A fire alarm is a critical piece of equipment for any home or business. Health and safety is one area where corners simply cannot be cut! You need to do everything in your power to ensure that your workforce and your employees are well protected. This is something that requires continual evaluation as well, as regulations and risks change all of the time. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at the use of fire alarms in further detail in this blog post, revealing more about their design, features, cost, benefits, and use.

Cunningham Installs, Services, and Inspects Fire Alarms in Maine

If you need a commercial fire alarm or protection for your home, please reach out for more information and a quote. We provide key services including:

There is only one place to begin when it comes to fire alarms and fire safety, and this is with the human element. Fire is ferocious. It does not sympathize. It does not ease up. If a fire were to break out at your business premises and you did not have an alert system in place, serious injuries and loss of life would be highly likely. A fire alarm is considered the first line of defense because it notifies those within the building of the fire at the earliest opportunity so that they have enough time to exit the building. Combine this with a well-planned escape route and 30-minute, fire-resistant construction, and you should be able to ensure that no one ends up losing their life should a fire break out in your building.

Fire kills people in Maine every year in both commercial and residential structures.

Maine Fire Code

Another reason why you need to make sure you have a commercial alarm installed is that you need to fulfill the building and town code requirements of your local municipality. Maine towns continue to have stricter fire codes and enforcement over time, led by Portland. After all, every government has implemented different rules, regulations, and guidance about fire safety. This must be followed, not only in terms of safeguarding human life but also because your business would find itself in a lot of trouble if it were found to be breaking the building and town code requirements that it must adhere to. Compliance is not optional.

Maine has adopted the National Fire Code, including NFPA 72 and NFPA 1 which govern fire alarm signaling and prevention. Here is a list of NFPA rules adopted by the state: https://www.maine.gov/dps/fmo/fire-service-laws/nfpa and here is the Fire Marshall rules page provided by the State of Maine https://www.maine.gov/dps/fmo/fire-service-laws/rules on their website. Municipalities within the State are expected to at least adopt the code requirements set forth by the State of Maine, but may also have stricter requirements. For instance, Portland has some additional specific requirements that are above and beyond those required by the State.

Portland Fire Code

The city of Portland has additional requirements for any fire alarm technician working on a fire alarm in the city. Technicians must be at least NICET fire level II certified or IMSA fire level II certified. This applies to anyone disabling a device, or entering programming in a fire alarm control panel. These are rigorous programs that require years of working in the field, hours of classroom time, and successfully passing certification tests.

Cunningham Security technicians are trained to this standard and can work in the city of Portland. As you can see, Portland lists Cunningham as a recommended provider of fire alarms. This demonstrates our commitment to the highest level of quality and protection.

How Much Does a Fire Alarm Cost in Maine?

A fire alarm varies significantly in price depending on the size and the complexity of the system. A system from Cunningham is priced based on three factors:

  1. The projected amount of man-hours that it will take to complete the system. Labor tends to be the most expensive component of a commercial fire alarm system, while equipment may be a higher percentage of a residential system. The reason is that commercial buildings tend to be larger and each device must be wired. In addition, the programming can be more complex because of the larger range of devices and the need to identify locations of devices through zones or specific addressable locations. Furthermore, the structure itself determines the amount of time an installation may take. A commercial building may require drilling through brick or concrete, which is time-consuming, or working in high places that require a mechanical lift. Additionally, the last step of the commissioning of a commercial system is the certificate of occupancy, which requires initiating every device with the fire marshall to prove that the system works flawlessly. This all takes time.
  2. The projected cost of the equipment. Cunningham normally applies a thin markup to equipment from the wholesale price because labor is usually disproportionately costly compared to the actual equipment. Fire alarm control panels can be expensive, and some specialty devices, but the equipment is not the biggest factor in the total price of an installation.
  3. Engineering and permitting costs. A commercial fire alarm must be professionally designed and engineered. This design is then submitted to the town office for approval and permitting. This is another factor in price and is variable depending upon the complexity and the town or the city issuing the permit.

The brand  of equipment required will have a small effect on price and there are several options here, including:

  • Silent Knight – Silent Knight has been designing and manufacturing commercial fire alarm systems since it was founded in 1961. The company has a broad assortment of products, which they distribute throughout the United States. Their alarms are created for government buildings, retail spaces, commercial complexes, hospitals and health care facilities, and educational institutions. 
  • Simplex Grinnell – Now known as Johnson Controls, SimplexGrinnel is a brand that offers a wide range of fire detection and alarm products, as well as fire sprinkler and suppression items too. 
  • Fire-Lite – Owned by Honeywell, which is a company we will discuss more next, Fire-Lite manufactures fire alarm control panels, annunciators, digital alarm communicators, manual pull stations, and EVAC panels.
  • Honeywell Notifier – Notifier by Honeywell is a range of advanced and sophisticated fire detection systems. These intelligent systems enable you to benefit from an advanced level of protection.

Parts of a Fire Alarm System

A fire alarm system is a group of different separate parts, which have their unique function and work together to enhance safety. Five of the key elements you will find in an alarm system are as follows:

  • Initiating devices – These are designed to detect fire or smoke. There are many different types of initiating devices, including heat detectors, smoke detectors, pull stations, and sprinkler water flow sensors.
  • Indicating appliances – These are responsible for sounding the alarm and alerting people to the fire hazard. Examples include bells, chimes, horn strobes, and in some cases, strobe lights for the deaf and hard of hearing.
  • Power supplies – Power supplies cover main power from the breaker, (2) 12V batteries as a backup for 24 hours, and sometimes a generator, which offers backup power for the alarm system. After all, any downtime cannot be afforded.
  • Fire alarm panel – This is the control panel, consisting of the user interface and central monitoring element of the system. The display will reveal the current state of the alarm, and you can also program the system from here. The panel is the device that communicates with the monitoring station, or local fire department.
  • Auxiliary devices – Several different add-ons can be used to bolster the system such as auxiliary power supplies. These may be required for the proper function of the system

Monitored Fire Alarms are Necessary

One thing that you will need to consider when choosing a fire alarm is the alert system. Some fire alarms will only notify those within the building and the neighboring properties if there are any. Some residential alarms are connected to the smartphone of the building owner, ensuring an alert pops up if there are any issues. Such a system can be limited, meaning the owner then needs to get in touch with the authorities, which creates an extra step and draws out the process. This can cost valuable time during a fire, where every second counts to contain the fire and minimize the destruction of property. The best thing to do is choose a monitored fire alarm. The company you purchase the alarm from will monitor signals at a central station, and then they will alert the authorities if a device detects an issue. This is the best way to ensure that any fire issues are dealt with quickly and effectively. Another decision you need to make is whether to go for an addressable or non-addressable system. The main difference between these devices is how the signals from the connected devices are communicated to the main control panel.

With an addressable system, rather than relying on electrical current changes within the circuit, an addressable system is used, which transfers data from the connected devices to the chief control system as binary code. As these systems make the most of digital technology, they offer a much greater range in terms of the sort of information that the control panel can attain from the devices. The most important sort of data that is provided is where the fire is happening in the building. The exact location means that firefighters know where to go as soon as they arrive.

Some code enforcement requires an addressable system depending on the property size and the way that it is used. For instance, a large apartment building, college dormitory, or hospital is almost certainly required to have an addressable system installed so that firefighters can quickly pinpoint the location of a fire.

A Fire Alarm is also Important for your Home

While fire alarms are critical in terms of business use, we cannot ignore the importance of their use in a residential setting either. There have been some horrific stories of residential fires, not only in Maine but around the world. To learn more about a home fire alarm system from Cunningham click here.

Having a fire alarm installed in your home can help to protect the life of your family and your pets too, as well as protect the assets that you have worked hard all of your life for. Another important element of the fire alarms that are available for homes is the carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide leaks are responsible for a minimum of 430 deaths per year in the United States. An effective alarm system will alert you when there is carbon monoxide in the atmosphere so that it can be dealt with before it starts having a severe impact on your health. Although both homes and business premises require fire alarms, you cannot use the same sort of alarm for each setting. The alarm must be suitable for the building in question.

The fire alarm systems that are found in commercial buildings tend to be a lot bigger in size and they are more complex when compared with alarms in single-family homes. Commercial fire alarms require a full fire risk assessment to be carried out, followed by careful design and planning.

You also need to consider the fact that the risks within a commercial setting are often very different when compared with a domestic setting, especially when it comes to large business buildings and environments where hazardous materials are used. Therefore, commercial fire alarm systems must account for this.

Fire Alarm Systems are Critical for all Commercial Buildings in Maine

As touched upon in the introduction, fire safety is not something you can address once and then forget about. You need to continually assess your efforts to ensure optimal safety is provided. This is why annual inspections are critical. Inspections ensure that everything is in correct working order so that your building and the inhabitants are protected.

It is also worth pointing out that it is a legal requirement to have your alarms changed. CO (carbon monoxide) detectors should be changed every seven years. Smoke detectors should be changed every 10 years. Inspections have also become a legal requirement in some towns as well, such as in New England.

Inspections tend to be billed per hour, yet it does depend on the company that carries out the work. Make sure you get a quote beforehand. No matter whether you require a commercial or residential fire alarm, Cunningham can assist. We ensure optimal safety for your business by assessing the building so that we can design a custom fire alarm for your needs. Cunningham is fully licensed to install any kind of fire alarm in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. You can reach our team by calling (207) 846-3350. You will speak to a friendly and experienced member of our team who will be happy to answer any questions you may have and provide you with a quote for our services.