The ever-changing future of fire safety

By Lionel Caillat, vice president and general manager, Commercial Fire, EMEA, Honeywell Building Technologies.

  • 3 months ago Posted in

Fire systems are a critical part of any building, requiring regular maintenance to help make sure they operate efficiently. If these systems fail to function correctly, the building, its assets, and most importantly, the people inside it are all at risk. Given that there are around 22,000 workplace fires in the UK alonei and with fires today spreading faster than ever beforeii, it is essential that facilities managers embrace digitalisation.

Thirty years ago, a person had on average 15-to-17 minutes to escape a house fire, but today that time is a mere 3-to-5 minutes, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).iii Fires spread more quickly because modern furnishings and equipment more regularly used are often made of artificial materials, which can be more flammable.

As more intelligence is integrated into the fire system, it means changing building owners’ mindsets to treat fire and life safety systems like assets. It also moves toward the creation of truly connected buildings by bringing the most essential system in the building online and placing connectivity at the heart of fire safety for secure, compliant, and more efficient fire system management. As such, the future of fire safety relies on deploying technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile data and cloud computing.

Making connections the smart way

Honeywell has more than 21 million connected points on fire systems in over 157,000 buildings globally,iv and modern technology is changing the way that fire system technicians approach system alarms by addressing issues pertaining to incomplete or inaccurate information.

Implementing these IoT-based tools into a fire system provides an array of benefits. From making sure that maintenance checks are conducted as outlined by local regulations, to providing first responders with real-time and up-to-date information that can result in faster response times. By providing a consistent data trail – automatically updated with the latest inspection data and fire technician details – it becomes much easier to clarify issues as all the data is in one place.

Not only do modern fire systems improve compliance, but they also allow fire technicians to minimise disruption of daily operations and reduce time needed for fire system design, installation, inspection, and maintenance. Moreover, IoT fire systems can help detect precisely where a fire is and its nature so that emergency responders can deploy specific measures tailored to its location.

Today, individuals working in the fire safety sectors find themselves managing these challenges due to limited access to facilities from shutdowns and many facility maintenance teams are working with reduced staff levels, having to achieve more with fewer resources. Smart fire IoT systems can help address these issues by providing access to the system’s data from anywhere, at any time, through a mobile app or web browser without being physically at the control panel. What’s more, by removing laborious tasks like manually entering information, smart fire safety systems reduce the probability of human error and automate time-consuming tasks.

Providing constant visibility

The digital data that IoT fire systems make available enables organisations to access the system from any location and across multiple sites. With constant shifts in working patterns, including remote working, it is imperative that facility managers have access to the right documentation, such as safety inspection documentation, easily and quickly.

Without being in the building, facility managers and emergency responders can utilise next-generation technology to monitor an entire life safety system. This insight allows the appropriate personnel to see which devices are activated, which devices may malfunction in the near future, diagnose problems before entering a building, and identify false alarms, enabling predictive maintenance to provide clearer reporting for mandated inspection and maintenance of the fire system.

Additionally, as facility managers are constantly working to create healthier environments, IoT technology can help system integrators provide customers with the highest level of safety and service. This technology can, therefore, help fire technicians and first responders work more efficiently, providing them with real-time insight into any issues before they arrive at the site.

The implementation of connected fire safety systems provides various long-term benefits to any organisation and its inhabitants. However, the sheer extent of these benefits is yet to be fully realised. There is no doubt that organisations are adopting digitalisation at a faster rate than before, but in order to be completely prepared for the disruptive changes ahead, it is imperative that organisations adopt digitalisation across all aspects of their operations, including in their life safety systems.

830 words

i First Mats, Fire safety facts and statistics UK, Published: May 23rd 2022 [Accessed: 9th May 2023]

ii National Institute of Standards and Technology, Performance of Home Smoke Alarms, Richard Bukowski, Richard Peacock, Jason Averill, Thomas Cleary, Nelson Bryner, William Walton, Paul Reneke, Erica Kuligowski, Published: December 2007 [Accessed August 12, 2021]

iii National Institute of Standards and Technology, Performance of Home Smoke Alarms, Richard Bukowski, Richard Peacock, Jason Averill, Thomas Cleary, Nelson Bryner, William Walton, Paul Reneke, Erica Kuligowski, Published: December 2007 [Accessed August 12, 2021]

iv CLSS adoption numbers as of November 1, 2023.

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