Fire Alarm System Integration with BMS image

Smart buildings are on the rise. Modern buildings are becoming increasingly complex and with this, the need for building management systems (BMS) to control the various technologies installed in them will only grow too. In this article we explain the benefits of fire alarm system integration with BMS, including: 

  • What is BMS?
  • BMS integration examples
  • Fire alarm system integration with BMS using the Advanced Commander

What is BMS?

BMS is a relatively new addition to modern buildings. Previously, each individual system in a building had to be controlled separately and manually. Over time this evolved into each system being controlled and monitored by a computer. The next step was to unify the equipment into one master control system that networked all the mechanical, electrical, IT, and security systems of a building, sharing information and working together seamlessly. And so BMS was born.

Integrating all the components into a single cohesive unit allows the various systems to share information so they can work more effectively. The result of this interoperability is greater efficiency, lowered operating costs, and a safer, more secure, and responsive building environment. It also improves reporting, information management and decision-making with facility-wide insight and control for better performance. Other benefits include more efficient resource deployment which can result in reduced operational costs, empowering operators, simplifying training, and reducing false alarms.

Early BMS were limited to having all the equipment from one manufacturer but this can prove expensive and limits choice. As a result, there has been a rise in open communication protocols such as BACnet and Modbus which allow third-party devices, such as fire panels, to be easily integrated with the BMS. So how do third-party devices communicate with the BMS?

Fire protection system BMS integration options

A field controller for integration, such as the Advanced Commander, is a powerful IP-based solution for customers requiring protocol translation between an Advanced addressable fire panel and a BMS. The Advanced Commander is a simple bridge between manufacturers’ components, providing seamless integration and delivering guaranteed performance. The Commander is also bi-directional so it can monitor and communicate with other systems the BMS is connected to. For example, the BMS can send messages to an Advanced fire panel but the Advanced fire panel can also send messages back – so, in a fire, it could close dampers in the ventilation system to stop smoke spreading, shut down fans, start the smoke extraction system, and send all the elevators to the ground floor and park them to prevent people from using them. It can also ensure that lockable doors can be unlocked; emergency lighting can be turned on to point the right direction for people evacuating; and ramps can be lifted, or barriers in front of the building moved, to allow firemen to enter the building. All this simply by having one system talking to another.

This two-way communication is particularly useful in complex buildings such as data centres which rely on power and cooling systems. Here, through integration with the fire panel and the BMS, there may be a connection with HVAC, allowing control of dampers and fans, as well as the access control system and power supply system monitoring and control.

It’s also beneficial if a field controller offers flexibility by being able to work with both the BACnet and Modbus open networks, such as the Advanced Commander, which also goes one step further. If a field controller is incorrectly specified to one of the protocols by the customer, they can simply call Advanced and have the protocol changed remotely.

It’s also desirable to be able to configure exactly what is needed rather than having to use a controller that has extensive but unrequired device options or has a predefined sequence of information. With the Advanced Commander, users can configure exactly what they need to meet the fire safety needs of each building e.g. the number of connected devices and loops etc. The Commander supports up to 640 Objects/Tags of information, which can be configured and passed between network components and delivered to the BMS using TCP/IP technology and is compatible with all Advanced addressable fire panels including the MxPro 5. TCP/IP connectivity allows the Commander to be located locally to the distributed network of fire control panels, but at the same time caters for remote programming and BMS access.

The Advanced Commander also has a built-in Webserver to provide advanced control, display and management. Its powerful Windows-based software management suite enables engineers to write ‘cause and effect’ strategy, check data logging, calendar, and timer functions. Users can read panel, zone, and device status by reading values representing Normal status, Disablement, Faults, Pre-Alarm and Fire. Users are also able to mute, silence/resound and reset the network or panel, disable the device, activate disablement group, and generate an external alarm and external fire.

BMS integration examples

BMS are used in a variety of applications which have specific requirements. For instance, in airport facilities they rely on several specialised systems to facilitate airport-specific processes, such as aeronautical navigation and surveillance, ground handling and the processing of passengers and baggage, this means the ideal BMS system for this application needs to offer easy configuration to meet these complex needs. Here the systems integrated may include a PA system, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), elevator control, the airport information system and other security systems such as access control and video surveillance.

Meanwhile, BMS in healthcare has different requirements and must have the capability to predict challenges and respond to changing conditions. Most of the facilities in healthcare these days use BMS to reduce energy consumption while maintaining the correct environmental conditions that are critical for hospitals. The use of integration may  include elevator control, HVAC, emergency lighting systems, and environmental condition monitoring.

BMS integration is set to go further still. As buildings become smarter, so does the BMS which will be able to control a building completely remotely, allowing users to monitor and change things in a building from a distance. BMS is already offering greater efficiency, reduced costs, and reliability and with the advent of open communication protocols and field controllers, like the Advanced Commander, users can seamlessly integrate their fire system and monitor and control their buildings, cementing it as an essential part of the smart buildings of the future.

Learn more about fire alarm system integration with BMS:

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