Smoke Detection for Prisons

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Many businesses and public buildings come up against an array of challenges when it comes to protecting their property, staff and visitors and valuable contents from fire. Designing a fire alarm system for properties such as these involves a huge planning process where obstacles such as detection time, the aesthetics of the property and access for maintenance all have to be considered.

However, when it comes to composing a fire alarm system for a prison facility there are even more demands. Prisons often have an increased risk of fire due to numerous factors such as: the intentional lighting of clothing, bedding or rubbish by unruly inmates; faults with electronic equipment; prisoners smoking cigarettes in their cells and other areas of the building.

With the presence of these risks, and the increased likelihood of fire, employing an early warning fire detection detection system is vital. However, there are certain other factors that have to be considered when designing the ideal fire alarm solution for a prison facility.

What are the Challenges?

  • Increased Risk of Vandalism
    In most situations smoke detectors are best positioned where they are visible and conveniently accessible. However, in a prison, it is quite the contrary. Visible and accessible detectors are asking to be tampered with in a setting such as a prison. False alarms could be easily triggered by acts of vandalism causing the facility to be evacuated; a less than ideal situation for a prison to be in. Therefore, detectors need to be placed beyond the reach of inmates without compromising their efficiency.
  • Maintenance
    While the need to place detectors while they can’t be accessed by inmates is great, detectors do need to be accessed for maintenance. Ideally, routine maintenance can be carried out where the technician will have little or no interaction with inmates. Restricted or high security areas also pose an obstacle for fire alarm maintenance.
  • Dilution
    Prisons are commonly made up of many areas and often include large open spaces. This creates an issue with smoke dilution which proves difficult for traditional point detectors to deal with. Detectors need to be calibrated to deal with diluted smoke, however, at the same time, they need to be able to differentiate between smoke that has been diluted and cigarette smoke.
  • Smoke Stratification
    High ceilings, common in prison facilities, can cause smoke stratification. The higher smoke rises, the more buoyancy it loses causing its upwards movement to stop. Therefore if detectors are placed too high smoke may not reach them before irreparable damage has been caused.

What is the solution?

The ideal solution for protecting a prison facility from fire is the use of an aspirating smoke detection (ASD) system combined with video smoke detection (VSD).

Aspirating smoke detectors can be installed in secure, behind-the-scenes locations well out of the reach of prison inmates where they can be easily accessed for maintenance.

An aspirating smoke detector such as the EF-ASD1 can monitor one cell or area at a time. An unobtrusive, vandal resistant, stainless steel sampling point can be used in the area to be protected where obvious and obtrusive traditional point detectors would be an open invitation to vandals.

A powerful fan combined with sophisticated air-flow monitoring actively draws air from the protected area, helping to overcome the issue of smoke stratification. The EF-ASD1 combines standard field-serviceable smoke detectors with a stand alone air-sampling solution and can be configured to accommodate for smoke dilution and cigarette smoke.

Combining ASD with a video smoke detection system can help reduce false alarms greatly by providing the ability to visually verify any alarm. Smoke can be detected from anywhere within a camera's field of vision, allowing the prison guard or responsible person at a monitoring station to evaluate the risk (eliminating cigarettes or a false alarm) before initiating evacuation procedures.

Furthermore, using a standalone video smoke detection system such as Eurofyre’s VideoFyre, enables VSD to be integrated with existing analogue CCTV cameras, making it a highly cost effective solution.


Eurofyre supply a wide range of aspirating smoke detection systems and video smoke detection systems to cater for a multitude of applications. For more information please feel free to get in touch either by telephone on +44 (0)1329 835024, email to sales@eurofyre.co.uk, or via the contact form on our contact page.

Mark Redfearn

Posted by Mark Redfearn

Mark is the technical services manager at Eurofyre.

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