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What Is a Fire Detection System? A Brief Guide

What Is a Fire Detection System? A Brief Guide
What Is a Fire Detection System? A Brief Guide

Fire detection systems are modern, advanced alternatives to conventional fire safety measures, which largely replace manual call points, relying on somebody noticing smoke, fire or heat and raising the alarm.

Automation has greatly improved the speed and efficiency of fire detection, ensuring that any signs of fire are recognised and communicated immediately, even when a premise is unoccupied.

Businesses and organisations with elevated risks, such as those storing flammable chemicals or with high-heat output processes, often integrate their fire detection systems with other security surveillance assets. They may require a greater level of assurance that a fire will be tackled straight away before it can spread and cause extensive damage. In this article, we answer the questions: What is a fire detection system, how do they work and why are they vital for building safety.

How Does Automatic Fire Detection Work?

There are various assets, sensors and response protocols you can install within your premises or in specific areas with increased fire hazards. Some of the potential options could include:

  • Smoke detectors which function on photoelectric and optical technology.
  • Gas detectors that determine when the air quality changes and a gas leak is suspected.
  • Heat sensors, with detection cabling or temperature sensors.
  • Flame detectors utilising ultraviolet and infrared tech.

Depending on your risk profile, any of these sensors may be connected to a preprogrammed response, such as activating water sprinklers, isolating the area with pressurised doors, sounding alarms, notifying managers and emergency responders, or deploying fire mitigation measures that release gases, foams and waters to suppress a fire until the fire service arrives.

The benefits are compelling, especially in large compounds or facilities with complex layouts. If a smouldering substance is detected before it escalates into a fire, the building can be swiftly evacuated, the fire risk eliminated, and the value of your property and assets protected.

fire detection systems

Fire Detection Systems vs Manual Fire Safety Policies

One of the biggest drawbacks of a traditional fire safety system is that the alarm is only raised when a person detects or witnesses a fire. By this time, the fire may have taken hold, spread to other parts of the building, and be significantly harder to extinguish.

Fire detection systems can pick up traces of smoke or gas, elevated temperatures and particles in the air that indicate there may be smouldering materials much faster than a fire might be visible. Common occurrences include hot liquids and chemicals becoming unstable in a storage warehouse or bin – until the container sets light and is visibly aflame, somebody working nearby may be unaware that a fire is about to start.

It is also typical for fires to begin outside of working hours, meaning it could be some time before anybody realises the situation and notifies the emergency services.

This risk can materialise even away from higher-risk industrial premises. Equipment charging overnight can overheat. Paper and other flammables can overheat and catch light if left near a heater, and loose wiring or faulty connections can spark and trigger a fire.

The technology integrated into a fire detection system is there to stop a fire before it becomes serious or identify the warning signs that a fire risk is developing by picking up on smoke and heat in the early stages of ignition.

Smoke detector

Which Fire Detection System Is the Right Solution for Your Business?

We’ve explored some of the sensors used within fire detection systems. Still, there are multiple ways to customise and adapt fire detection equipment, depending on where your most significant fire risks exist and how crucial these may be to the business.

  • Heat-based alarms are fairly simple, cost-effective sensors with a threshold temperature above which they will raise the alarm. Environments with general high heat outputs may not be suited to a heat alarm, but they can work well in combination with other fire detection sensors.
  • Video detection systems are more advanced and use visual analytics to review camera footage and determine whether there are smoke patterns. This tech works similarly to the AI-based cameras used for facial recognition or tracing movement patterns to spot when something is missing or there when it shouldn’t be.
  • Photoelectric detectors are equally advanced and can identify smouldering fires before they spread, using light pulses within defined zones to identify smoke particles. Settings with high volumes of dust may be unsuited since the prevalence of dust within the sensor chamber can cause a false positive.
  • Finally, aspirating fire detection systems are the pinnacle of immediate, rapid detection, drawing in air to a detection unit built into the system and testing the substances within the air similarly to the photoelectric detector – but with proactive air testing that can detect a fire in any part of the building.

Most businesses opt for a multi-sensor fire detection system to ensure that any potential fire indication is picked up immediately. Our consultants can provide further advice and suggest the best solutions after reviewing your site and fire risk assessment.

Are Fire Detection Systems a Mandatory Requirement?

No – having some fire detection or alarm system in place is compulsory, but there is a degree of discretion about how actively you monitor for fires and smoke. The legislation is somewhat vague and says that fire detection protocols must be appropriate, although any systems you select must be fit for purpose.

Automatic fire detection and pre-emptive controls can provide multiple advantages, from around-the-clock fire alarm monitoring, early detection of fire, smoke or smouldering materials, and a considerably reduced risk of loss, damage and business closure.

Installing a fire detection system provides the peace of mind that any threats to your organisation will be promptly identified, the relevant people informed, and that your building will be evacuated straight away, safeguarding visitors, your workforce and members of the public.

For further information about fire detection systems, the technologies and sensors available, and how to implement fire suppression and response protocols to stamp out a fire before it becomes established, please get in touch with the Clearway team on 0121 561 1214. 

Our experienced fire safety consultants can offer independent suggestions, professional site surveys and bespoke system configurations aligned with the priorities and budget of your business.

Gavin Upton

Gavin Upton

Sales Director - Clearway: Fire & Security

Solution focused consultative approach aligned to clients strategic and operational road map.

Gavin has had notable successes in delivering solutions for a broad range of large complex clients from both NFE and NFN pipelines.
Extensive knowledge of all three sectors and multiple verticals including Financial Services, Retail, FMCG, Utilities, Healthcare, Automotive and Leisure/Hospitality. His focus is on delivering innovation, growth and retention through providing outsource solutions that deliver cross business benefits whilst utilising technology whether in-situ or new initiatives.

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