Every “what to do in case of a fire” guide will tell you basically the same steps on how to proceed in a situation like such, and even though calling the fire authorities is a must, it is also not the first step. It should only be done when away and clear from danger, which usually means after you have safely exited the building.
These minutes between the start of the evacuation and the alert of the fire authorities can be crucial to a well-succeeded response to a fire on the part of the first responders. They can play an important role in containing the fire to the room of origin, avoiding the spread.
This is precisely the most crucial difference between a monitored and a standard fire alarm system, meaning that a monitored one is literally monitored 24/7. The actioning of the authorities is done remotely as soon as a fire is detected. This saves precious minutes for the responders to get to the area, consequently starting an early response and preventing unnecessary harm for the occupants and damage to the building structure.
Another thing to consider is that, as mentioned in our “Leading causes in office fires” post, even though only 19% of fires occur on weekends, they correspond to 31% of all the associated property loss in building fires.
This demonstrates that a fire that happens when a building is not entirely occupied typically takes much longer to be noticed and consequently for the fire authority to be notified, resulting in more significant damage to the building’s structure/properties and risking the life of unsuspecting occupants. According to the same post, this also increases the risk of the fire not being contained to the room of origin, which can leverage the monetary loss up to 350%.
But now that you understand the importance of a monitored system, let´s get a little more technical and explain how exactly both methods work and what are the main differences between them.
Monitored Fire Alarm Systems
As mentioned before, the core difference of a monitored system over a standard one is the fact that the monitoring station gets notified straight away when a fire is detected, alerting the local fire authority for you, eliminating most of the possibility of human error in reporting the situation and speeding up the first responders’ action. A more detailed description of this process can be seen in the following infographic so you can better understate the steps:
Standard Fire Alarm Systems
So how about the standard systems? Do they still have their place in the fire security industry? Well, simply put, yes. Though, not every building or structure will allow you to have these systems as per NFPA 101 Life Safety Code. Everything comes down to the occupancy classification of your building, which we already covered in our “Building Occupancy Classification” post.
Even though the post mentioned above was based on the IBC (International Building Code), they essentially mirror one another in the definition of each occupancy class. There can be some grey areas related to multiple and mixed occupancy settings and special structures that you must individually assess, but it’s a good base for you to understand what we mean by this term.
For instance, lodging and rooming areas, family dwellings, and some existing buildings may have standard fire alarm systems without any problems. On the other hand, monitored fire alarms are required for most new buildings and the ones that fit into the occupancy classification listed below:
• Assembly occupancies • Business and mercantile occupancies • Educational facilities and daycare facilities • Health care facilities • Ambulatory health facilities • Residential board and care facilities • Industrial and storage facilities • Detention and correctional facilities • Hotels, dormitories, and apartment buildings
So, which one to use?
Well, if you are installing the system in your house or small properties, when allowed by code, you can always go with a standard one; they are way cheaper and low maintenance when compared to monitored ones. If for any reason, you decide to use a monitored system in your house, nothing prohibits you from doing so; it is entirely up to you as long as you comply with the minimum code requirements.
Now, if you are looking for a system for your building or project whose occupancy classification requires a monitored system, there is really nowhere to run; you have to go with a monitored one.
The good thing here is that you will always have the peace of mind of knowing that in case of any emergency, you will be promptly attended by the authorities in the shortest time possible, independently of any occupant to remember to notify the fire department, giving everyone the best protection when it comes to response time by the fire authorities.
Here at JEM, we offer a huge range of both monitored and standard fire alarm systems, so don’t forget to check it out if you are looking for these products for your project.