Fire alarm systems centralised control for remote locations

15th January 2014

As technology advances at an increasing pace, we are all becoming used to being part of an ever-more connected world. Yet while the use of centrally-controlled CCTV and intruder alarm systems in commercial buildings is both well-established and accepted, such remote management has not typically extended to fire alarm systems. However, this offers an important additional benefit in ensuring that employees and visitors have a safer place to work, wherever they are on the site.        

Modern addressable fire safety systems provide a first-class level of detection against a wide range of fire hazards within individual locations. Yet for those organisations operating multiple sites - such as a large retailer with several hundred outlets or a manufacturer with widely-dispersed production and distribution units - there has typically been no central management or oversight of these systems.

Until recently, the only available choice was to have a hard-wired solution with a dedicated cable between each location. For most businesses this has not only proved an unaffordable option, but also unrealistic where the sites which need to be linked are a large distance apart.         

However, with the introduction of remote monitoring technology this could be about to change. New options are now available that utilise the existing IT broadband infrastructure, giving the head office, estates management or other facilities management or service organisation full visibility and control of the fire detection system at every remote site. This is possible via a simple plug-in internet connection linked to centrally-located alarm management software.

Providing seamless integration with each local fire panel simplifies set-up and programming, reducing commissioning costs. Communication between the fire alarm control panel and the PC is constantly monitored, providing instant warning of any systems fault to suitably-trained staff. It also ensures full 24/7 real-time oversight of the complete alarm system.   

In addition to displaying each alarm at a common location, it is also possible to monitor, record and analyse both alarm and non-alarm events from anywhere across the organisation. Having the information presented in a simple, clear and user-friendly format enables full understanding of any fire-related situation, ensuring a rapid and effective response.  

Centralised control can also assist with the management of service providers and has the potential to significantly reduce total maintenance costs. Meanwhile, continuous remote monitoring will help reduce the incidence of false alarms, by identifying the source of repeated unwanted activations - such as a poorly-sited heat detector in a kitchen - allowing rapid corrective action to be taken.    

Given latest statistics show that a majority of prosecutions under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order relate to poor record-keeping. A comprehensive audit trail for each site, held centrally, addresses this problem head-on, by ensuring the organisation meets both internal operational compliance requirements and its legal obligations.  

In high-risk environments such as schools or hospitals, weekly testing of fire alarm systems can be complex and time-consuming to record. Here, the adoption of remote monitoring technology means that each event is automatically logged, with a fully-documented and archived audit trail of any fire-related incident and how it was dealt with, which cuts maintenance costs and ensures a consistent high level of security.

In all, by centralising control of the fire alarm system in this way, those with responsibility for  fire safety will have the peace of mind that the organisation will be immediately made aware of any fire-related incident, irrespective of location. This in turn will enable an effective, appropriate and timely response.