What Are Fire Alarm System Zones?

Oct 26, 2018

Start researching fire alarm system zones and you might get a bit confused. That’s because most fire alarms today don’t have zones—they have points.

Conventional vs. Addressable

There used to be zones on what was called Conventional Fire Panels, and there are still some Conventional Fire Panels in use today. However, more businesses now use Addressable Fire Panels, which contain points. A point could be any device that detects fire, smoke, or heat, such as a smoke detector or sprinkler head. 


There are some key differences between Conventional and Addressable Fire Panels, so let’s dive into some of them.

Conventional Fire Panels


A Conventional Fire Panel is most often used in small facilities and generally is not as expensive.  With this type of alarm system, every smoke detector or sprinkler head on the system connects via its own wire to the control panel. It seems like this would be a benefit, but it isn’t. The main downside to a Conventional Fire Panel is that it can’t pinpoint the exact location of the fire. 

To overcome this challenge, installers wire buildings into zones, so owners have at least a general idea of the location of a fire. For example, the first floor of a building could be Zone 1, and the second floor of a building could be Zone 2. You might not know what specific room the fire is coming from, but at least you can identify the level it started on.

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Addressable Fire Panels


Addressable Fire Panels, on the other hand, give every smoke detector or sprinkler head a uniquely identifiable address. When a fire is detected, the main control panel tells you exactly which device is going off, so you know precisely where the fire is. This setup is enormously handy when you are protecting a large area, such as hockey stadium, which might have 10 to 20,000 points throughout the facility. 


Additionally, Addressable Fire Panels can be networked together. For example, let’s say you have a school district with three or four schools. All the schools would have their own panel, but all the panels in the schools could also be networked to another main panel in the superintendent’s office. The superintendent would then be able to keep watch on the entire district and see which building and where inside the building an alarm is coming.

Another advantage of Addressable Fire Panels is troubleshooting issues on the system. For example, let’s say a senior living center took all the smoke detectors in the building down to repaint, and the painters just threw them all in one big box. When the smoke detectors are put back up, if they aren’t put back in the right spots, the system will tell you there’s a mismatch at a specific point. That’s extremely important as you wouldn't want to receive an alert that a smoke detector in room 125 is going off, but that smoke detector is now installed in room 250.

Determining What You Need

Deciding on the right type of fire protection system for your facility and budget can be challenging. It requires a unique skill set to understand, design, install, and maintain these particular systems.


At FSS, we can work with you, your architects, engineers, and the Authority Having Jurisdiction to make sure your system meets all codes and your company’s specific needs. Send us a message or call us at 888-412-5356 to speak with a committed customer care specialist about your options.

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