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Wired vs. Wireless Fire Detection

For as long as there have been fire alarm systems, a wired connection has traditionally been the go-to solution. While these wired solutions still dominate the installations, wireless systems are making significant headway in the fire alarm market.

Technology is really going to be the driver here. Right now radio and battery technologies have some limitations, but as technology evolves, solutions will improve. You’re going to see capabilities, performance and battery life increase. Eventually there will be little-to-no wiring needed.

Here are a few things to think about when considering wired or wireless systems:

Readily accessible applications: Wired is beneficial for new installations where the fire alarm system can be installed as the building is going up. The installer will usually have easy access to pull the wire and can simply run it through the new facility.                                  

High-rises, airports, stadiums: Wired is still the best bet for applications that require emergency communication systems and mass notification, including applications that need speakers for voice alarms. If there are weather alerts or dangerous events, wired systems have been the traditional solution. However, wireless has a bright future for these applications.

Retrofit applications: Wireless is valuable when the end user has to replace a system or add on to an existing system. Wireless can make it easy to get a new system up and running without the wiring headaches.

Historic buildings: Wireless does not get in the way of beautiful, visually sensitive architecture. Instead of marring an historic building with fire alarm cables, wireless systems can protect locations where appearance is paramount.

Faster jobs/temporary structures: Wireless gives contractors the opportunity to quickly complete installations. Pulling wires can consume a large portion of time on a job. What’s more, the system can quickly be installed and removed from temporary structures. Materials are not wasted, and the end user does not have to deal with segments of wire that are tough to reuse.

Outdoor applications: Wireless is much more reliable when the system needs to go outside from building to building and the location is prone to lightning strikes or other destructive weather events. Wired systems are more readily damaged in these situations.

Have you seen a rise in the use of wireless fire alarm systems in your area? Are you planning to use a wireless system on an upcoming project? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.


About the Author
Jesse Otis is a Design Engineer in the Honeywell Fire Safety Americas Wireless Group.  Jesse joined Honeywell in 2003 and has been the lead engineer for the Fire Systems Group for the SWIFT products which launched last October. Jesse holds a B.S. degree in electrical engineering and is working to finish his Masters degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Systems Engineering.

Why Elevator Recall? Because it saves lives.

Elevator Recall is an important Fire Alarm systems application for multi-story buildings. This application is designed to keep building occupants from entering the elevator car(s) when an evacuation is taking place due to a fire within the facility. Elevator recall also involves giving the firefighter or first responder manual control over the operation of the elevator during a fire emergency.

Unless the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and/or fire department states otherwise, elevator recall is initiated by smoke detectors (like the SD355) installed in the lobbies of the building; the machine or equipment room; and the elevator shaft or hoist way. An exception might be if sprinklers are used in the entire building instead of smoke detectors.

Elevator recall begins by establishing two basic designated points of egress or evacuation. One predetermined point of egress is designated “Primary Recall” which is typically the first floor or main entrance to the building. The secondary or alternate point of egress is any other floor within the facility that is usually designated or determined by the AHJ.

The application works such that if any smoke detector in the first floor lobby, elevator equipment room or hoist way responds with an alarm, then “Primary Recall” is initiated. This means the elevator car is sent from the first floor to a designated secondary floor within the building.

On the other hand, if smoke detectors in the lobby of any other floor go into alarm then the elevator car will move from whatever floor it is currently on to the first floor point of egress. This is referred to as secondary or alternate recall.

Under both operations (once the elevator reaches its point of egress) the elevator car door is automatically opened to let any passengers that may be inside exit. Once this happens, the elevator is shutdown or taken out of service to prevent any further public access.

In my next blog I’ll go over some simple programming for elevator recall functions.


About the Author
Lynn Dudley is a NICET-Certified Technical Trainer for Honeywell Fire Systems. He joined Honeywell Fire Systems in 2003.  Lynn conducts Fire-Lite Alarms training academies and programs at various locations around the country.​​

Detectors that are Sensitive to your Budget

In any Fire Alarm installation, smoke detectors play an important role in protecting life and property. This is why it is imperative to check the sensitivity on a smoke detector to ensure that it can respond to a fire in a timely manner.

NFPA 72 2013 edition indicates that smoke detectors sensitivity ratings should be checked after the first year being installed and then every other subsequent year thereafter using any of the following methods:

(1) Calibrated test method

(2) Manufacturer’s calibrated sensitivity test instrument

(3) Listed control equipment arranged for the purpose

(4) Smoke detector/fire alarm control unit arrangement whereby the detector causes a signal at the fire alarm control unit where its sensitivity is outside its listed sensitivity range

(5) Other calibrated sensitivity test methods approved by the authority having jurisdiction


There are numerous devices available to check the sensitivity of a smoke detector. Some test devices introduce simulated smoke into a detector to create an alarm condition. This test proves that the detector is still able to accurately respond to a fire condition. This process of “smoking” each detector can take hours and can easily add up in labor charges for mid size to larger installations.

Fire-Lite Alarms’ Addressable Fire Alarm Panels, including the MS-9200UDLS, offer the capability to test the sensitivity of each detector without even removing the detector from the base. If there is a problem with the detector, the panel will provide a trouble along with a maintenance alert message. This message indicates that the detector needs to be serviced. Also, the test data is stored in the Fire Alarm Control panel and can be retrieved and reviewed using PS-Tools Configuration Software. Running these reports periodically can save many labor hours spent testing a system, while meeting the NFPA 72 requirements for sensitivity testing on a Fire Alarm Control Panel.


About the Author
Ken Gentile is a Product Manager for Fire-Lite Alarms and Honeywell Power. Using his more than 15 years of marketing and engineering experience, Ken’s primary focus lies in the development of new products.

Temporary Fire Detection – An Untapped Opportunity

Among the dangers that exist in areas under construction, fires are one of the prevalent ones.  As I wrote about in my 2014 blog “Renovation Under Fire”, fire protection is important even in areas that are under construction.  Fires can originate from an electrical problem to a spark caused by construction equipment.  In addition to unoccupied areas of a building that are under construction, temporary locations are areas that also warrant protection.

Temporary facilities can have many uses, including school classrooms, construction sites, military installations, and temporary venues hosting public events. The market for these facilities seems to be a moderately growing opportunity these days. To properly protect these temporary facilities, the wiring infrastructure would have to be installed on a temporary basis in addition to the fire alarm system. This takes a considerable amount of time and expense as a permanent installation which may not be desirable considering the temporary use.

The prospect of protecting temporary facilities offers opportunities for dealers to offer a solution like SWIFT™ Wireless.  SWIFT™ Wireless can provide fire protection in areas not previously protected.  Since the detectors and modules are wireless, this saves on most of the wiring infrastructure required for this type of fire alarm system in these applications. In addition, the expense of a fire watch could be avoided in an area under construction when fire detection is used.  When the facility is no longer occupied, then the equipment can be easily removed.

SWIFT™ Wireless gives end users the flexibility of running their operations in these temporary applications while increasing safety for the people and property.  Dealers enjoy the increased business of protecting these new areas while decreasing installation time. In addition to temporary facilities, there are many for SWIFT™ Wireless.  Check out www.firelitewireless.com to learn more about SWIFT™ Wireless and how it can solve your installation challenges.  For valuable information on conducting a SWIFT™ site survey and other installation tips, view the SWIFT Wireless Tools & Techniques Webinar on-demand.

SWIFT Applications Display FL



About the Author
Richard Conner is the Director of Marketing for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power. Richard joined Honeywell in 2002 and has over 15 years of experience in the fire alarm industry in Marketing, Engineering, and Product Support positions. Richard is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs for all brands.

Can you hear me now?! – Tips & Tricks to Voice Evacuation Design

Hi everyone, Mike B here! As a Regional Sales Manager I get called out to perform building walk-throughs on a fairly regular basis.  Unfortunately, the driving factor for these visits is a problem.  I’ve been to multiple Fire Voice installations with the same theme: “not enough”.  I want to share just a few observations of what “not enough” could mean.

Not Enough Light
There is no inexpensive and reliable way to measure strobe light in the field.  You might take a common sense approach to this problem.  If you can’t see the light then there’s not enough.  In factories, warehouses, and even offices, there can be dead spaces. Your local Fire Marshalls are exceptional at finding them!  When the fire and voice systems are active, there should be no area within your space where you cannot see a strobe or have your attention captured by a strobe. In larger spaces with high ceilings, light gets absorbed quickly and even high candela strobes can seem dim.  Some of the most common inspection failures related to strobes is the dead space between racks or pieces of machinery.  100% coverage is key! If it’s a space where people work or through which people travel, a strobe should be visible.

Not Enough Sound
This is a biggie!  The “voice” in “voice evacuation” needs to be heard above the ambient noise in any occupancy.  Dead spots can occur when not enough sound/audible devices are deployed.  Note:  I have used a simple iPhone app to measure sound with limited success.  Think of this as an indicator rather than a measurement.

Keep in Mind
More is better
.  We know that when sound reaches us from several different places that it becomes clearer and more intelligible, (intelligibility is the understanding of the message).  High ceilings, cavernous lobbies, marble floors and/or walls can be the enemy, (background or ambient noise levels can play a big part as well).  Just like big spaces absorb light, these big spaces can absorb sound and can even add an echo effect, significantly decreasing intelligibility.

Walls and ceilings.  In tight spaces like hallways, a ceiling mounted speaker will tend to project sound where if you deployed wall speakers in the same space the sound would likely bounce off the opposing wall or worse, get absorbed. In big open spaces, especially those with high ceilings, wall speakers will work better than ceiling mounted as they will be closer to the ear. Remembering that more is better in terms of intelligibility of the message, more is better in terms of volume as well and don’t forget the dead spots between racks or behind partitions.

Speaker placement is important. Speakers placed facing each other, for example on opposing walls, will tend to cancel each other out.  Just like you would stagger strobes to gain greater coverage within a space, stagger the sound to avoid cancelling. It’s a lot easier to lower the tap setting on a speaker that might be considered extra than it is to cut a hole in marble or otherwise finished walls, and then there’s the wiring…

Looking for more?
Fire-Lite Alarms and AFMG teamed up on a webinar to discuss in-building and outdoor ECS design with a review of code and guidelines. The webinar included an in-depth look at how EASE Evac software can help you with your design. For more information on the EASE Evac Software please visit: http://evac.afmg.eu/ If you’d like to watch the on-demand recording of the webinar, please visit our website.


About the Author
Mike Breault is the Northeast Regional Sales Manager for Fire-Lite Alarms and has previously worked as a Fire-Lite Alarms Programm​ing and I​​nstallation Trainer and SME.  He joined Honeywell Fire Systems in 2007 and has worked for Honeywell for over 11 years.​​​​

Fire Alarm System Duct Smoke Detectors Can Save Lives

Building, fire and life safety codes for many local jurisdictions require the installation of duct smoke detectors in heating ventilating and air conditioning systems (HVAC). These local codes typically follow NFPA 90A and the National Fire Alarm Code for specific design, installation, and maintenance guidelines.

The HVAC Shutdown application generally occurs when a duct detector like the D355PL is installed in the return air ducts of an HVAC system for the purpose of sensing any presence of smoke due to a fire.  An addressable fire panel like Fire-Lite’s MS-9200UDLS uses the CRF-300 control relay module to shutdown the respective air handlers or fans and close dampers to prevent the spread of toxic smoke throughout the facility.

Some buildings may require additional functions to be triggered in tandem with the shutdown of the HVAC system. Typical applications might include elevator recall or doors that are released or unlocked magnetically. All of these actions may take place in response to an alarm condition in a facility.

Many well thought-out decisions have to be made on the use of duct detectors based upon the anticipated or likely presence of smoke within a building. Whether the smoke or fire is outside in an area that may happen to be close to a fresh-air inlet –or whether smoke originates within the HVAC system itself.

Although fire alarm system duct detectors can and should never be used as a substitute for area spot smoke detectors, they nevertheless can play a huge role in preventing injury, protecting property and saving lives by reducing the spread and recirculation of deadly smoke.

Duct detectors are installed by fire systems technician or sometimes by the HVAC installer. Who typically installs the duct detectors in your jurisdiction?


About the Author
Lynn Dudley is a NICET-Certified Technical Trainer for Honeywell Fire Safety. He joined Honeywell Fire Systems in 2003.  Lynn conducts Fire-Lite Alarms training academies and programs at various locations around the country.​​

Smoke Alarm versus Smoke Detector

Recently we received a LinkedIn comment about our wireless wirelesssolution, SWIFT™, meeting IBC requirements for Smoke Alarms. This is a great topic to talk about differences in Smoke Alarms and Smoke Detectors and the latest International Building Code (IBC) requirements.

As defined by the IBC, a smoke alarm is “a single- or multiple-station alarm responsive to smoke and not connected to a system”. This is a requirement in one- and two-family dwellings and occupancies designated as Groups R-2, R-3, R-4, and I-1. Smoke alarms are generally not connected to a Fire Alarm Control Panel and they are powered by AC and/or from an integral battery. Examples of a smoke alarm solution would be a 120V and/or a battery-operated smoke detector that is typically used in residential applications and complies with UL 217.

Alternatively, there are smoke detectors that are connected to a Fire Alarm Control Panel via wired and wireless means. The standard that is most common for Fire Alarm Control Panels is UL 864 (Control Units and Accessories for Fire Alarm Systems). UL 864 covers fire alarm control panels, like the MS-9200UDLS, and various products and accessories. The same standard covers the new Fire-Lite SWIFT Wireless gateway and associated products. In addition to UL 864, the standard that covers smoke detectors is UL 268 (Smoke Detectors for Fire Alarm Systems).

As SWIFT Wireless detectors are classified as a smoke detector and are covered under UL 268, SWIFT can also be used in these applications. In fact, IBC 2015 explicitly allows “Smoke detectors listed in accordance with UL 268 and provided as part of the building fire alarm system shall be an acceptable alternative…”*.

We are excited to see many applications and approved uses for SWIFT Wireless!

*IBC 2015 – Section 907.2.11.7


About the Author
Richard Conner is the Director of Marketing for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power. Richard joined Honeywell in 2002 and has over 15 years of experience in the fire alarm industry in Marketing, Engineering, and Product Support positions. Richard is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs for all brands.

SWIFT Wireless Obtains FDNY Approval

Fire-Lite’s new SWIFT Wireless solution now has FDNY approval! This approval will allow you to use SWIFT Wireless in more places and applications.

SWIFT Wireless is ideal for difficult or obtrusive applications where running wire is challenging. Based on a Class-A mesh network, it offers the same reliability that is expected from a commercial fire alarm system. Typical applications for wireless are parking garages, historical buildings, warehouses, and locations with concrete walls. Whether for new installations or retrofits, the fire alarm system can be a combination of wired and the new wireless devices.

The wireless fire detection system is gateway based and connects to the SLC of a Fire-Lite MS-9200UDLS or MS-9600(UD)LS using Lite-Speed protocol. It then communicates over a reliable mesh network to a set of detectors and/or monitor modules. The wireless devices report to the panel in the same manner as their wired counterparts, making it seamless for building owners and first responders.

Learn more about SWIFT Wireless by watching a 3 minute video and by visiting our website.


About the Author
Richard Conner is the Director of Marketing for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power. Richard joined Honeywell in 2002 and has over 15 years of experience in the fire alarm industry in Marketing, Engineering, and Product Support positions. Richard is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs for all brands.

The K-12 Fire and Emergency Communication Opportunity You May Have Missed

As of this fall, there are more than 98,300 public elementary and secondary schools operating in the United States, with nearly 50 million students and 3.1 million full-time teachers, according to the Institute of Education Sciences. At every one of these schools, fire safety and emergency response is a top priority; but with so many different facilities and buildings, how can school districts ensure that each and every student and teacher is protected?

The large majority of K-12 schools have fairly basic fire alarm and emergency communication system (ECS) technology, such as fire/smoke detectors and alarms, which may include bells or strobes. However, with the growing diversity of threats against elementary and secondary schools—including active shooters, fire and weather emergencies, and even terrorism—these antiquated systems simply aren’t enough.

As a fire alarm installer, you may be missing out on an opportunity to retrofit your K-12 customers’ facilities with a voice ECS—a more affordable option than upgrading their fire and ECS and adding an intercom system. For your customers, this missed opportunity could be keeping them from improved safety and emergency response. Now is the time to work with school districts to retrofit their facilities.

Why? Voice evacuation systems go a lot further toward protecting students and teachers during an emergency. Rather than simply alerting building occupants that an emergency exists, voice capabilities enable administrators to give specific instructions during such an event. In a school environment with hundreds or even thousands of students and teachers, this could give the occupants more time to exit safety.

For example, the Emergency Communication System / Voice Evacuation from Fire-Lite provides flexible communications features. Administrators can broadcast up to 14 different pre-recorded announcements, or use the microphone to give custom instructions, such as “lock your doors and shelter in place” or “evacuate the building and meet on the front lawn.” With certain devices, officials can even call in to the voice system remotely to provide instructions from a cell phone or landline. It is “fire-rated”, which provides peace of mind knowing that the system is fully-supervised and tested on a regular basis per NFPA 72.

Many fire alarm dealers have avoided pushing the benefits of voice evacuation to the K-12 market. In most cases, the cost of running wire puts these projects out of budget for many school districts. However, by opting for a voice system that can be easily retrofitted into an existing fire alarm/ECS, dealers can help their K-12 customers significantly cut down on the cost of upgrading to voice.

School officials are always thrilled to hear that their facilities can easily be retrofitted to include advanced voice capabilities. Not only do they save money and time over adding a separate paging system—which many consider—they also wind up with a significantly improved emergency communication system that is also fire-rated.

For the vast majority of K-12 school districts, budgets will always be a huge concern. Know that these customers often require long cycles to get funding approval. Plant the seed now by discussing the possibilities of voice capabilities with your K-12 customers, and make it a priority to establish voice retrofits as a growing part of your business.


About the Author
Dan Lajoie is Regional Sales Manager for Fire-Lite, Honeywell Power and Silent Knight.  During his 39-year career, Dan has been involved in many aspects of the electronic life safety industry, first as a technician and later as system designer for a nationwide equipment distributor. Dan is NICET Level IV certified and an accredited instructor for the New Jersey Electrical Board of Examiners, as well as the New Jersey Fire and Burglar Alarm Advisory Committee.


The Importance of Fire Alarm Testing

Fire and Life Safety systems require regular testing and maintenance. Just like an automobile, regular testing and maintenance keeps the system running at peak performance and ready to detect and respond to an emergency. Without proper inspection and testing and you may not know how or if, your system will function properly until an emergency occurs.

In order to meet federal certification requirements and state requirements, fire alarm systems are required to be inspected, tested and maintained in accordance with NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. In the 2013 edition, Chapter 14 (Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance) outlines these requirements for fire and life safety systems. Fire alarm control panels provide features that make it easier to perform these tasks.

Today, most Fire Alarm Control Panels have a built in Walk Test feature is used to test a fire alarm system to ensure everything works properly. By placing the Fire Alarm Control Panel into Walk Test mode, a technician can activate a device, which then gives an indication at the Fire Alarm Control Panel. Depending on the setup, the panel may or may not momentarily sound the signals. After the device activates, it will automatically restore and then the technician can go on to the next device to test. This allows for a technician to test a system without having someone to reset the Fire Alarm Control Panel each time.

An inspection, testing, and maintenance program is essential for the reliable performance of the fire alarm system. In addition to maintaining proper levels of protection, proper Inspection, Testing and Maintenance can help reduce the expense of emergency repairs and costly false alarms.

Having a working fire alarm system installed in your building saves lives!

Finally, Fire-Lite Alarms is here to help you in your endeavor. Fire-Lite Alarms has 60 years in the business, is the leader in non-proprietary, and has great tools to help you learn about the products. Visit our website to learn more about the Walk Test feature in the MS-9050UD, MS-9200UDLS, and MS-9600(UD)LS. Also, view one of our pre-recorded webinars on Understanding Commissioning and System Acceptance Testing by Jack Poole (engineering consultant and industry expert).


 About the Author
Bill Brosig is a Channel Product Manager for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power with more than 25 years in the Life Safety business and a NICET IV certification. Bill focuses on the customer experience surrounding current offerings and new product applications.