Something New Again?

In the fire service things change very often, sometimes the change is good while other times it’s not so good. Regardless of what takes place, we in the fire service are reluctant to change. We are steeped in tradition and like the old way of doing things whether the change is a better, more safe and efficient way of doing something or not. We must change our culture and not only look forward to change but have an open mind when looking at new technologies or procedures to do our job as safe and efficient as possible.


One thing that is ever changing for the fire service is fire alarm technology. Fire alarms can be a thorn in the side so to speak for the fire service as most runs of this type are either false or nuisance alarms. Most can be as simple as contractors working in the building or on the system that failed to place the system in test.

Fire alarm systems have come a long way in the past 20 years. The information from the central station to the dispatch centers alone have gone from just having an alarm signal from a building address to actually giving the central station the ability to see what the custom point label is along with the type of device. This information is good for the fire department for size-up and planning of the call while en route making the operation more efficient once on the scene. Let’s review where we have come from and then look at what the future might hold in this field.

In 1989, when I began my career, most fire alarm systems were a hardwired system, which in a nutshell meant that you have zoned initiating circuits, which could have from one to 30 devices on one zone. This made it a little cumbersome to find the device which had caused the alarm. Along this same time period a new technology was emerging. This technology was addressable technology, which reduced system wiring and could give you point or device specific information including a custom label that was individual to each device on the system.

This technology is still being installed to this day, of course the hardwired technology is still available but not as widely used as the addressable technology. Both of these technologies 20 years ago reported just a fire alarm signal from a building address, however in recent years individual point information is transmitted to the central station which can then be relayed to the fire department dispatch center. In systems that have proprietary monitoring, which is simply on-site monitoring, the individual points can be shown and brought up on a graphic system that shows the actual point location on a floorplan of the building.

So what kind of things are we seeing now as far as fire alarm technology? With the development of application (App) based technology we continue to see more and more information becoming available on your smartphone. Fire alarm technology can also be received in this way. Not only can the

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