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What is a Fire Alarm Annunciator?

Terrie Brockmann
Terrie Brockmann

A fire alarm annunciator is a device that is part of some complex fire alarm systems. Functions of an annunciator vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but typically they control and monitor various components of fire alarm systems. Generally, each of the fire system's elements relays information directly to the annunciator's control panel. For example, some of these elements might include smoke, heat, or fire detectors; manual pull-down alarm stations; or water flow alarm devices. The annunciator usually is continually streaming fire detection, fire protection, and fire prevention codes into its data storage, thus making it ready to give audio and visual signals when a problem occurs.

Some of the critical information that a fire alarm annunciator conveys to the user may help people exit a building efficiently and safely, prevent the fire department from responding to a false alarm, or alert the user to system failures, among other tasks, depending upon the unit's capabilities. A fire alarm annunciator panel usually is part of the building security control panel, which may have other annunciators, such as security and building climate control. When an annunciator signals a problem, the user can pinpoint the malfunction almost instantly because each element constantly relays information to the central panel. Before incorporating annunciators into the fire alarm system, a person usually needed to manually check each element and often did not know if there was a malfunction.

Cigarette smoke may accidentally set off a fire alarm.
Cigarette smoke may accidentally set off a fire alarm.

Many fire alarm annunciators vary in the degree of ease of use. Some systems use codes that are hard to understand; others might use a series of light-emitting diode (LED) lights, numeric data, or audio signals. Older systems indicate problems in zones, which might be an entire floor or an entire building, whereas newer systems usually specify which individual element is sending a signal.

When the annunciator detects a problem, it generally alerts the user, telling him or her where the fire started, what caused it, and if the sprinklers or other devices are working. The annunciator usually sends this information to a data storage area for future analysis. Many fire alarm annunciator panels feature battery backup in case of power failure, a phone line to the fire department, data storage, and built-in printer. With these tools, a building manager is able to respond to emergency situations quicker and more efficiently.

A fire alarm annunciator often is a complex computer system that relies on accurate data from each fire alarm and prevention device. There may be times when it might receive a false signal from one of the devices or that cigarette smoke sets off an alarm. Many manufacturers install diagnostic programs to help the user tell if it is a false reading or if the threat of fire is real. If the equipment appears to be malfunctioning, manufacturers usually recommend that the user call a service technician.

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Discussion Comments


You're right, Telesyst.

Given the possibility mentioned in the article of a malfunction of the alarm system, it seems like your best bet would be to respond any time the annunciator indicates a potential fire.

If you manage a building from another location, it would probably also be in your best interest to invest in an alarm system that does automatically notify police or fire personnel in a potential emergency.


The false signal scenario is somewhat troubling.

Since it does not sound like the system itself typically alerts fire department personnel of a problem, it would be difficult for an off-site building manager to know whether there is an actual problem.

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    • Cigarette smoke may accidentally set off a fire alarm.
      By: Sergii Figurnyi
      Cigarette smoke may accidentally set off a fire alarm.