Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's about time . . . to replace your smoke detector.

Most theatres have Smoke Detectors as a part of their Fire Detection and Alarm System.  For many years these devices have been the bane of Stage Managers because they unexpectedly trip a Fire Alarm when smoke, fog, haze, dust or other atmospheric effects are used during shows.  Building and Fire codes have recognized this problem and some now require that smoke detectors in the fly loft are replaced with Rate-of-Rise type thermal detectors. These detectors are not sensitive to visible atmospheric effects, but instead look at how rapidly the temperature changes.  That works great if you have a burning fire, but does little to detect a smoldering fire.  A smoldering fire can ruin drapes and scenery, and if unchecked, can leak smoke into other parts of a facility as well.

In recognition that fires are serious events in performance spaces, and also that false alarms can be quite disruptive to a show, several manufacturers have developed sensors that employ multiple fire detection technologies.  One of these stands-out above the rest and should be considered when upgrading your systems to meet the current fire safety codes (or to get rid of those pesky false alarms):  It is the 2251-COPTIR Advanced Multi-Criteria Fire Detector manufactured by System Sensor (

The sensor’s four elements — photoelectric, thermal, carbon monoxide (CO), and infrared — all work together to intelligently analyze the environment and decide whether the sensors are detecting a true fire condition or a nuisance condition. The Advanced Multi-Criteria Fire Detector samples the environment every five seconds with each of these four elements and will only sound the alarm when at least two of the four elements positively confirm a fire.

Having these sensing elements working in tandem is what sets the detector apart from any other technology available on the market. The confirmation and intelligent assessment capabilities will also prove to be ideal for places that are prone to nuisance alarms. Such sites include theaters and other entertainment venues that use special effect smoke.

“It allows us to provide the most accurate fire detection possible while providing superior nuisance rejection for those problem sites,” said Todd Alford, product manager. “Different fires have different characteristics, and each fire is a little bit different. By combining four elements, we can successfully filter out nuisance concerns and provide accurate fire detection.”

One side note:  The detector's CO (Carbon Monoxide) sensor has a limited life span and must be replaced about every 5-6 years.  The good news is that just because the CO detector ceases to function after that time, doesn't mean that the rest of the Multi-Function fire detector quits working - it just looses one of it's areas of sensitivity.  A small price to pay for virtually no false alarms.  Besides that, if you KNOW it must be replaced after a finite time, then you can PLAN FOR IT, and GET IT IN THE BUDGET and ONTO THE MAINTENANCE CALENDARwhat a concept — planning for an equipment failure — before it happens.
Check-out their web site — it has cool videos demonstrating the technology, data sheets, white papers, and more.

Also,  System Sensor OEM's this product to multiple Fire Alarm Panel manufacturers.  Notifier offers it as IntelliQuad with the model number FSC-851.  Gamewell-FCI offers it as 4-WARN with the model number FCS-4-WARN.  Honeywell offers it as COPITR, with the model number TC840C1000.  And finally, Johnson Controls offers it as COPTIR with the model number 2951J-COPTIR.

Caveat:  Fly lofts above stages can become very warm in the summer months, particularly in warmer climates, so warm in fact, that conventional 165°F fusible links can sometimes separate prematurely.  Selecting, configuring, and installing the correct type of sensor must be done by a licensed fire protection professional so that all of these factors can be taken into account.  Don't expect them to fully understand the temperature profile of your fly loft - have them measure it under worst-case conditions so they know what to expect.

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