The Difference Between Fire Alarms and Alarm Monitoring

The Difference Between Fire Alarms and Alarm Monitoring

December 23, 2019 by

Your home and office are at risk of fire from common events such as faulty electrical wiring or outlets, electrical appliances, or even misplaced candles. The results can be devastating, depending on how fast fires are spotted and the safety measures that are taken.

Although some fires can be avoided, most fire incidents can be averted if the right precautions are taken, such as installing fire detection and alarm systems.

Monitored and Non-Monitored Fire Alarms

When it comes to shopping for fire detection and alarm systems, there are two different kinds to choose from: monitored or non-monitored alarm systems.

A fire alarm system is designed to alert all the occupants in the building that a fire has been detected so they can begin the process of evacuation. In its most basic form, a fire alarm system requires a fire detection system to identify the signs of a fire and a local audible device that will sound the siren to alert people of the fire.

However, a basic fire alarm system does not notify the fire department or other relevant authorities about the fire. Someone in the vicinity must respond to the siren by calling the fire department and other authorities to ensure that they’re dispatched to the location of the fire. A basic fire alarm system is non-monitored.

Fire alarm monitoring implies that the fire alarm system also includes a monitoring panel that has been installed and integrated with the fire alarm system. Once the fire alarm goes off, the connected fire monitoring panel automatically sends a signal to a designated Signal Monitoring Centre, where the operator will immediately dispatch the nearest Fire Department and local authorities to attend to the emergency.

How Fire Alarm Monitoring Works

Monitored fire alarms use different methods to detect fire-related threats and then alert the dispatch operators to respond to the specific situation.

Some of the methods used to monitor for fire-related threats include:

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

CO fire detectors are designed to trigger an alarm when they detect carbon monoxide in the air. The sensors are sensitive to carbon monoxide and often respond quickly.

Gas and Smoke Detectors

These devices are specifically used to detect the presence of toxic gas within a specific area. Smoke detectors function in different ways, so it’s recommended that you discuss with your technical about the best device to ensure the safety of your home. The three common types of smoke detectors include:

1. Ionization smoke detectors

These feature two chambers: one to serve as the reference to compensate for changes in pressure, humidity, and temperature in the space, and the other to ionize air passing through a chamber with current flow. When smoke passes through the chamber, it causes a reduction in current flow, which triggers the alarm.

2. Light scattering smoke detectors

These feature a light source and photocell separated from each other by a darkened chamber preventing the light from reaching the photocell. However, smoke in the chamber scatters the light source, causing it to reach the photocell and initiate the alarm.

3. Light obscuring smoke detector

Unlike light scattering detectors, these devices trigger an alarm when smoke interrupts the transmission of a light beam between a photocell and light source. The trigger event is the variation in photocell output.

Temperature Change Sensors

These devices are intended for placement in areas with high humidity, steam, or dust. Heat detectors generally monitor the average temperature of a space and only trigger the alarm when the temperature exceeds a specific pre-set value, in the event of rapid, significant change in temperature.

Heat detectors are mostly used in warehouses, machine rooms, and storage facilities. Keep in mind that they take longer to activate compared to smoke detectors as the heat needs to build up enough to trigger the mechanism.

Thermal Imaging Cameras

Thermal imaging cameras are high-tech devices used to detect high-temperature areas within a limited space. They use a combination of optical and heat sensors to identify areas with very high temperatures, track changes in heat over a specific period of time, and detect breaches in temperature threshold. They are sensitive to a wide range of temperatures and can be used to identify the hottest place or fire origin.

Importance of Fire Monitoring

In many cases where a fire breaks out and completely destroys a building before the Fire Department arrived, but the fire alarm was triggered, it’s probably because the alarm system was not monitored. While the occupants may hear the fire alarm and evacuate the building, they may not necessarily call the Fire Department or emergency network, because they assume that someone else has contacted them. In the case the occupants are sleeping or aren’t home a monitored smoke detector can notify them on their smartphones as well as notify the monitoring center to dispatch the fire department…

Fire alarm monitoring allows swift and detailed communication between your fire alarm system and the central monitoring station of your security provider. The control panel in your monitored alarm system acts as a hub for multiple systems, including smoke detectors, motion detectors, door and window sensors, and tamper sensors. It sends a signal to the monitoring centre depending on the trigger event.

With modern fire alarm systems, it’s also possible for users to monitor their property via mobile devices. In the event of a fire, the alarm system can send a text message, video, email, or other notification via an app to your mobile device, alerting you of the incident in your home.

The fire alarm notification will also be sent to your monitoring centre. But if you have video surveillance installed in your home, you can follow the events via your mobile device before you arrive. You can also ask a nearby person to check on your home before you arrive. It’s a requirement in most cities and municipalities that any occupied multi-tenant residential and commercial building has a monitored fire alarm system from a ULC-listed alarm company.

Fire alarm monitoring involves a more direct emergency response compared to security monitoring, with a call dispatch accompanied by request for assistance from the fire department. This gives you peace of mind that you will get the best possible emergency response in the event of a fire.

For more information about fire alarms and monitored alarms, call the Canadian Security Professionals at 1-877-229-7252 or contact us here.

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