Commercial fire alarm systems are complex systems with many components. They also have a shelf life and can phase out of production as new technologies emerge. This means that you may be unintentionally putting yourself and your business at risk if you have an aging fire alarm system.
Some commercial fire alarm systems can only become inoperable with age but may also become irreparable due to the unavailability of parts for the system. You don’t want to find this out in the middle of a fire emergency.
If you suspect you may need a new fire alarm system soon, here are some considerations, tips, and things to think about when budgeting for a new fire alarm system.
There are other considerations when deciding if it’s time to replace or upgrade your existing fire alarm system beyond how long you’ve had the system.
Some of these include:
- The age of your existing fire alarm system.
- Most fire alarm systems are designed with a life span of anywhere from 10 to 15 years.
- You may be able to extend the use of your fire alarm system by updating components of the system if the manufacturer still makes parts for the system, but in many cases, a total system replacement is recommended.
- If your fire alarm system/parts are no longer in production.
- If the manufacturer of a system no longer makes that particular system or parts, this can be problematic when it comes to repairs. You would be left with no fire alarm system if something were to go wrong since replacement parts are not an option. Replacement parts, even if you can find them, would also be more expensive and likely take longer to order and install. You don’t want that kind of down time with a fire alarm system that protects your facility.
- Changes in building code.
- Have your city’s building codes been updated since the installation of your current fire alarm system? You may be surprised to find that building codes can change and affect the compliance of your facility.
- Note that building codes also change based on the layout of a facility.
- If you’ve completed any renovations to your existing space, the fire alarm system must be updated to accommodate those layout changes. This might mean an entirely new fire alarm system or an upgrade.
- Changes in occupancy or use.
- If the use of your building has been converted to another use (for example, an office building converted to a computer rom), the existing fire alarm system may be insufficient for the new use.
In short, be sure all areas of your building are sufficiently monitored by a fire alarm system that is specifically designed for the exact design of your building, occupancy, and hazard type. Aging systems are dangerous as are systems that can no longer offer the fire protection necessary to guard a facility.
What are my options?
A fire protection professional can help you decide what the best option would be for your existing system, as there are several.
Some options include a total system replacement or replacing only certain parts of a system to elongate the life span of a system. The decision to replace, upgrade, or reuse an existing fire alarm system depends on a few things.
As mentioned, if your system is over 10-15 years old, a total system replacement may be your best choice. If your system is aging but not quite to that 10/15-year mark (and the manufacturer still makes that system), maybe replacing parts of the system is sufficient. But if you’re no longer able to find parts for the system, it’s best to do a total system replacement. A full replacement will likely save you time and money in the long run should you need a repair sometime down the road.
Technology is always advancing, particularly in the fire alarm industry, so maybe your fire alarm system is operational but ineffective when compared to the options on the market today. Newer technologies and advancements in commercial fire alarm systems mean even more options for fire safety. For example, just in the past few years, we’ve seen new technologies in wireless fire alarm technology, new supervising station reporting technologies, and new loudspeaker technologies. You could be missing out on more advanced options with an aging fire alarm system, so even if you have a few years left with your current system, it may be time to consider an upgrade.
Planning for a system replacement or upgrade
Industry experts recommend having a solid replacement plan if you’re going to with a total fire alarm system replacement. This plan would ideally involve several components.:
- An evaluation of your needs as a business and within your facility
- Are you replacing one system or several?
- Have you made changes to your facility or hazard type since the existing system was last installed?
- Analysis of fire alarm manufacturers/options available
- Do you need to consider how various system manufacturers will work together or do you have just one manufacturer for the entire system?
- Infrastructure considerations
- Can you use your existing wiring infrastructure for the new alarm system? (existing vs. new wiring will affect cost)
- Overall goals – longevity, reliability of the system, etc.
- Have goals changed since the original install? (i.e. do you now need additional emergency detection inputs for things like hostile intruders?)
- Cost considerations both short and long-term
- Have you calculated long-term operational costs in addition to install costs?
After assessing the needs and goals of the business, it’s time to seek a professional opinion. A fire protection professional can walk you through your options. They should also be able to assist you in making the best cost-effective choice given the options on the market today.
Fire Systems, Inc. can help. We’ve been in the fire alarm industry for decades. Our wealth of knowledge means we have the latest, most up-to-date knowledge on a variety of fire alarm systems. We can install, inspect, repair, and maintain almost any type of fire alarm system. We also offer fire alarm system monitoring for a seamless customer experience. Contact us today at 770-333-7979 or visit our website for more information.