bells vs. horns

Is it true the fire alarm systems originally would use bells for notification appliances and then later largely switched to horns?

I’m sure someone could give you a better answer than me, but from what I’ve gathered, it seems that bells and (mostly mechanical) horns were both in use quite commonly between the 50’s and 80’s. It’s only in the 90’s that horns (now mostly electronic) really became dominant, perhaps it’s due to the electronic horns being cheaper. Bells still seem to be more prominent in Canada though, as well as in a few specific U.S. areas such as Washington D.C.

Most of the places around here seem to have horns rather then bells.

I rarely see bells. Bells may have been used in the 50’s and earlier. From 60’s through 90’s its been all electromechanical horns.

Yeah that’s the case around here. I only see bells outside for sprinkler activation.

I live in Southern Ontario, Canada, one of the most populated parts of the country, and I grew up seeing a lot of bells in fire alarm systems. That’s due to the fact that Edwards is also a leading fire alarm company here. In my city alone, every school and building had an Edwards system (mainly the 6500 series) with either Edwards 6" or 10" adaptabels. Rarely did I see other fire alarm companies, except the occasional Simplex system. However, in recent years, it’s getting hard to find these systems. The public schools stayed with Edwards and got their systems changed to EST panels, with EST genesis for the NAs. The schools in the catholic board, most of the elementary ones, got switched to Mircom FX-2000 panels with the Mircom horn/strobes. Most of the high schools all have their original installed systems. Most were built in the late 80s-90s. Only one has had its system upgraded, and it was only because they had gotten a huge expansion of the school. The other school is my school, and although being built in 1963, still has its original system, which is going on its 50th year now.

But anyways, the way I see it, most places in Canada, when they do get their system renovated, they only replace the panel and the NAs. New buildings always get horns, horn/strobes, or a EVAC system. Replacement systems in older buildings get all types of partial renovations. My elementary school got the NAs and the panel replaced. The pulls and all the detectors were original, except the ones that stopped working. My mom’s work had an Edwards 6500 & 6700 panel with single stroke bells with speakers. They got a new panel 2 years ago. Everything else, the NAs, pull stations, detectors, all stayed the same. The apartment my grandpa lives in, they only had their NAs replaced. The panel (6500), the pulls and everything else was left intact. I have yet to see a system in my city that gets a full renovation. I can probably see why buildings do these partial installations, to most likely save money.

There are several buildings around here that use bells, although as they’re being upgraded, they’re being replaced with horns. A very recent exception is the library here in town. The building was built in 1996 & opened early in 1997. It is currently undergoing a renovation & expansion project that will almost double its size. These were the alarms installed in the original portion (note: there used to be bookshelves in that area, and apaprently the installers found it necessary to install a strobe between each shelf). Here’s a pic of an alarm in the newly added portion of the building, and as you can see, the bells live on!

Its nice to see that bells do live on in some buildings.