Manual fire alarm activation

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Single action "T-bar" pull station
A manual call point in the European Union(EU) with standard EN 54-11
An activated manual call point in Japan. Telephone jacks are visible beneath the open cover.
German manual call point with paint from NOTIFIER (Honeywell)

Manual fire alarm activation is done by using a pull station or call point.

Fire alarm pull station[edit]

A fire alarm pull station is an active fire protection device, usually wall-mounted, that, when activated, initiates an alarm on a fire alarm system. In its simplest form, the user activates the alarm by pulling the handle down, which completes a circuit and locks the handle in the activated position, sending an alarm to the fire alarm control panel. After operation, some fire alarm pull stations must be restored to the ready position using a special tool or key in order to deactivate the alarm sequence and return the system to normal. Primitive manual stations, requiring only a single action or hand motion to activate, can be subject to unwanted activation by jarring or accidental contact. Early strategies to cope with this problem included requiring the operator to break a pane of glass to release an internal spring-operated mechanism. Manual pull stations that require two hand motions, such as lift up and pull down, or push in and pull down, have since replaced the break-glass and single-action models in many modern installations.

Coded pull stations[edit]

In the past, pull stations controlled the entire system. These coded pull stations were much bigger than modern pulls and had a code wheel in them. They had a gear mechanism that was wound up when the station was pulled, and (unlike modern pull stations) the handle did not stay down. The gears would turn a small wheel with a specific number of teeth, which determined the coding. The teeth would push up on a contact, which would open and close a circuit, pulsing the code to the bells or horns. This code was used by building security to determine where the alarm was originating from. For example, consider a pull station in the fourth floor elevator lobby of an office building with a code of 5-3-1. When the station was pulled, the security officers in the building would look up 5-3-1 in a master list of codes. After finding the location of the pull, they would check to see if there is a real fire. If there was, they would evacuate the building and call the fire department.

Antique Holtzer-Cabot coded pull station

System tests could be conducted in one of two ways: In a coded pull station, there is either a test hole on the front (usually activated with an Allen wrench) or a test switch on the inside. Turning the switch one way causes the notification appliances to sound continuously (or in the case of single-stroke bells, ding once). Turning it the other way and then activating the pull allows a silent test to be done in which the station's mechanical parts are checked to ensure proper function. Once pulled, the station would do at least four rounds of code before resetting itself. Coded pulls were typically used in new fire alarm systems until roughly the 1950s, and then occasionally into the 1970s. Until the early 1990s, some panels were made with an extra zone to accommodate any existing coded pull stations. Nowadays, coded pull stations are very rare and almost never seen in working fire alarm systems.

Modern pull stations[edit]

Many modern fire alarm pull stations are single action and only require the user to pull down the handle. Other fire alarm pull stations are dual-action, and as such require the user to perform a second task before pulling down, such as lifting up or pushing in a panel on the station or shattering a glass panel with an attached hammer. Perhaps the most recognizable pull station is the T-bar pull, so named because the handle is shaped like the letter "T". This style is manufactured by many companies.

Activated pull station underneath a Stopper cover

Resetting a fire alarm pull station after it has been operated normally requires building personnel or emergency responders to open the station using a key, which often is either a hex key or a more traditional key. Opening the station normally causes the handle to go back to its original position, allowing the alarm to be reset from the fire alarm control panel after the station has been closed.

In some places, particularly at college dormitories and schools, students may pull fire alarms as pranks. These false alarms can lead to apathy among occupants if they occur repeatedly, causing them to dismiss the importance of alarms or ignore them completely. In areas where false calls are a problem, pull stations may be covered with a clear plastic cover that sounds a warning alarm when tampered with or opened, creating focus on the fire alarm. If this is not a sufficient deterrent, the pull handle may be rigged with a physical substance, such as ink, powder, or gel dye, which may squirt out when a pull station is activated to help identify who pulled the alarm.[1]

Manual call points[edit]

In Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia, pull stations are generally not used; instead a manual call point is used, which is usually referred to as an MCP within the fire protection industry, as a "transmitter" in Japan, or as a "break glass" by the UK public. They are used to allow building occupants to signal that a fire or other emergency exists within the building. They are usually connected to a central fire alarm panel which is in turn connected to an alarm system in the building, and often to a local fire brigade dispatcher as well. The first modern MCP arrived in Europe in 1972 and was developed by KAC.[2]

Manual call point is used to initiate an alarm signal. It can be manual alarm system or part of automatic alarm system. Under normal conditions push button will be in the depressed condition. In the case of fire when the glass cover is broken, the push button will be released by the spring action and will actuate an alarm at the control panel through its switching contacts. In addition to this, there will be an LED indicator on the monitor module for visual indication to locate the call point easily. Previously, the old British standard did not allow hinged covers and plastic resettable elements. Plastic elements must have the same printing as the EN 54 glass.

European standard[edit]

Fire detection products have the European standard EN 54 Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems that is a mandatory standard for every product that is going to be delivered and installed in any country in the European Union (EU).

The EN 54 part 11 is the mandatory standard for manual call point.

European Committee for Standardization (CEN, French: Comité Européen de Normalisation) has been developing European standards for free movement of goods in the European Union countries.

EN 54 is widely recognized around the world.[citation needed]

The EN 54 certification of each device has to be issued annually.

If an EN 54 certificate is over one year old, it has expired and it is not a valid certificate. Manufacturers can not sell or install the device with expired certification in any country of the European Union.[3] [4]

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