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How Will Smart Technology Impact the Fire Safety Industry?

Fire Safety Advancements

The 21st century is shaping up to be an exciting time for the fire protection industry. Smart technology is fast becoming a common feature of many things around us. We are becoming increasingly reliant on technology to improve our daily lives and smart technology is already beginning to affect the fire protection industry in many ways.

The technological advances in smart detection, notification, and egress are available and being developed to mitigate the effects of fire.

These advancements include the ability to detect fires faster and more accurately, to suppress flames before they spread, to manage smoke so it is less harmful, and to alert occupants of what is happening and how to exit safely. These tools are also improving first responders’ ability to reach victims in time. Let’s take a look at some of the fastest, emerging smart technology applications:

Smart Detection, Notification, and Egress

The fire safety industry is benefitting from the advent of smart technology in many ways. When it comes to detection, respondents provided numerous examples of emerging alternative detection products that are entering the fire safety market. The primary difference is that these devices are more intelligent and are being employed in new, innovative, and interconnected ways.
Wireless capabilities are also being employed for these systems providing a very high level of connectivity.
Multi-response detection systems with processing algorithms can reduce false alarms and respond more quickly than traditional single-response detection system. There are also new capabilities of video fire detection, CCTV smoke detection, air sampling systems, and combined smoke and IR (infrared) detection to name a few.

Infrared fire detention

In addition to new ways of detecting fires, smart technology is also changing how we put them out.

The detection systems can also be used as an input to intelligent notification and egress systems. Based on the local situation and fire development, messaging systems can be modified to flow occupants away from hazards. Monitoring systems could identify the presence of occupants in an area and notify first responders accordingly.
These systems could also be used in non-fire life safety events like an active shooter. Systems could either lock or unlock doors to prevent or provide building access or egress.

smart egress systems

With AI,(Artifical Intelligence) large amounts of data can be utilized to improve fire safety in new ways.
Machine learning algorithms can be utilized to predict failures, analyze failures after they occur, provide better situational awareness during incidents, perform complex analyses impacting code development, and adapt equipment performance based on the situation.

Smart technology is becoming more and more commonplace in our buildings, and the fire safety industry is no exception. Smart fire detection systems, for example, have been developed that can offer a higher level of intelligence than traditional systems through their ability to monitor and transmit real-time data.

While research on the suitability of such systems for fire detection is valuable, it is also important to perform additional research in the use and specification of Smart Detection systems. This will help us define:

System reliability requirements compared to traditional hard-wired systems

Data interpretation and output/response

Vulnerability of systems to malicious attacks

• Inspection, testing, and maintenance requirements

Installation and design guidance

Adequacy of listing and approval standards

Smart Sprinkler Systems

Sprinkler systems have come a long way since their inception in the late 1800s.

Traditionally, sprinklers have been operated by a thermal element when heat builds up in the hazard. This activation method is ideal for large volumes of space and open storage. However, this activation method may not be suitable for hazards with low-heat loads or small fires.
With the advent of electronically activated sprinklers (EAS), an entirely new means of fire protection is available.

(EAS) electronically activated sprinkler system

EAS commonly referred to as Smart Sprinklers, are not operated by a thermal element like traditional sprinklers. Heat, smoke, or another detection method identify the presence of a fire and electronically operates sprinklers over the hazard.
The size of a fire at the time of detection is much smaller than a fire that would operate a traditional sprinkler thermal element. Initiating sprinklers earlier in the fire development results in lower overall damage and may be a viable solution for hazards that cannot be protected by traditional sprinklers.

When comparing EAS to traditional sprinkler systems, it is important to consider what you are trying to protect and what hazards your property has.

fire sprinkler systems

Electronically activated sprinklers (EAS) systems are complex systems that use signals from a fire detection device or panel to activate the sprinklers.
These systems can be advantageous in certain applications such as data centers, where sprinklers need to be activated before large amounts of water damage occurs. Other benefits include the ability to avoid nuisance releases of water and activation only over the fire, rather than an entire area. In addition, these EAS systems use less water than traditional systems.

However, these complex systems do have inherent vulnerabilities that need to be considered. First, some EAS systems use a complex algorithm to identify where the fire is located and operate sprinklers over the fire. The algorithm must be validated for the hazards being protected.
Second, electronically activated sprinklers may not possess a thermal element and would not operate without a signal from the detection device or panel. In the case where a fire is not located correctly, or spreads beyond the initial sprinklers, additional sprinklers may not activate as the fire spreads.
Finally, based on the complex nature of the system, an electronically activated sprinkler system may not have the same reliability as a traditional system.

Additional research on the use and specification of Smart Sprinkler systems is valuable to define:

* What system reliability requirements are needed compared to traditional systems, and how can they be measured?

* How should detection data be interpreted for locating fire and operating sprinklers?

* How vulnerable are systems to common building features like girders/purlins, sloped ceilings, and air movement equipment that could impact system response?

* What inspection, testing, and maintenance requirements do systems need to ensure proper performance?

* Are current listing and approval standards adequate for Smart Sprinkler systems?

* What fire codes apply to Smart Sprinkler systems, and are they appropriate?

Integration of SMART Fire Technologies

As individual components of a building become more intelligent, it is critical that these systems are integrated to provide a holistic view of the building and its systems. No one system can provide all the needed information required for an optimal response to a fire or other emergency.
What may be important in a fire situation may not be so important for a non-fire emergency and vice versa.

There are many factors that need to be considered when integrating multiple fire safety systems.
The first factor is how each system communicates with the outside world. Is it analog, digital or connected? Analog systems often have difficulty integrating with other systems due to the fact that they are not consistent from manufacturer to manufacturer. Digital systems can integrate reasonably well but usually require translation software to communicate with other different manufacturers’ products.
Connected products can communicate directly with other connected systems via cloud-based services.

Another important consideration is the flexibility of the system in terms of data interpretation, decision making and response. For example, a smoke detector could detect a source of smoke and send an alert to the occupant or fire department but it cannot decide if this is an emergency requiring evacuation or just someone burning their toast in the kitchen.

As a fire protection industry, a minimum level of integration should be defined between various life safety systems.
Detection and systems from one manufacturer should integrate with notification and egress systems from another to best use data available. Fire protection systems should also integrate with other building systems such as smoke or environmental controls.

To best use this data, it’s important for fire protection engineers and system designers to work closely together with other design professionals, like mechanical engineers and building owners, to ensure the fire protection system is designed to interface with the other building systems.
This is necessary so that the right amount of information can be shared between the two systems, without overloading one or the other.

Additional research in defining minimal levels of integration, as well as a common defined communication framework, is needed in order to realize this goal as an industry.

Throughout the years, many fire protection technologies have undergone substantial changes in technology and design. With the advancement of technology come cost-effective solutions for protecting life and property from fires.
We will continue to see a merging of technologies, but fire protection engineers must carefully consider the tenants of each system that they integrate into new designs to insure that occupant safety is not compromised.

If you would like to learn more about how SMART fire protection technology can benefit your business, contact one of our expert SMART technology team today!

Yours In Fire Safety


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