Conventional vs. Addressable Fire Alarm Systems

Fire Alarm Systems are connected to a network of field devices whose primary function is alerting building occupants and the fire department of a fire situation upon detection. There are two main types of fire alarm systems: Conventional and Addressable. These systems have a distinct method of communication with field devices.

Conventional systems use hardwired-base connections with each device through circuit zoning. A conventional panel monitors each circuit’s electrical current to detect the operation of a fire alarm device. Once identified, the panel signals output devices to activate, alerting building occupants of the detected fire situation. Only the approximate area of a fire alarm device that is triggered is identified with a conventional system (e.g. 3rd floor south). Since the Conventional system was the first fire alarm system to be created, it uses older technology and costs more to install.

In time came the newer, more technologically advanced system, the Addressable fire alarm system. Addressable systems do not have separate circuits for each zone, but instead have one circuit that connects all field devices. Each device is in constant communication with the panel through the continuous exchange of status messages. When a device is activated, a ‘message’ is sent to the control panel articulating its status and location. Addressable systems are considered to be more intelligent as they are less-likely to cause false alarms and can obtain device information from their panel that a conventional system cannot, such as a smoke detector’s sensitivity reading or a device’s exact location (e.g. manual station at 3rd floor west staircase). Since addressable systems are more intelligent, they are more expensive to purchase, yet more cost-efficient in the long run due to the minimization of false-alarm occurrences.