A fire panel is a safety appliance that commercial buildings typically require in order to set into motion a number of tasks that could save lives and minimize property damage. If you’re in charge of ensuring a building has all the required features necessary for the sake of safety, you might be in the market for a fire panel. Before you start looking for one, you should get to know what the typical fire panel does, which buildings need one and which features to look for in a fire panel.

Why Do You Need a Fire Panel in Your Building?

The point of a fire alarm control panel is to activate a quick emergency response when there’s a fire so everyone in the building has a chance to get out safely. Different fire panels on the market have different features, so the capabilities of this product can vary. For example, a basic fire panel might sound an alarm to alert everyone of the danger. Some fire panels also call the fire department, and some even activate the building’s sprinkler system to try to put the fire out fast. The capabilities depend on which fire panel you decide to buy.

If you’re wondering how the fire panel works in general, note that when a fire breaks out, the fire panel receives a signal from smoke detectors, the fire sprinkler system, a manual call point or a pull switch in the building. This means it can’t detect the fire on its own, but it can respond to the signals it gets from the systems that detect the smoke. At that point, the fire panel’s response is activated, which might include making a loud noise and lighting up to warn people of the fire, and then it may send a signal to the fire department or alarm company to get emergency crews to rush to the building and put out the flames.

Main Types of Fire Panels

There are two main types of fire panels available. Conventional panels have been around for years, so you might see them in older buildings. They work by responding to changes in an electrical current, such as when a smoke detector identifies smoke and changes the current in response. Once the fire panel detects this current, it sounds the alarm. The conventional fire panel is installed in different zones—such as the first floor, second floor, etc.—so it’s often also called a zoned panel.

The newer type of fire panel is called an addressable panel. This system runs off modern technology, since it features a microprocessor that sends data from devices in the building to the panel, rather than just sensing changes in electrical currents. Every device in the building’s fire detection system has its own address, so the addressable fire panel can identify which device the signal is coming from. This makes it easy to locate the device that has sent signals to the fire panel.

Which Buildings Need a Fire Panel?

Most buildings require a fire panel, but if you’re not sure if yours does, you can check documents from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) or the International Building Code (IBC) to find out. For example, you can read NFPA 101: Life Safety Code, or you can reference documents that discuss international building code. The specific requirements may vary based on the type of business that’s in the building and its occupancy, but generally you can expect to need a fire panel as part of your overall fire alarm system.

What to Consider Before You Buy a Fire Control Panel

If you’re ready to buy a fire panel for a new building, or replace an old panel in an existing building, first you should consider the features you want. You can stick with a basic fire panel that will sound an alarm and call the fire department if you already have a sophisticated system in place, such as sprinklers throughout the building. If you want a more comprehensive fire panel, you can buy one that’s full of features, such as the ability to lock or unlock doors, turn off the electricity, disable the building’s elevators, or even fully integrate with your security system.

You will also need to consider if the fire panel you want can handle the needs of your building. It has to support the number of devices and zones in the structure, and it needs to be compatible with any alarms, smoke detectors and other safety devices your building already has.

If you have questions about which fire panel or fire alarm system is right for your building, or if you’re ready for professionals to install the one you’ve chosen, contact AFA Protective Systems, Inc. today.