Fire Alarm Systems

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A home fire alarm system is usually part of a total security system providing burglary protection in addition to fire protection. Such a system supervises doors, windows, and spaces within the home for break-in and may provide monitoring services by dialing your telephone to report a fire or intrusion to a security office, where it will be reported to your local police or fire department.

Due to their relatively high cost, these systems are generally found only in larger homes. The system can cost $1000 or more to install, with 24-hour monitoring service adding $15 to $20 per month.

Components of the System

These systems consist of a central control panel to which smoke alarms and heat detectors are connected, along with bells or horns that are activated when the system triggers an alarm. Other sensors associated with the burglary functions connect to doors and windows or monitor rooms for motion or body heat. The control panel operates from house power but also usually contains an emergency battery which can operate the system for about 24 hours during a power outage.

The basic requirements for the number and locations of alarms are exactly the same as with the self-contained alarms discussed previously. The difference is that a fire alarm system gives you more flexibility to locate additional alarms and additional bells or horns (or flashing lights, should a person in the household be hearing impaired).

Fire alarm systems that provide remote monitoring services can also be used to provide medical alert services. Here a person with health problems who lives alone carries a radio transmitter that can trigger the system in case they need assistance. Signals received at the monitoring station are identified by type (fire, burglary, medical alert) so that the proper response can be made.

Why Have a Residential Fire Alarm System?

The primary advantage of a home fire alarm system is increased reliability and the ability to place alarms and bells exactly where needed. However, the reason most people have them is that they wanted a burglar alarm system and the cost of adding fire alarm features to a residential burglary system is relatively small.

Another advantage is that they are the only way to obtain remote monitoring services. This becomes important in cases where family members may not be capable of escaping from a fire without assistance. For example, if you have an older or physically impaired person in your home and a fire started when no one was home to assist that person, alarms alone might not be enough to assure their safety.

A feature of most monitoring services is the ability to keep special information on the residence which comes up on the computer screen whenever an alarm is received from that home. Thus, if there is a disabled person in the home who needs special assistance this fact will be known to the operator and can be passed along to the fire department when they are called.

Source: FEMA