As in countless tech sectors, fire alarm technology is advancing at a rapid pace and will continue to do so in coming years. One of the main drivers of advances in fire alarm technology will be the changing nature of the buildings these alarm systems protect. Fire alarms will integrate with building automation systems to provide improved protection for urban buildings which are increasingly geared toward mixed-use commercial and residential.
The Changing Facility
In urban settings, more and more buildings are zoned for mixed-use. This presents new challenges for integrating fire alarms as a part of the building as a whole, because mixed-use buildings essentially present two different facilities to do deal with. In addition, the nature of building construction is changing. Buildings in urban settings are becoming taller, more numerous, and are increasingly seeing the use of composite and mixed construction materials. While these materials are more lightweight than traditional materials such as steel and concrete, they also can present more of a fire hazard and a shorter flashover time. This means new fire alarm systems will need to be able to detect and suppress fires more quickly.
In suburban areas, new developments are changing the natural of the suburban landscape as well. Developments are further from the center of the city and further from each other as a result of urban sprawl. This, coupled with the fact that street widths are becoming more narrow, is increasing the time it will take for firefighters and other responders to reach a fire in progress.
The Changing Fire Alarm
Fire alarm technology is responding to these changes in the nature of urban and suburban facilities by becoming more integrated with the facilities themselves. Building automation has caught on in recent years as a means of energy conservation, but it can also be used for security purposes. For example, fire alarms can alert on-site security personnel with automated text messages, and nearby cameras can be alerted to train themselves on the event. The HVAC system can automatically shift to vent smoke and the power in the location of the building can shut itself off. All of these events can transpire as a result of the initial activation of the fire alarm without any human input. New research is looking at how to integrate the fire detection system with crowd management to expedite evacuation of a facility, according to Campus Safety Magazine. “This includes looking at where people are within a building and where the fire may be, then basing evacuation of the building on this real-time information.”
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