At the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy, you’ve got your basic needs – physiological and safety. There’s a lot we take for granted, but, at the end of the day, if we aren’t healthy and safe, not much else matters (or is possible).

Fire alarms, for you and many others, likely connote a mid-day disruption at work, often either a false alarm or a test of an emergency system. They aren’t taken seriously. Standing out in the parking lot, after you’ve filed out with your coworkers, you grumble about the annoyance as the alarm shrieks. You check your phone, wondering when you can get back inside to finish up the task at hand.

You probably didn’t think about the alarm system, what’s involved in the execution, the need for it to work at any time at the pull of a lever or the trace of smoke. It’s a system where testing is necessary, but delivering during the real deal is when it really counts. 99 successful tests won’t matter if it doesn’t work the one time the emergency is real.

There are two common types of fire alarm systems: conventional and addressable. Both system types link devices, like smoke, flame, and heat detectors, to a main control panel.

Conventional fire alarm systems are cheaper to buy but are more expensive to install and are less reliable overall. They’ve been around for a long time and are present in many buildings across the United States. Think of the red box with the white handle. Each device connected to the main control panel in a conventional system is run using its own wire. The more devices, the more wire, the more manpower to install. If a wire gets cut, it’ll take the whole system down. With that being said, conventional systems work well in smaller locations where the setup is simpler.

Addressable fire alarm systems are more expensive to purchase but are less expensive to install and are more reliable in general. Every device on an addressable system has its own address, and the main control panel will tell you which address is alarming when the system is going off. One wire loop with both ends connected to the main control panel links all devices on the system. If one end of the loop is cut, signals from the other end can still be sent.

In addition to conventional and addressable systems, you can find hybrids of the two.

Regardless of the system chosen, the wiring, which consists of Fire Alarm Cable, is typically hardwired, unlike generic smoke detectors in your home. This cabling is regulated by the National Electrical Code. Devices on any system are AC powered and integrated so that if one smoke detector goes off, all others will follow. Fire alarm cable comes shielded or unshielded, plenum or riser rated, and with two to six conductors. The number of conductors required is determined by the system being installed.

When purchasing fire alarm cable, it’s important to make sure you buy cable tested by a national laboratory and approved by the National Electric Code. Approved cabling is appropriately stamped.

So, now you know that there’s a lot more behind that midday disruption than a wailing alarm and blinding strobe lights. Safety first!

A great place to start your fire alarm cable search is with Electric Wire & Cable Specialists. They’ve been around since 1994 and have great prices on premium cables. All of their cables has been tested and approved. Reach out to one of their specialists today to get all of your cable questions answered and to learn more about the products they offer. They understand the urgency behind safety and security, and they specialize in fast processing of orders and immediate shipment.

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