DITEK Surge Protectors Keep Fire, Security Systems Running

Feb. 5, 2019

Lightning strikes can cause massive electrical damage to buildings and their infrastructure. An average bolt of lightning can carry in access of tens of thousands of Amps, and it is impossible to predict exactly where and when lightning will strike. In the United States, the highest occurrence of lightning strikes is in Florida, with almost 1.5 million strikes per year. Areas such as this with a higher frequency of lightning strikes require reliable protection from surges as they can damage critical electrical systems.

Mission critical devices are powered via electrical wiring in virtually every facility, from fire alarms, security systems and access control to lighting equipment and large office machinery. A power surge can literally destroy individual devices or greatly reduce their lifespans, and disable multiple systems.

While many safety and security devices have built-in fuse protection, it is not enough to protect individual devices and systems from lightning strikes or the impact of multiple surges over time. For this reason, many businesses have installed professional surge protection solutions to ensure uninterrupted operations and improve overall safety.

Surge Protective Devices (SPD) are designed to limit the voltage supplied to an electric device by either blocking or by shorting to ground any unwanted voltages above a specified threshold. SPDs help protect against everyday surges that can occur on any electrical system against the extreme flow of current that can suddenly stress a system. In addition, SPDs are an extremely cost-effective preventive measure in comparison to repairing or replacing expensive devices critical to daily operations.

For real estate management companies around the country, SPDs are an important preventative tool. Facility managers in the property management space are often aware of the dangers of lightning strikes and the damages they can cause – both financially and in other ways. They are specifically concerned with ensuring that fire systems including fire alarms, sprinklers, extinguishers, hydrants, backflow, and emergency exit lights remain operational during storms.

According to Michael Delaney, Field Account Manager for Impact Fire Services, who oversees fire protection systems for several property management facilities in Florida, many property managers have had to replace unprotected fire panels each year due to lightning damage. “In the spring and summer we have flash rain and lightning storms just about every single day in Florida,” said Delaney. “You can’t anticipate when these things will happen.”
Delaney explains how customers often have to stage a “fire watch” if fire systems are not functioning in a residential building. If this happens, a 24-hour fire watch needs to be maintained in order to protect residents and stay in compliance with local fire codes. In some jurisdictions this can require that a fire truck be stationed at the property, while in other cases a fire watch can be managed by a security company or maintenance team. The expense of these measures can be massive in addition to the equipment and labor costs required to replace damaged fire panels and wiring. An SPD on the fire panel can easily and cost-effectively alleviate such incidents and expenses.

A typical Fire Alarm system is organized around a central control panel, usually called a fire alarm control panel, or “FACP”. The FACP is the ‘brain’ of the system – monitoring sensor inputs, controlling alarms and outputs to other systems, and relaying information. Because it is the core of the system – and can be damaged by power surges – its 120V input power should be equipped with a surge protection device.

While protecting the input power is necessary to protect the FACP, it is not sufficient. There are other electrical pathways into the unit that can expose it to potentially damaging power surges, causing the system to fail over time due to small surges, or all at once in the event of a dramatic surge or a lightning strike anywhere near the facility.

“Impact Fire Services recommends DITEK surge protection solutions to customers to protect their fire systems. Their Total Surge Solution (TSS) family of products is compatible with all major alarm systems, is simple to install, and features field replaceable modules that save time and money,” continued Delaney.

The TSS series offers 120V AC products with dry contacts that allow for remote monitoring, letting users check the status of their various install locations from their headquarters.

When offering recommendations, Impact Fire Services reminds building managers that local fire codes are written to provide the minimum acceptable protection for life safety, and are not written or intended to protect the equipment or fire systems themselves from potential damage. Taking the additional step of protecting the system with SPDs is a low-cost way to avoid big headaches.

“Since we began installing DITEK SPD solutions, our service calls have usually been to replace the surge protectors that saved a system, and not to replace the entire fire panel,” explained Delaney. “The fire panels were still functional, immediately proving the value of these devices. Instead of $3200 for a new panel and a costly fire watch until it is replaced, customers are only looking at a cost of around $200 for the new surge protection device.”

While a small number of property managers might think that surge protection is an added expense without any ROI, many businesses are well aware of the benefits – and savings – that surge protection solutions deliver.

Cheryl Derenthal is Regional Account Manager for DITEK. For more information, visit www.diteksurgeprotection.com