Few events are able to trigger a sense of urgency more rapidly than the instant an alarm signals the emergence of a decidedly dangerous, if not potentially life-threatening situation… and few situations qualify as more decidedly dangerous than fire.
There simply aren’t any pleasant or less discomforting ways of reiterating it: an unexpected or uncontrolled fire, whether in a building or in the bush, is capable of causing incalculable damage and catastrophic loss in an instant.
It’s precisely why, however, the stakes couldn’t be higher when it comes to ensuring that your home or business has a warning system in place that’s thoroughly effective at detecting and alerting the occupants of impending danger.
The basics about sounders
Fire detection systems are built around a host of individual components, each of which, if they should unfortunately ever be called upon to perform their intended function, will have to perform it flawlessly. The notification system is undoubtedly the most prominent element.
Built to be fire and water resistant, an emergency fire alarm sounder is designed to provide the continuous audible and visual notification that indicates an imminent threat to life and property. This could be either due to fire, or to the presence of toxic fumes or chemicals that have been released as a result of a fire.
With their universally recognized shape and sound, classic gong-styled bells are still widely relied upon in standalone fire detection systems but they lack the modality that modern notification systems need to save lives. A mass-notification sounder like a gong may be wholly appropriate for settings with few impediments to abrupt egress.
The modality of combining staged audible and visual notifications is infinitely more appropriate in environments like hospitals, research facilities, or even factories where any sudden onset of panic or confusion could easily worsen an already grave situation. Modern, multi-modal notification systems now rely on three primary types of sirens alarms sounders:
- Alarm sirens;
- Alarm sounder horns; and,
- Combination alarm sounder horns with beacons.
The distinctions between them are important. These types of high-quality fire alarm sounder can be programmed to meet a range of fire detection system requirements and will also integrate seamlessly with other upstream notification components like loudspeakers or buzzers. Their main criteria, however – the urgency for issuing an immediate warning – are as straightforward and as uncomplicated as ever.
Siren alarms are the rugged, IP rated, all-weather and all-environment sounders that are suitable for any type of notification above or below ground. However, because they’re capable of delivering up to 125dB(A) maximum with an effective range of 500m, they’re best located above their surrounds to provide 360° coverage.
Sirens are designed to take upstream activation signals from automatic smoke or heat detectors, or manual call points, and release a loud unabated single stage alarm. Depending on the design of the fire detection system, a fire alarm siren’s tone can be varied by pulse modulation to produce a range of unique sounds that can indicate differing notification stages.
Alarm sounder horns
Alarm sounder horns are the most common type of sounder used to notify occupants of a fire. Available in either flared horn or enclosed configurations, these sounders have controllable volume levels, but can deliver up to 123dB(A) maximum over an effective range of 200m, and are IP rated and fire resistant.
With 4 stage programmability, these sounders can assign any of 45 tones to any stage, allowing fire safety officers the ability to reliably allocate various types of alarms to indicate the nature or level of the sounding. Best suited for deployment at multiple indoor or outdoor locations, these sounders are excellent for issuing notifications across huge areas.
Combination alarm sounder horns with beacons
Combination alarm sounder horns with beacons are designed not only to deliver controllable audible notifications at 117dB(A) up to 60m, but their 5 joule, 200 candela xenon beacons also provide the optimal means of visual notification for everyone in the impacted area. These units are also IP rated, and similarly feature 4 stage programmability with assignable tones at any stage.
Ideal for deployment at multiple locations within enclosed areas, these combination alarm sounders are excellent for issuing notifications at levels above where ambient noise could otherwise obscure their delivery, and where hearing protection is widely utilized. Additionally, xenon beacons also offer the ability to further tailor the notification messaging either by beacon patterns or by isolating or prioritizing one notification method over the other.
The reality behind fire detection systems is that they’re a mandatory installation that home and business owners are required to procure, maintain regularly, and update periodically all in the hope that they’ll never actually have to use it. The responsibility of the fire alarm sounder in that system isn’t just to issue a clear and persistent warning to anyone within audible range to evacuate a location, but to notify responders of the existence of an emergency as well.
It’s with that knowledge, however, that it’s all the more important to remember that sounders are really only the final downstream component of a fire detection system, which is inherently part of a much larger fire control plan. If you’re a fire safety officer, ensuring that you’ve selected the best and most flexible equipment, especially when it comes to sounders, is the only logical choice for deployment under the most unthinkable of circumstances.