Every business is different and requires different protection. It depends on what you have inside your business, how big the building is, and where you are located.
It would help to understand the two most popular types of smoke detectors:
• Ionization Smoke Detectors – These detectors sense the fast-burning, big flame fires. They are more popular and less expensive but not always the most effective. They use a small amount of Americium-241 (a radioactive material) for its radiation, to create a small current on two electrically charged plates. This ionizes the air inside so when smoke enters, it interrupts the current. This will reduce the ionization and cause the alarm to go off. Dirt or dust can interrupt the current too, causing a false alarm. The ability to detect extremely small particles is why these detectors are great for fast moving fires.
• Photoelectric Smoke Detectors – these detectors are better for sensing slow-burning, smoky, smoldering fires. They use optical technology to convert light into an electrical current. There is a dark chamber where light passes through. When the smoke enters the chamber, the particles cause the light to scatter disturbing the current. The photoelectric sensor then increases its voltage to set off the alarm. Therefore, they are good for fires that create more smoke than flame. One downside is they can have false alarms from dirt or dust too.
There are also detectors that offer both technologies in one system. Additionally, there are also air sampling detectors, automatic sprinklers that go off when there is heat, and pull stations that are human activated.
There is more to a fire than just the smoke, there are also flame detectors:
• Ultraviolet (UV) detectors measure the radiation level and will set off the alarm when the radiation rises. UV radiation occurs between 10 and 400 nanometers on the electromagnetic spectrum. It can detect a fire the second it starts. Sunlight and lightening are also UV sources and can set the UV detector off on a false alarm. To decrease the chances of a false alarm, they have a 2-3 second delay.
• Infrared (IR) detectors sense the heat radiation from open flames. The infrared spectrum is between 700 – 1,000,000 nanometers. They work differently with a tiny thermal imaging camera that can expose the infrared radiation to visible light. They do not work as fast as UV detectors but can still warn you in 3-5 seconds.
Another type of detector to consider are fire gas detectors which sense specific gases. Understanding your fire risk is the best way to decide which protection you need. There are multiple factors that determine how many detectors you need. That is where the regulations from the fire department keep you up to code and safe.
Along with the fire alarms you should have an action plan. Everyone needs to know what to do in an event of a fire, like where the exits are and a safe meeting place to take accountability.
Don’t be overwhelmed with this big decision. Let the professionals at CEI Alarm guide you, call us at 775.673.9500