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For larger buildings, a smart fire alert system that can track fires room to room and feed this information to responding emergency personnel is smart. For a store with only a few rooms, you can feel safer in sticking with a more basic alert system that ensure personnel are safe and evacuated. Yet what type of fire alarm sounds are best? How are they used differently?

Bells – Ringing bells are the most common type of fire alarm sound. These are commonly used in schools, although schools have often updated to more recent horns or sirens. To distinguish bells that are also used to signal the start and end of school, as well as sometimes class changes, a bell in a school setting is usually accompanied by warning lights or announcements.

Horns – The advantage of a horn sound is that this sound is unlike any other. It clearly marks a unique alert having to do with an emergency. Bells can be programmed to sound different beats for different emergencies, but people’s ears have a hard time differentiating differences in bell length. Horns are more staccato sounds, and so different rhythms of alert can be used to signal fire vs. tornado. A staff trained in what each means will know whether to evacuate the building or hide in the basement by the type of alert being given. The sound isn’t actually produced through horns; it’s just a description.

Sirens – These are more for outdoor use or wide-open sites. Sirens are deafening inside, but outside they can warn a large area with immediacy. This is useful when a large area needs to be evacuated quickly.

Public Address System – A public address system can use different pre-recorded alerts depending on the emergency at hand. These are used well in conjunction with another alarm sound, such as a horn system. The horn can capture attention quickly, while the public-address voice can provide more detailed information.

You may also want to complement a fire alert system with visual warning systems such as flashing lights, emergency lights, or strobe lights.