Cannistraro Blog

early warning fire detection

September | 13 | 2017

A Closer Look at Early Warning Fire Detection for National Preparedness Month

The U.S. Fire Administration has declared September National Preparedness Month, so it is a good time to take a closer look at the life safety fire protection and fire protection services that keep your people safe and your building operable in the event of a fire.  According to an NFPA study on fire loss in the United States, companies and organizations suffered over $3 billion in non-residential property losses in 2015.  There is no doubt that the high costs associated with fire and/or smoke damage, clean up and restoration, and business interruption can be painful – sometimes crippling for companies.   As a result, mitigating those risks is a top priority for businesses, particularly those operating in critical, round-the-clock environments.


Early Warning Systems and Air Sampling Fire Detection

To protect their people and resources from the risk of fire, many companies invest in air sampling fire detection systems to identify trouble and take action as early as possible.  These early warning systems are typically made up of a network of piping that runs from a detector/device to the area or areas being protected.  Within the detector/device, an aspirating fan draws air from the space through small holes, or sampling ports, and analyzes it in search of smoke particles. 

For reference, think about a standard smoke detector that is installed at the ceiling level, which passively waits  for smoke to make its way from the fire to the detector.  While often effective, this type of smoke detection has a built-in delay.  Most conventional smoke detectors, depending on their location to the fire origin, will not activate until the later stages.  Now think about a similar detector that is actively sampling the air within the space and drawing the smoke from the fire to the detection.  Fire growth can be measured as a timeline starting with the incipient stage, moving to smoldering, flame and then heat stage.  Using air sampling allows smoke detection to occur at the earlier stages of a fire, enabling earlier activation of the fire suppression system, and therefore greater protection from fire or smoke damage.

Air sampling can be used anywhere smoke detection is needed, but there are some distinct advantages in certain applications.  It is common to find air sampling fire detection systems in data centers, server rooms, clean rooms, MRI equipment rooms and laboratories, due to the critical nature of their assets and operations.  Other spaces, such as offices or hotels with large atriums or high ceilings, or warehouses with high storage racks, prefer to use air sampling for better system accessibility and easier fire protection maintenance

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Other factors to consider

A fire can be detected by the smoke, heat or even the flame itself.  Determining the best type of detection for a specific application is an early, but critical step in the process.  For example, if the space needing protection is a file storage room or a data center where the expected fire would generate substantial smoke before a flame is produced, smoke detection and clean agent fire suppression are the best options.  For spaces that contain flammable liquids, like a laboratory for instance, where a fire event would often produce more heat and flames, a heat detection system would be a better choice.

Fore more information about National Preparedness Month or to download FEMA's Preparedness toolkit, visit:  For questions or more information about air sampling and its applications and/or installations, contact:

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Todd Stevens-3.jpg

Todd Stevens, Project Manager - Special Hazards  

Phone: 617-926-0092   




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