptly automatically extinguishes the fire.
As it goes with any system in your building, it is always best to avoid the “crisis” type of installs. Without a good plan or the right goals in mind, a last minute install could prove to be quite costly. If someone tells you or you feel it is time to upgrade your system, it is imperative to counsel with a fire protection professional you trust. Navigating through the required codes and meeting the five fire protection goals for your organization (life safety, property protection, mission continuity, heritage preservation and environmental protection) will come easier, and at a better price point with professional help.
If you have more questions about fire alarm or fire protection installations, or want to know more on how to maintain these systems, contact us. We would be happy to discuss your project with you to see how we can help.