What is the purpose of a horn strobe?

A fire in a large building is a frightening thing.  According to the NFPA, on average, fire departments in the United States respond to a structure fire every 66 seconds. With a standard fire alarm system installed in such a building, you have the safety net of knowing that something will trigger the fire alarm and alert the fire department as to what’s going on. A smoke detector will notice smokier fires, heat detectors will pick up high-energy fires, and a pull station always provides an excellent manual solution in case an occupant notices the signs of a fire before the automatic detectors can. In short, having a fire alarm system ensures that your property is protected, as help will be on the way from the moment the alarm goes off. But in a fire, it’s not just the property you have to worry about, but the people inside.

In the event of a fire, occupants must evacuate the building until given the further notice from the fire department. Few people will need convincing to leave a building that’s on fire, but many will need to be informed there’s a fire in the first place in order to properly evacuate. The horn strobe is a type of alarm for your fire alarm system that not only releases a loud noise when the fire alarm is activated, but emits a powerful strobing light effect. The purpose of these horn strobes is to immediately create awareness that there is an emergency so the occupants can begin evacuation at the earliest possible moment. The loud horns act as the primary alert that evacuation needs to begin, while the strobes act a secondary alert, the flashing lights being noticeable from a distance. These lights are key for ensuring your property is safe for the hearing impaired; strobes act as their primary alert to evacuate.

How does a horn strobe work?

A horn strobe is named after the two parts that make up the device. When the fire alarm is triggered from any source, whether it be pull stations or any type of fire detector, the horn of the horn strobe will begin sounding a loud alarm, and the strobe of the horn strobe will begin brightly flashing. When included in a fire alarm system, all horn strobes should be going off when a fire is detected or the alarm is pulled to best ensure that everyone is informed that evacuation has become necessary in order to protect the most lives.

By combining strobes with the alarms, you’re best ensuring that everybody is aware of that necessity. The strobes let off synchronized flashes of light, with different models of horn strobes possessing different intensities of the flash, depending on the needs for the building. The strobes are to ensure that hearing impaired individuals are aware that the alarm is going off. The noise emitted by the horn is programmed to be louder than the average ambient noise in the building, in order to ensure buildings that perhaps have loud machinery will be able to properly hear the horns.

How to properly place a horn strobe during install

In a situation with a fire, informing the occupants of a building of its presence is of the utmost importance. A few moments can often make all the difference between a horrible tragedy and a safe evacuation. Ensuring your occupants are informed in this timely manner can come down to placement. Installing your horn strobes properly will both keep your property up to any fire codes and ensure the safety of your occupants by giving them the most information possible in the event of a fire.

Wall-mounted horn strobes are most commonly used in rooms with high ceilings. Ceiling-mounted strobes can not be mounted higher than 30 feet above the floor, making it preferable to wall mount instead. Ceiling mounted strobes are better for covering areas of a room where wall mounting may cause obstacles to block the path of the strobe light.

According to guidelines set by the NFPA, occupants need a visual notification appliance, to notify them directly and indirectly. In a sense, this means occupants do not need to look directly at the fire alarm to know there is danger – the strobe lights provide indirect coverage by flashing against walls, floors, and furniture, meaning from any position, occupants will be able to notice the light informing them to evacuate. This is important to keep in mind when deciding between ceiling-mounted and wall-mounted horn strobes. All public spaces should be equipped with horn strobes, including classrooms, conference rooms, restrooms, hallways, and lobbies. Additionally, horn strobes need to be six inches from the ceiling in non-sleeping areas, and 24 inches from the ceiling in sleeping areas. Correctly placing horn strobes is key in maximizing the coverage of both the sound and the light strobe.

Why you should include a horn strobe in a fire alarm system

Fail-safes exist to strengthen any system they’re in. It’s impossible to make a totally infallible system for anything – but when lives are on the line, as in a fire alarm system, maximizing the number of available fail-safes becomes necessary. It’s the same reason it’s recommended buildings not only use smoke detectors, but pull stations and heat detectors as well, in order to ensure notification still takes place even if one system fails to notice the fire. Not everyone can hear the iconic tones that a fire alarm makes – hearing impaired people need to be warned of an evacuation too. The addition of a strobe light to these standard fire alarms ensures that notification coverage of an evacuation order isn’t limited to just hearing the call for evacuation, but seeing it too.

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act requires that accommodations be made by employers for employees with disabilities and that public accommodations be accessible. Horn strobes became the requirement for such spaces following this act, in order to ensure that accommodations are made for the hearing impaired, to make sure that they can be aware of the dangers in the building and evacuate as needed. When having a fire alarm system installed, be sure to understand the options available to you for alarms and strobes, as there are many varieties in strobe power and frequency, and even devices to sync all strobes to the same pattern.