By George Boyett, VES Technical Support
Zones allow the contractor to group the fire alarm devices at the location. A zone is typically defined as all the devices found in a particular area of the site (first floor, apartment suites, conference room, lobby, etc.), but a zone can also be used to group devices of a particular function (Blower shutdown, power shunts, displays, pull stations, etc).
Zoning has several practical benefits when it comes to fire alarm panel operations. The most common benefit is partial activation of the panel during an alarm, in which only the general alarm outputs (NACs, relays, lamps, etc) that trigger are the ones assigned to the same zone as the input that is in alarm.
An example of zoning a location maybe a building with two wings and central hall, each section’s inputs and outputs can be assigned a zone. When an input device of a section activates then the only output devices of the same zone will trigger.
With FACP networking zones can include devices from several fire panels. This feature gives the contractor more flexibility where the project requires installation of multiple panels.
To use the previous example each section could have a fire panel that is part of a network. Each section’s panel has its own zone. However several input and output devices on the central panel were assigned to the zones of the two wings. These devices will work in the zone as if they were on the same panel.
Zoning also helps in creating Cause and Effect Relationships. In large installations a contractor can easily face using dozens, if not hundreds, of input and output devices that require relations that can number in dozens. Instead of selecting each device over and over again, the contractor just assigns all the devices to zones and then selects the zones he wishes to use in a Cause and Effect. So when any input in a zone activates, all the assigned outputs of a zone, designated as an effect, will trigger. On the VES line of Fire Alarm Control Panels Cause and Effect Relationships can use zones, individual devices, and subpoints together.
To take the example further, the location requires a way to disable a section. The contractor could set up an input device with a key switch. He creates a Cause and Effect where the key switch will disable a zone. (This example is an easy task with a VES panel and a programming utility like eSP Discovery and Loop Explorer).
As was previously mentioned, zoning effects the triggering of general alarm outputs. On the VES Fire Alarm Control Panels when an output device (NAC, relays, display channels, etc.) is set for general alarm any input in the same zone will trigger the device. The contractor does have the option to set an output to only trigger by a cause and effect, an unmarked device flag in eSP Discovery or Loop Explorer. A non-general alarm output can be assigned in a zone with general alarm outputs, but it will only trigger by a cause and effect.
With all the options and possibilities of zoning a contractor can easily need dozens or hundreds of zones to properly configure a fire alarm system. The VES fire alarm control panels have 500 zones available. With 500 zones, a contractor should have enough to organize the fire alarm system as they see fit.