Our Training & Compliance Manager decided to do a bit of investigation regarding the origins of our industry, and he was very surprised at what he found…
Here is a fully functional, 20 zone, Reichel automatic fire alarm from 1905.
Each dial represents a zone of a building and the dials measure current.
Each dial has a reset switch attached to reset the dial back to “Zero”.
When a fire is detected in a zone, the corresponding dial reacts and makes sound (See zone 1 on the image – the dial is pointing to the right hand side whereas all hte other zones are pointing to the left, at zero).
So, how does it detect fire?
Here is the heat detector that is connected into the panel.
The small white part is the detection element. It is made up of two dissimilar metals that react with each other when exposed to heat, creating positive electrons (current) and this then returns to the panel via the red and black wires.
Amazingly, these panels could be connected to a local telephone exchange and would dial a specific telephone in the telephone exchange!
Fire alarms were first invented in 1852, simply designed as a bell in a box attached to a crank.
These became a target for vandals, who would often try to break into the fire station as the engine/cart was called out.
To combat this, the design was changed and to activate the alarm you had to physically lock yourself into the device!
It wasn’t until Almost 40 years later that they became closer to what we see today. Almost fully automatic, with zones and even the ability to call an ARC.