Why Are Fire Alarms So Loud?

The answer to this question may seem obvious – after all, we need to be able to hear a fire alarm from wherever we may be, whether that be in a house or a commercial building. However, is there a science behind why fire alarms hit the decibel they do and this can vary depending on the size and use of the building you’re in. In this article, we take a look at what is behind the level of noise that your fire alarm emits and if there’s anything you can do to change it.

Does Your Fire Alarm Need To Be So Loud?

Although you may believe that it wouldn’t make a difference to adequately alert you to a fire if your alarm were turned down several decibels, there is a science behind the deafening noise that emits from it. The loudness associated with your fire alarm is arranged the way it is for a reason, although you may be able to purchase a fire alarm that has a lower decibel than others.

Fireline.com tells us more about the exact frequency that comes from your fire alarm:

“There are two many types of notification systems: audible and visual. Both are often used in tandem with one another, so a building would rarely be equipped with one or the other. The audible component is delivered via horns and sirens. These devices range between 65 and 120 decibels relative to the person who is standing 10 feet away. The second component of the fire protection system is the visual component. Strobe lights deliver this. These devices flash once every second from anywhere between 15 to 1000 candelas, depending on preconfigured settings.”

The Varying Degrees of Volume

As mentioned, you may be able to purchase a fire alarm that contains a lower dB than others. However, this may not be adequate depending on your surrounding environment. Some fire alarms are meant to be louder than others, depending on the noise you can expect from your regular surroundings.

FloridaFireService.com explains why there are varying degrees of volume in fire alarms:

“A fire alarm’s job is to let everyone in the building know that they need to leave immediately. That’s why the noises are allowed to be louder than most.The exact requirement is usually 15 dB above the average noise level or 5 dB above the maximum ambient sound – whichever is greater. So what does that mean? It means the noise needs to be greater than the surrounding noise. So for example if you’re in a restaurant – you want the alarm to be heard above the background noise, talking, music, clanking of plates and the like. If you’re in a factory where it’s incredibly loud and equipment is going off everywhere – they usually crank it all the way up to the max dB. Why? Because everyone needs to hear it.”

How Can You Protect Your Ears from Loud Fire Alarms?

After it’s established that you have most definitely heard your fire alarm, how can we protect our ears while it’s still going off? It’s not uncommon to temporarily partially lose your sense of hearing after exposure to an active fire alarm for a long period of time, which can be both uncomfortable and worrying.

Guardian Fire Protection Services tells us what you can do to protect your ears as best you can while your fire alarm is going off:

“When you hear the shrill noise of a fire alarm, your first instinct is to cover your ears. This is actually an effective way to defend against hearing loss while you walk calmly toward the exit and make your way out of the building. More importantly, however, is to create a fire evacuation plan and hold fire drills regularly. This way, your staff is confident about what steps to take and where to evacuate in case of an emergency. By planning ahead, you can limit confusion and reduce the time you’re exposed to loud volumes. Finally, if you think the decibel level of your fire alarm is too high, hire a fire protection company to examine your equipment and make a determination.”

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.