How Do Fire Detection Systems Work?

Do you own or manage a commercial building? If you do, then you’re likely well aware that the National Fire Code of Canada requires you to have a full working alarm system in your commercial dwelling. However, many of us do not know exactly what a fire detection system is, and how they work. Made up of both active and passive fire protection systems, complete fire protection is made up of more than a fire alarm and a fire extinguisher. In this article, we take a look at the role of a fire alarm system and how fire detector systems work together to protect your building and its occupants.

What is the Role of a Fire Alarm System?

Many of us think of fire alarm systems as a way to alert us to a fire by capturing our attention with a shrill, ear piercing noise, when in fact, alerting residents to the fire itself is just one part of a fire alarm system.

Koorsen Fire & Security explains the four key functions of a fire alarm system:

“In the simplest terms, the role of a fire alarm system is to detect fires and alert both building occupants and emergency personnel from a centrally monitored and controlled location. These systems also self-monitor, identifying where within the building(s) alarms originate from and detecting when errors occur in wiring and connections that may hinder the system from working correctly. In essence, a fire alarm system has four key functions: detect, alert, monitor, and control. These sophisticated systems use a network of devices, appliances, and control panels to carry out these four functions.”

Current Fire-Detection Systems

Fire detection systems have progressed rapidly throughout the years, with the average fire-detection system having a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. Not only may a fire detection system not be up to code after its 15 year expiration date, but parts may no longer be available for its repair should it require it. tells us more about how fire detection systems work today:

“The fire-detection system today consists of an FACP (fire alarm control panel) – this is the system’s brain, and it’s capable of making rapid decisions. Detection devices run the gamut, from smoke detectors and heat detectors to multi-capability detectors, which contain a number of functions in one detector. Many of the detectors manufactured today have addressable switches contained in the detector that allow the detector to tell the FACP exactly where the fire is located. The detection devices detect the presence of smoke or particles of combustion and then alert the FACP about a problem; the FACP then decides what action to take.”

Occupant Notification

Of course, one of the most important parts of a fire detection system is occupant notification. Occupant notification must not only include the traditional audible alarm, but must also include visual alarms for those who are hearing impaired.

Jensen Hughes explains how commercial buildings must ensure that their buildings alarms that can safely alert everyone of a dangerous situation:

“When it comes to warning building occupants of a fire, you need both audible and visible alarms. Audible alarms include horns (the appliance that produces that loud and very annoying sound) or speakers that play a pre-recorded message and/or allow emergency responders to provide spoken instructions to the occupants. Visual notification appliances, or strobes, can provide notification to occupants that are hearing impaired. Each building type will require a different type of occupant notification system.”

Fire-Alert takes pride in equipping homeowners, commercial businesses, and government buildings with all necessary fire safety devices to ensure the well-being of families and employees across the nation. Reach out to us using our contact form to find out more.