How can a building’s fire systems be integrated with access control and other security systems to ensure effective function of both? It can be a challenging and delicate endeavor.

Integration of fire and security systems provides multiple benefits and some challenges to be addressed. It is useful to consider fire and security systems as part of the same overall mission to keep a building and its occupants safe, while also being attentive to the differing roles of the systems and how they can complement each other.

integrating security and fire systems

Integrating security and fire systems is becoming paramount to create improved efficiency

There’s a conflict between life safety and security systems,” says Karen Trigg, Business Development Manager, South East, for lock company Allegion (UK) Ltd. “We must secure buildings without impeding the flow of movement and hindering immediate escape should a fire incident occur. To do this, we must have a greater understanding of building requirements.”

In today’s world, integrating security and fire systems is becoming paramount to create improved efficiency and effectiveness of a building’s safety technology — and this integration can provide monumental benefits, says Eric Widlitz, Vice President of Sales for North America for access control company Vanderbilt Industries.

video management systems

For example, in the event of a fire, an alarm from a fire system can trigger an access control system to release locks on fire escape doors, as well as generate muster reports to provide information on who is inside the building, says Widlitz. “Additionally, video management systems have the ability to provide access to real-time, remote video footage of the fire’s actual location, helping firefighters and other emergency personnel to assess the situation and respond with greater accuracy.”

Many challenges and opportunities that facilities face when integrating systems relate to whether a building’s infrastructure is designed well enough to connect security and fire systems, says Julie Brown, Institutional Market Leader for Johnson Controls. By conducting a site assessment first, owners and managers can better determine where physical building updates may be needed.

Integration Of Video Surveillance And Fire Alarms

Adjusting design in this case can eventually help make the integration of video surveillance and fire alarms easier"

For example, if video surveillance is obstructed in certain areas, owners need to identify if the cameras can be moved to a better location or if physical alterations to the building are needed. “Adjusting design in this case can eventually help make the integration of video surveillance and fire alarms easier,” says Brown.

In the event that a fire alarm sounds, owners can have peace of mind that their cameras have an unobstructed view and that they can be automatically alerted to provide visibility into the area affected and potential cause of the alarm. It is critical to occupant safety that building owners address any design hurdles. Budget is often an issue,” says Trigg.

Although a challenge, understanding budgets – not only for the system in place but also ongoing maintenance and upgrades – helps uncover the correct solution, showing that the ‘cheaper option’ may cost more in the long run for some.”

thermal imaging cameras

Joe Byron, Vice President for the Americas for MOBOTIX Corp, says integrating fire and security opens the door to a world of possibilities. “When specifically looking at industrial applications, these systems require an added layer of reliability in order to guarantee workplace safety and operational efficiency,” he says.

This technology is tied into the fire-suppression system and can monitor the temperature of specified machines"

Byron points to a specific deployment as an example: MOBOTIX’s work with KUHN RIKON, a world-renowned cookware manufacturer. In 2015, during mechanical pot polishing, an abrasive component spontaneously combusted causing a large-scale fire, leading to a dust explosion, says Byron. “While an unfortunate tragedy, this led to an opportunity to outfit the plant with thermal imaging cameras,” he adds.

This technology is tied into the fire-suppression system and can monitor the temperature of specified machines. With built-in logic, the cameras can alert technicians to heat warnings and, if not acted upon, can automatically shut-down the machinery and queue fire systems if required.”

Fire And Security Systems

A well-designed and integrated control room can help to organize, automate and streamline critical sensors by implementing workstations that transmit only the most critical information at any given time.

Additionally, operators are better equipped to make more educated and timely decision by leveraging audible alarms, visual LED indicators and video displays with built-in intelligence to change content based on triggers from third-party systems such as fire, building automation and access control,” says Dan Gundry, Director of National Control Room Sales for Vistacom.

At the end of the day, fire and security systems are two elements of the same mission: To keep buildings and their occupants safe. However, the two systems often operate independently and may not be integrated. More integration offers benefits, but there are pitfalls to be avoided.

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Larry Anderson Editor, TheBigRedGuide.com, Notting Hill Media

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