The benefits of installing FireClass into a School

Johnson Controls - FireClass Stand: 713

The Requirements for installing a suitable fire detection and alarm system within a School in the UK will vary dependent upon the type and size. Some small schools may only require a manual system, whereas the larger schools will benefit from having automatic fire detection installed. Arson in schools is a problem requiring a category P2 system with detectors installed in critical and high value areas. In schools where evening classes are held and only partially occupied a category L (Life) 4 or 5 system would normally be employed. Schools are also diverse in their occupancy and therefore the fire detector should suit the environment, a normal classroom being different to a laboratory or a craft workshop. Disruption to the school day as a result of unwanted alarms can be critical, especially during examinations and so the reliability factor is extremely important when selecting a suitable system.

Risk: Schools often rotate classrooms from one year to the next. A former craft workshop may be a library next term. The risk changes and therefore so should the fire detector.

All too often though this fact will be ignored on the basis of cost and budgets. It can be quite expensive to bring back the specialist installer to uninstall and reinstall detectors. So the system remains as it was, increasing the risk of unwanted alarms. High levels of unwanted alarms are disruptive to the school’s curriculum, may result in the Fire and Rescue Service reducing or withdrawing daytime response and generally lead to more cost when the specialist has to return to investigate and cure the problem.


By installing the FC460PC mutisensor this problem is overcome. The mutisensor has two detection modes, both employing three detection channels, heat, smoke and combustion gas (carbon monoxide). These channels are combined in the systems software to provide optimum detection. In normal environments the sensor is set in Universal Mode where the sensitivity is higher. In less benign environments the setting would be Resilient Mode where the sensitivity is lower and the detector more resilient to background phenomena, smoke, dust, steam etc. The other great advantage is that changing Modes can be as simple as pressing a button on the panel, or if permanent change is required, it’s a simple reconfiguration in software. Simple and inexpensive compared to other solutions.

Risk: Class change systems are employed in schools to indicate the end of a lesson and the need to go to another class.

These systems are common place and can be comprehensive standalone systems integrated with the school clocks providing synchronisation throughout the school or campus. Alternatively where the requirements are simpler, specifiers may want to save cost and integrate the class change within the fire alarm, using common sounders. In this situation it is the responsibility of the designer to ensure that this is done ensuring that the fire alarm system is in no way compromised by the other system.


By specifying and installing a FireClass system, a simple Class Change input is pre-programmed to allow a switched input to activate all sounders for a period of 5 seconds after which they will automatically turn off. If a more complex system is required where class change sounders need to be configured with a completely different tone (sound), and be on for a longer period, then a programme can be quickly and easily configured using the Special Cause and Effect groups within the FireClass software. Whatever the requirement FireClass has a solution.

Risk: What happens if by accident the system is activated. This is still referred to as an unwanted alarm, which could be caused by accidentally operating a manual call point, or some unusual occurrence close to a sensor.

Sometimes it is not unknown in schools for pupils to activate call points maliciously. It is possible to protect against accidental operation by fitting an additional cover, (Stopper) over the device, but malicious operation cannot be totally ruled out. The incident, whilst not really being a malfunction, still causes the same amount of disruption with the same consequences, as that of a genuine alarm.


When configuring the system cause and effect, (what happens when a device goes into alarm), devices can be configured to work individually and instantly, individually and after a delay, or in conjunction with another device. This enables the designer to programme out some of the high risk unwanted alarm causes by introducing, delays or confirmation from a second device before the alarm system goes into full alarm. Alternatively the DAY MODE function can be initiated which would introduce a short delay allowing an investigation of the incident and the option to isolate the offending device before a full alarm occurs. FireClass configuration software is simple to use whilst being extensive and flexible.

Risk: Schools have to keep pace with demand and any population increase within the area might require additional resource within the School. This often means what starts out as a single building grows campus style to several buildings within the same site. Investment is usually structured over long periods and it would be wasteful if systems had to be replaced or major upgrades carried out.


FireClass offers a range of controllers from the compact FireClass Lite, through 32, 64 and 240 zone networkable control panels. A single panel site can be easily upgraded to a network by adding the TLI800EN network card to all existing and new panels. A FireClass network can be extended up to 24 panels, with panels interacting with each other where required. Additionally a windows based graphics system can be installed providing a layout of the buildings, with additional text, emergency file data, instructions to staff and other useful functions, ideal for the larger sites.