Fire alarm system pull panel

Fire alarm systems protect lives and your livelihood

Fire alarm systems contain multiple components that work in conjunction to protect your business from the threat of fire. There are a lot of details to getting a fire alarm system right, which is why it’s best to let experts like Compu-Gen Technologies assist you, but this brief overview covers the main components seen in most systems.

The control panel acts like the brain of the fire alarm system

Also called the control unit, the control panel is the core of the fire alarm system. It monitors inputs from across the system and controls what happens next, depending on the situation. The conditions it monitors include Alarm, Trouble and Supervisory.

  • Alarm: Indicates an immediate threat, such as a detector unit indicating the presence of smoke.
  • Trouble: Indicates a fault with the fire alarm system itself, such as a break in the circuit of a detector unit.
  • Supervisory: Indicates an issue with a component monitored by the system, such as a closed valve for the sprinkler system.

In some larger fire alarm systems, the panel transmits the signal to an annunciator, which is a face or display to the system. The annunciator displays the condition detected and other pertinent information.

Depending on the condition, the control panel can perform a variety of actions such as:

  • Notify the on-site and/or off-premises supervising station(s),
  • Notify occupants to evacuate,
  • Operate emergency control functions like closing fire doors and shutting down elevators, and
  • Operate suppression equipment.

Initiators are the devices that detect a fire threat

All fire alarm systems contain passive smoke and heat detectors. They can be separate detectors or combined into a single unit. There are multiple technologies behind how smoke detectors work; the most common technologies include ionization and photoelectric.

  • Ionization: Ionization smoke detectors utilize a small chamber of two electrically charged plates and a small amount of radioactive material, creating ionized air that flows between the plates. Smoke particles disrupt the flow of ions, which reduce the current flow and thus activates the alarm.

  • Photoelectric: Photoelectric smoke detectors or optical beam smoke detectors use a beam of light across a small, internal chamber; smoke particles disrupt the beam, which triggers the detector to notify the control panel.

Some systems also include initiators such as pressure switches and water flow switches. These switches and the detectors mentioned above are examples of passive initiators – they perform their duty in the background, without any manual intervention.

However, a fire alarm system also has manual initiators, which are triggered manually by a person. The most common manual initiator today is a pull switch, where a person simply pulls or pushes in then pulls a small handle down on the station to trigger the alarm.

The number and type of detectors are best for your business depends on a number of factors, such as ceiling height, square footage, your locality’s fire code and more. Generally, as fire emergencies can start in a number of ways, it is recommended to utilize a variety of detection methods.

Notifiers broadcast the detected threat of fire to building occupants

Once an emergency is indicated, the control panel initiates the notification system. This is a series of appliances that provide audible and/or visual notification. Some notification units provide just one type of notification while others are a combination unit delivering both audible and visual notification.

  • Audible: Audible notification can be provided by speakers, which can provide different tones and voice signals or a single-tone horn.
  • Visual: Visual notification is provided by a strobe light.

The number and type of notification units best for your business depends on a number of factors, such as square footage, building layout, your locality’s fire code and more.

Fire alarm systems require a reliable power source and backup

Reliable power is needed to ensure reliable operation. Fire alarm systems require two sources of power. The primary power can be provided either by electricity, engine-driven site generator, energy storage system or co-generation system. Secondary power can be provided by either batteries, generator or energy storage system.

Compu-Gen Technologies offers fire alarm systems designed specifically for your needs

Compu-Gen Technologies’ team of fire prevention system technicians provide the expertise and equipment needed to protect your business while remaining compliant with fire code.


And, we offer an entire suite of solutions to create a holistic system for you including video and other security systems, managed IT support, telecommunications, point of sale systems and merchant services.

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