Fire Alarm Camera: What It Is and How It Works

Protecting your business — be it a factory, warehouse, or other large building — is non-negotiable. Most people assume their buildings will be protected by a fire alarm system, but many don’t know that a traditional system isn’t the only option.

Buildings at high risk for dangerous fires can benefit from the use of fire alarm cameras because they’re able to detect fires quickly. When it comes to fire, mere seconds can be the difference between a close call and devastation.

What Is a Fire Alarm Camera?

A fire alarm camera is a camera that can detect fires, and they’re often used in large industrial buildings. Note that fire detection cameras are different from hidden cameras in fire alarms. 

Fire alarm cameras work by sensing temperature, smoke, or both. Most fire detection cameras are able to detect fires much more quickly than a traditional smoke detector. 

Fire Alarm Camera

How Does a Fire Alarm Camera Work?

A fire alarm camera works by using infrared technology to detect temperature. The camera turns thermal radiation (heat) into a picture so it (and you) can visualize the temperature of an area. Fire detection cameras take this information and send out alerts or alarms based on the heat settings of the camera.

For both temperature and smoke detection, fire detection cameras need to have a direct line of sight. They will be ineffective if they are placed above an awning, for example. This means you might need quite a few cameras in one area for thorough protection.

It’s important to note that fire detection cameras should never be the only line of defense against fires. The cameras should work in conjunction with a fire detection system.

How Do You Set Up a Fire Alarm Camera?

There are a few different ways to set up a fire alarm camera. One popular and effective way is to set thresholds for temperature. When something in the room reaches one of the set temperatures, the camera will alert or alarm.

One of the benefits of this threshold system is that the operator can get a warning before the temperature gets extreme. For example, a user may set the first alert to 170 degrees Fahrenheit, and they may set a second alert to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. When something reaches 170 degrees, the camera will issue a soft alert. If no action is taken and the temperature reaches 200 degrees, the camera will issue a full alarm. 

Another way to detect temperature is to set your camera to alert when the temperature changes at a fast rate. This type of setting works well in an area that reaches high but stable temperatures. A rate of change alarm would sound if the temperature rises too quickly, but the alarm will not go off for general high temperatures. 

Can a Fire Alarm Camera Detect Smoke? 

Some fire alarm cameras are also able to visually detect smoke. Rather than waiting for the smoke to rise and reach a traditional detector, the camera sees it and alerts as soon as it is present. Cameras that have this capability have what’s called video image smoke detection (VISD). 

Who Should Use a Fire Alarm Camera? 

Anybody can consider using a fire alarm camera, but they work better in some areas than others. They are commonly used in industrial areas, factories, warehouses, waste plants, recycling plants, and wood processing plants. 

Traditional smoke detectors don’t often work well in these types of buildings. The dust and particles that are released into the air can cause false alarms. Additionally, many of these places are at high risk for dangerous fires and explosions. Fire detection cameras can alert you to a fire much faster, thus potentially avoiding disaster. 

Security Alarm Installation and Integration

Who Shouldn’t Use a Fire Alarm Camera?

Fire alarm cameras can be pricey, so they’re ideal for situations where the benefit outweighs the monetary cost. If your building isn’t at high risk for fires, you’ll likely do just as well with a more traditional fire alarm system. 

Fire detection cameras need to have a direct line of sight, so they don’t work as well in small or cluttered areas. Unless you have a large open space like a factory or warehouse, a fire alarm camera probably won’t be very effective. 

Benefits of Fire Alarm Cameras

One of the greatest benefits of a fire alarm camera is its speed. Because fires can engulf a building in mere minutes, fast detection can save buildings and lives. Fire detection cameras can detect a fire in as little as ten seconds, while many traditional detectors may take up to a minute or more. In fact, because these cameras have the ability to detect heat (not just fires themselves) they can even catch a fire before it begins. This type of early warning is invaluable. 

Having a lower threshold temperature below the full alarm temperature can help prevent false alarms as well. Sometimes, traditional smoke detectors give off false alarms due to dust or other particles in the air. 

With a thermal fire alarm camera, you’ll get a warning that an area is heating up before the system goes into full alarm. This gives you a chance to assess the problem and prevent the alarm if there is no true fire present. If you place your cameras in a factory or other area that tends to get very hot, take that into account when setting your thresholds and when monitoring your system. 

Another benefit of fire detection cameras is that they are cameras that operators and building owners can view. On a traditional fire alarm control panel, the operator can see where a fire is occurring, but with a fire alarm camera, they can actually see the fire. Often, this can even be done remotely.

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