Fire Systems (Wireless & Hybrid)

Wireless Fire Detection & Alarm Systems

Wireless fire alarm systems – or radio fire alarms – have gained considerably in acceptability and reliability in recent years. They are becoming, increasingly, just another aspect of the ‘wi-fi’ world.

Hybrid fire system diagram
Hybrid fire system diagram. (Image courtesy Hyfire)

Wireless offers benefits over both traditional conventional or addressable hard-wired fire alarm systems. All components link by radio, removing the need to wire them directly together. This can bring major gains in the speed, reduced cost and flexibility of installations. For many refurbishments and historic/heritage sites, where fabric and decor preservation issues are high, the physical advantage of wireless is very clear.

Greater technical expertise is required in the planning and design of radio, wire-free systems. In addition to understanding detection and alarm system layouts in relation to fire risk, the radio characteristics of the components being used in any system must be matched to the design and physical structure of the site being protected.

Radio fire system components are fully addressable and deliver complete customisation.

Radio fire detection has been around for 30 years but it’s only in the last 3-4 years that the technology has really begun to come of age and find its feet.

The number of credible systems suppliers remains limited. But technology developments, and new standards and regulations in the last few years have prompted the serious manufacturers/system developers to up their game. Choice has determined that to meet differing requirements in the market no single brand of system offers a ‘fits-all’ solution. That is where the Choice philosophy of sourcing from and supporting multiple brands is a major strength in serving customer fire detection needs.

Radio fire is now breaking away from its reputation in the market (where potential users were even aware of it!) as being expensive and niche (in application terms). The old scenario was that it had to be thought of as an ‘all-or-nothing’ electronic fire protection/alarm solution.

Hybrid Fire Detection & Alarm Systems

More recent developments have brought the technical ability to integrate radio fire with wired systems of all levels of sophistication, and thereby create a ‘hybrid’ solution, it really is cost- and performance-effective to consider wireless fire as part (if not all) of an installation in a vast range of applications scenarios – both new builds and  refurbishments/reconfigurations/add-ons. Hybrid fire systems combine hard-wired and wireless, radio technologies under a single control regime.

Radio fire system components
Radio fire system components. (Image courtesy EMS)

Typically they are used where a new requirement is added to an existing hard-wired system and the nature of the update element is more suited to a radio-based fire solution. There may also be occasions where an entirely new system suits the combination of wired and wireless technologies, particularly where different kinds of buildings are located on a single site.

Wireless fire systems can have a role when:
– buildings can’t be tampered with to be wired (not structurally possible, not allowed, too costly)
– operational down-time at a site is too limited, prohibited or too costly to allow wiring
– regulatory demands for running (additional) wiring at a site are too costly.

Principal application locations for radio fire systems:

New builds

– ‘Exposed slab’, transparent and other minimalist and high concept building designs
– Multi-building/campus sites (where civil works/distances between buildings pose a technical/cost issue)
– Where building-to-building networking is specified or desirable.

Refurbishments & Refits

– Schools/Universities/Halls of residence
– Pubs/Clubs
– Care Homes
– Hotels
– House in multiple occupation (HMOs)
– Heritage and prestige buildings
– Prestige residential dwellings
– Building Sites (temporary systems during work in progress)

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