How Does A Fire Alarm System Work?

You are probably familiar with the codes that require all commercial structures to have a functioning fire alarm system.

Many people don’t understand the system and confuse it with other fire protection devices like smoke detectors or fire sprinklers. Fire alarm systems offer a more complete and comprehensive approach to fire protection than any one device.

This blog will explain the main components and roles of a fire alarm system, as well as the basics of how they work together to protect your building’s occupants in case of an emergency.

What is the Vital Role of a Fire Alarm System?

  • The basic function of a fire alarm system, in simple terms, is to detect fires within buildings and notify emergency personnel at a centrally controlled location.
  • These systems can also be self-monitored, identifying the source of alarms in a building and detecting any errors in wiring or connections that could prevent the system from functioning properly.
  • A fire alarm system basically has four functions: alert, detect, monitor, control. These advanced systems use a variety of appliances and control panels to perform these 4 functions.

What are the Parts of a Fire Alarm System?

A fire alarm system is made up of many parts. Each part has its own function. Understanding the components and how they interact is essential to know how the procedure functions as a whole.

These are the five essential elements of every fire alarm system:

  • Initiating devices:

    initiating device is the part of an alarm system that detects smoke or fire. These devices include smoke detectors, heat detectors, sprinkler water flow sensors and pull stations.

  • Indicating appliances:

    indicating devices are the part that sounds an alarm and alerts the occupants to a fire hazard. These devices include bells, chimes and bells. Sometimes, even strobe light for the hard-of-hearing and deaf. These appliances are loud to ensure that everyone leaves the building quickly and not be overlooked. If code requires it or deaf people are present, strobe lights can warn them of the approaching fire.

  •  Fire Alarm Control Panel:

    The fire alarm system’s user interface and central control element is the panel. It displays the current status (alarm or not alarm) of the fire alarm systems and has a touchpad that allows personnel on-site to program, troubleshoot and silence the system. The fire alarm panel supervises all system initiating devices and indicating appliances and all telephone ties. It also has a supervision function over field wiring, telephone ties, field wiring and circuit cards. If an alarm is triggered, a call to a monitoring agency is also sent via the fire alarm panel. This alerts emergency personnel.

  • Backup Power Supplies:

    Backup power supplies include main power from the circuit breaker, two 12V batteries for backup for 24 hours and sometimes a generator to provide power for many fire alarm systems. You can find the batteries in the control panel or an enclosure. If the power goes out, the batteries will automatically take over. This allows the system to protect the building from burning for up to 24 hours. Generators can be used to provide power for extended periods of time.

  • Additional Devices:

    Many different devices can be added to a fire alarm system in order to increase fire protection. Other instruments include remote annunciators, alarm silence switches, remote annunciators and electromagnetic door holders. They can also  used to capture and shut down elevators.

These systems can be as simple as or as complex as the facility requires. There are many options for each element.

The 3 States of Fire Alarm Systems

  • The fire alarm panel monitors the system and informs you when it is in what state. Most systems have three operating conditions: Normal, Alarm, or Trouble.
  • If all appliances, circuitry, wiring, and devices are working correctly and there are no alarms triggered, then the system is in a Normal state.
  • The alarm state is created when an initiating device has been activated. Alarms will sound to alert building occupants of the danger. The alphanumeric display on control panels will show from which area the alarm originated so emergency personnel can respond quickly.

Suppose a short or open wire develops in the circuits connecting to the fire alarm panel or initiating devices within the panel’s wiring or a problem with the zone cards or wiring. In that case, the system will go into Trouble State. This is shown on the control panel. A panel will display the zone in which the problem is located and a buzzer will sound to notify maintenance personnel. Although the buzzer can be heard, it’s not as loud as the indicating devices and won’t be confused with an alarm.

How doe’s Fire Alarm Systems Detect a Fire?

The initiating devices are what make a fire alarm system work.

The system’s initiating devices are connected to the fire alarm panel via either 2-wire or 4-wire circuits. This circuit allows the control panel to monitor the status of the system’s initiating devices. Usually, this is done by zones. It then determines if the devices are in normal mode or alarm mode. It displays these readings on the control panel.

Smoke or heat activates one of the initiating devices when anybody start a fire. Or someone activates the manual pull station. This alerts the fire alarm system and puts it in alarm active mode.

What Happens when you activate the Fire Alarm System?

Two things should occur when the alarm system goes into mode:

The alarm should sound the indicating devices, informing everyone within the building about the danger.

The monitoring company should receive a call via the telephone lines of the system.

Some fire alarm systems may also activate fire suppression systems to fight the fire until emergency personnel arrives.

How Do You Disarm a Fire Alarm?

Maintenance personnel or the building manager must understand how to read and operate the fire alarm panel, especially when malfunctioning or experiencing false alarms.

The control panel’s touchpad has options for trouble silence and alarm, as well as a system reset. You should not use these unless the installer has correctly identified the source of the notification or alarm.


Protecting your investment and people within your facility from fire is crucial. It’s very hard to design and implement these systems.

Do not leave your investment and the safety of your family members in jeopardy. In case you have any confusion and don’t know which device to use? It is always better to speak to an expert. A reputable professional supplier Company would have the ability to guide you to the right products and advise to you, how to improve the use of your system.

If you are getting ready to build, or if your current fire protection system needs updating or maintenance, don’t wait – Click for a more-info best guideline for the Fire alarm system.

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