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  • Rob Haywood

What are the different types of fire alarms and how do they work?

1. Manual Fire Alarms:

Manual fire alarms serve as the fundamental line of defence against fire, relying on human intervention to activate their alerting mechanisms. These alarms, often mounted on walls or ceilings, are readily accessible and can be readily triggered by pulling a lever or breaking a glass bulb. Their simplicity makes them ideal for areas where automatic detection systems may be hindered, such as cluttered kitchens or mechanically intensive boiler rooms.


Initiating a manual fire alarm involves a straightforward action. Pulling the lever or breaking the glass bulb sends a signal to the fire alarm control panel, which serves as the central hub for the building's fire protection system. This signal triggers the alarm's piercing sound, alerting occupants of the impending danger. Simultaneously, the control panel activates the building's fire suppression system, such as sprinklers or fire hoses, in an effort to contain the blaze.

Image of a standard wall-mounted fire alarm
Image of a standard wall-mounted fire alarm

2. Automatic Fire Alarms:

Automatic fire alarms, in contrast to their manual counterparts, detect and respond to fire without the need for human intervention. These alarms fall into two primary categories: heat alarms and smoke alarms.

  • Heat Alarms:

Heat alarms, often employed in storage areas and garages, operate by detecting a rise in temperature, a common precursor to a fire. Embedded sensors within the alarm monitor the ambient temperature, and when a predetermined threshold is exceeded, the alarm triggers. This immediate response serves as a crucial early warning system, allowing for timely evacuation and fire suppression measures.

  • Smoke Alarms:

Smoke alarms, ubiquitous in residential and commercial settings, function primarily by detecting the presence of smoke, a telltale sign of a developing fire. Embedded sensors within the alarm capture smoke particles, and upon detection, the alarm activates. Smoke alarms are commonly installed in living spaces and hallways, ensuring that occupants are alerted to the presence of smoke even when they are asleep or outside the immediate vicinity of the fire's origin.

3. Combined Alarms:

Combining the functionalities of heat and smoke detection, combined alarms offer enhanced protection against fires. They are slightly more expensive than standalone heat or smoke alarms; however, their ability to detect both heat and smoke simultaneously provides a more comprehensive approach to fire detection. When either the heat sensor or the smoke sensor triggers, the combined alarm sounds, alerting occupants and activating the fire suppression system.

4. Addressable Alarms:

Addressable alarms represent a significant advancement in fire alarm technology, offering precise fire location identification. Each addressable alarm possesses a unique address, corresponding to a specific location within the building. Upon activation, the control panel notifies the exact location of the activated alarm, enabling firefighters to swiftly pinpoint the fire's source and initiate appropriate response measures.

5. Voice Alarms:

Voice alarms elevate fire safety by providing clear and concise instructions to building occupants in the event of a fire. These alarms, often integrated with addressable alarms, broadcast voice messages directing occupants to utilize emergency exits, evacuate the building, and follow specific safety protocols. The audible instructions can be pre-recorded or generated in real-time by the control panel, ensuring that occupants receive timely and relevant guidance.

6. Hybrid Alarms:

At the pinnacle of fire alarm technology lies the hybrid alarm, which seamlessly integrates heat, smoke, and voice detection capabilities. This comprehensive approach provides the most advanced level of fire protection, enabling early detection, accurate location identification, and clear communication with building occupants. The hybrid alarm's combination of features empowers occupants to act swiftly and effectively in the face of a fire threat, minimizing the risk of harm and damage.


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