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There are many different fire alarm systems to choose from when it comes to protecting your business and valuable assets in the event of a fire. Not all are created equal and depending on the nature of your business there are many considerations when choosing a system that is right for you.
For most office buildings, the standard fire alarm system is adequate protection in the event of a fire and usually involves a centrally located panel that controls the system. Utilizing sprinklers to put out the fire, the sprinklers are activated when a fire is detected through the use of a smoke or heat detector. Since most smaller office buildings don't use chemicals to suffocate or smother the fire, this is usually the least expensive and cost effective solution.
For larger companies with varied work environments, the fire alarm system must be more sophisticated and designed with diversity in mind to protect not only the structure itself, but also the equipment and data it contains. In the case of a datacenter, standard sprinklers would cause significant damage to computer systems so many companies use a fire suppression system that removes oxygen from the room, effectively starving the fire. This method leaves both the equipment and data in tact and in most cases only leaves a fine powder to clean up after deployment. Since this particular method deprives the area of oxygen, there would need to be some sort of warning mechanism in place so that employees would have time to evacuate the area before deployment.
For businesses dealing with hazardous chemicals such as in the case of manufacturing, there are fire alarm systems that are specialized to effectively suppress fire that involves toxic chemicals. Understandably, there are tighter laws governing the use of these chemicals and the fire suppression technology needed to insure that any fire in this environment poses a minimal risk to employees and the public in general. Many of these chemicals can be explosive in nature when on fire and it is essential that all safety precautions possible be utilized when providing protection for the business.
Obviously the larger the business, the more complex the fire alarm system would be. Often, the system is set up to monitor and deploy only for specific zones. This way, if there were a fire in one side of the building, the sprinklers or fire suppression chemicals would only be deployed to that portion of the building. This minimizes damage to valuable equipment and furniture by fire retardant or water in locations that are untouched by the fire.
An important aspect to any fire alarm system is the human element involved. Yes, you want to make sure that assets are protected as much as possible, but you also need to consider the impact of any fire suppression deployment on anyone who might be in the location at the time of deployment. Obviously water is the safest for human exposure in the event of a fire, but safety becomes even more paramount when using chemicals. Additionally, there should be visual indicators of fire in addition to audible alarms. This way, those who are hearing or vision impaired will be notified of the fire and know that they need to evacuate the building. Most fire alarms involve the use of audible sirens or bells, but having visual indicators such as flashing lights assists those who may be hearing impaired.
Completing a careful analysis of what has higher priority in terms of needing protection in the event of a fire will help you determine which of the fire alarm systems will provide you with the protection you need while keeping your costs at a minimum. Keeping the company's essential data protected should be a high priority as equipment and furniture can be replaced but customer lists, accounting data or inventory numbers can be impossible to replace. Fire alarm systems are an essential and often legally required way to protect both your business and the people who work there in the event of a fire.