With Covid continuing to dominate the news agenda and affecting the way we work, it’s impact on the fire industry cannot be overstated. Even once we finally reach a new normal, hopefully later this year, we will still need to adapt our working practices and limit time spent on site, especially in residential buildings. That’s why, more than ever before, wireless fire technology is the solution to many of the key challenges we face in 2021.
As modern buildings and safety legislation require our industry to deliver innovative and effective fire systems faster and more efficiently than ever before, with more definitive costs and minimum disturbance to ‘business as usual’, wireless is becoming a default solution for many installers.
New demands on fire installers
In an industry that was already burdened with the demand to deliver ever more rapid and effective solutions to clients in all sectors, these new pressures are both a challenge and an opportunity, but doing nothing is not an option. In the short to medium term, we as an industry need to think smarter and plan more effectively to ensure that contracts can continue to be delivered on time and on budget, especially where residential installations and upgrades are concerned.
Costs need to be controlled, whilst time on site needs to be minimised and person-to-person contact kept to an absolute minimum, especially among high-risk groups such as the elderly or those with underlying conditions. That’s why the fundamental advantages of wireless fire technology can now benefit installers more than ever, as they allow systems to be installed with less fuss, minimal impact on the building’s fabric and less need for complex cabling, offering savings in both time and money.
Wireless technology is nothing new, of course. In the past 20 years, the concept of installing fire systems linked by radio technology has become mainstream across the fire industry, and the key advantages it offers have not changed. What we can now see is that, in the transformed economy we are now presented with, wireless solutions will help installers to not only comply with the standards but also deliver high-performance systems safely, rapidly and efficiently, while also offering peace of mind for the end client.
Simpler to install
Let’s take a typical high-rise apartment, with one sounder and three detectors, as an example. With a wired system, there would be a requirement to wire each of these devices in place, potentially requiring access to ceiling voids and other inaccessible spaces, along with a need to make good and redecorate once the work is complete. This could take anything from several hours to days, and it might even force the occupants to move out temporarily.
With wireless systems, all devices can be pre-programmed offsite, then installed and tested in minutes, resulting in minimal contact between the installation team and the occupant of the flat. This has always been a benefit of wireless systems, offering savings in both time and the cost of making good, but with Covid-19 to consider, the advantages are multiplied.
Of course, not everything changes. Projects generally follow the same process of risk assessment, design and quote. Then, if won, they move onto installation, commissioning and maintenance. Professionals will be competing with largely the same technology, offering systems that are largely identical except for a few differences in cause and effect. The difference is that wireless removes many uncertainties, such as wiring installation and unknown complications in the fabric of the building, so costs and timings are far easier to predict.
Wireless choice is growing
Wireless devices have traditionally been used in sites where wires cannot go, such as historic buildings, because of their ability to cover large areas and the fact that they can be fitted with minimal disruption to the building’s fabric. They are now becoming mainstream, installed in all manner of locations from industrial sites to schools. In fact, over the past decade, rapid advances in technology and manufacturing have made wireless a viable and cost-effective alternative for many fire systems, eliminating the need for cable and all of the problems it can bring.
Some systems, such as Argus’s, can offer the best of both worlds, functioning either in fully wireless modes, or in hybrid configuration with wireless devices mixed in any combination of wired loops. There are no surprises with a wireless system, the exact devices required are defined in the initial survey, the system can be pre-programmed quickly and easily off site and installed in less time.
Advances in battery technology and LED lighting mean wireless systems can run for many years without a battery change, a period that’s likely to extend further in the future. Battery choice, lifetime and the cost of batteries becomes a key differentiator in wireless systems. Some manufacturers use ‘off the shelf batteries’ that can be bought in a supermarket, others specialist batteries, and so more expensive, potentially locking in maintenance suppliers and costs.
Wireless is the future of fire systems
Industry bodies such as the UK’s FIA (Best Practice Guide to Fire Safety) have acknowledged the value of wireless technology to help meet changing standards in the fire industry and it can also help to address some of the other challenges we are facing. With less time needed to install or update each system, it’s possible to deliver improvements quickly and efficiently, with short lead-in times and less manpower.
In terms of outlay, because there are no nasty surprises to be found during the installation of wiring loops, installers and specifiers of wireless can guarantee installation costs, and radically reduce commissioning costs, making their businesses stronger, offering certainty to the end client, and allowing jobs to be scheduled more reliably.
Unlike some new technologies, always waiting for widespread adoption and acceptance in the industry, wireless fire systems are already mainstream and have been for many years. As wireless permeates most of the modern building infrastructure, it will surely become the standard choice.
For more information, go to www.argussecurity.it