By Brad Higdon / Published September 2023
There are several technological updates available for fire alarm and life safety systems that can greatly benefit community associations. New technology allows for backward compatibility and scalable growth, with minimal disruptions to residents and management. Some of these updates include the following:
Wireless Communications—Low-rise to mid-rise residential buildings no longer require unsightly electrical conduit and wiring improvements to alert residents and comply with current codes and standards. Traditional fire alarm systems rely on hardwire connections, which can be costly and time-consuming to install. With wireless communication technology, fire alarm systems can now be easily installed and expanded without extensive wiring. This can provide cost savings and flexibility for community associations with all the latest features for cost of ownership.
Systems Integration—The latest technology allows fire alarms and life safety systems to be interconnected with other devices and systems within a community. This integration can enhance situational awareness and improve response time by providing real time data and alerts. For example, fire alarm systems can automatically open gates, unlock doors for responders, integrate with camera systems for continuous recording, and connect to lighting systems, allowing lights to automatically illuminate exit routes during an emergency.
Voice Evacuation Systems—Traditionally fire alarm systems rely on alarm bells and horns to alert occupants of a building. However, voice evacuation systems use pre recorded or live voice messages to provide clear instructions to occupants, enhancing their understanding and response during an emergency. This has become the norm when it comes to fire alarm installations in most applications. Many studies have proven that verbal instructions are more positive and concise and can be followed up with live instructions to better protect the occupants during an emergency. Some examples of using this technology are to alert occupants of actual conditions as they develop, like a fire, gas leak, active shooter, hurricane evacuation, power failure, and any needed situational awareness. This can also provide peace of mind for the residents after the event. This technology can be particularly beneficial to community associations with diverse populations or individuals with hearing impairments.
Centralized Monitoring and Control—Advances in technology allow fire alarm and life safety systems to be centrally monitored and controlled through a network platform. This enables authorized personnel, such as a fire alarm maintenance company, condominium association staff, or security personnel, to monitor and manage the systems remotely. Centralized monitoring and control can streamline maintenance, troubleshooting, and response times for community associations, maintenance personnel, and fire/police departments.
These technological updates, and too many more to mention, can significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of fire alarm and life safety systems in community associations. With new technology updates, the protection provided is improved, along with maintenance costs being greatly reduced. Some of the new improvements have been shortening dispatch times for first responders, reducing lightning damage costs, and providing faster fiber-optic network capability. Due to the enhancement of these detection devices, less equipment is required.
Software improvements have allowed for the expansion of fire alarm devices on a single circuit and addition of buildings with no limitations, allowing future fire protection projects to be integrated seamlessly. They can enhance the safety and well-being of residents by providing faster and more accurate emergency responses, reduced downtime during system maintenance, and better compliance with regulations and codes.
Contact your local life safety provider to discuss how new technology can benefit your association. If this technology is not in the budget for your current year, request a cost estimate to put this on your must-do list to avoid an emergency replacement and/or equipment obsolescence.
President/CEO, Bass-United Fire & Security Systems
Brad Higdon started Bass-United Fire & Security Systems in 1977 as a sole employee, and over the past 45 years he has grown the business into one of the largest independently owned life-safety providers in South Florida. As the president and CEO, he carries the highest accreditations in the industry, which include State Fire Alarm Electrical license and State Fire Sprinkler Contractor license. Brad is factory certified on most fire alarm brands in the industry, along with holding a NICET Level IV Fire Alarm and NICET Level II Fire Sprinkler certification. He has built a company that continually delivers the solutions customers count on to protect their people and property with his dedicated staff, and his expertise and experience have afforded Bass-United many unique installation opportunities. www.bassunited.com.