Should You Replace The Smoke Alarms In Your Office Building With Photoelectric Alarms?

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Fire safety is just as important in the workplace as it is in your own home, and all office buildings must be fitted with reliable smoke alarms that can automatically raise the alarm when a fire starts. However, because modern smoke alarms are very reliable and energy-efficient, many office blocks and commercial buildings have not had their smoke alarms replaced or upgraded for years or even decades.

Unfortunately, this has left many office buildings unknowingly vulnerable to many commercial fires because many smoke alarms that were considered reliable just a few years ago are no longer fit for purpose. Upgrading the smoke alarms in your office building to modern, photoelectric smoke alarms can dramatically improve fire safety, keeping employees safe and insurance companies happy.

Why should you replace the smoke alarms in your office building with photoelectric alarms?

Two types of smoke alarms are used in the vast majority of commercial buildings: photoelectric alarms and ionisation alarms.

Ionisation smoke alarms contain a small amount of radioactive material, which powers an ionised electrical circuit. When smoke enters the alarm, it disrupts the flow of ions through the circuit, triggering the alarm. Photoelectric smoke alarms were invented more recently, and they use a special light-sensing chamber to detect fires; when smoke from a nearby fire blocks light from reaching the sensor, the alarm is automatically triggered.

For many years, ionisation alarms were considered the best choice for most commercial buildings because they are both mechanically reliable and very inexpensive. However, ionisation alarms are better at detecting intense fires that have burst into open flames than small, smouldering fires.

This makes them more useful for certain industries that deal with highly flammable materials, such as the petroleum industry. However, fires in office buildings are usually caused by electrical faults, discarded cigarettes and other low-intensity ignition sources. As such, they are much more likely to start small and grow gradually.

Photoelectric smoke alarms can detect slow-starting fires much earlier than ionisation alarms because they are capable of detecting tiny amounts of smoke from a fire that is still in its earliest, smouldering stages. This makes photoelectric alarms much more effective at detecting the types of accidental fires that usually start in office buildings and other non-industrial commercial buildings.

How can you upgrade the smoke alarms in your office building?

Australian government authorities strongly recommend that all commercial buildings use photoelectric alarms instead of ionisation alarms, and commercial buildings that still use ionisation alarms may be more at risk of suffering catastrophic fires. Continuing to use ionisation smoke alarms may also increase property insurance premiums. If your office building still uses ionisation alarms, you should call in a commercial electrician service to replace the outdated smoke alarms as soon as possible. 

To learn more about installing smoke alarms in your office, contact a commercial electrical contractor in your area.