Vintage Chinese educational video about Halon 1211 suppression agent

Published in 1973 in form of 16mm cinema film.


I’ve always wondered what’s different with China’s fire protection compared to other continents/countries.

On the first look, Chinese FA systems resemble European ones. We use manual call points which need to be pressed instead of pulled to raise an alarm, and we use “the green running man” style of exit signs.
However, Chinese systems do have quite a number of distinctive characteristics as listed below:

  1. FACP’s are installed in dedicated fire safety control rooms and ought to be monitored 7x24 with certified personnel. In China, you cannot just randomly install a panel inside a boiler room or an electrical room and leave it unsupervised like what’s commonly done in North America.

  2. Most Chinese fire alarm systems are two-stage systems. Triggering one detector or pushing one MCP kicks the panel into pre-alarm state, in which only the panel buzzer and “Fire” indicator are activated but all notification appliances stay silent. This will alert the fire safety monitoring attendant to investigate the cause of alarm. If there’s a real fire outbreak, the ACK button is pressed to turn the system into fire alarm state, activating all the horn strobes, voice evac system and other accessories according to the pre-programmed sequence stored inside the panel’s memory. Another initiating device input during the pre-alarm state has the same influence as the ACK button. If there’s a false alarm, the attendant will take it into the checking log and reset the panel - Resetting panels during a false alarm is not illegal in China. The two-stage design helps a lot to balance the need of immediate response during a real emergency and prevention of losses and nuisance due to false alarms.

  3. Chinese fire alarm systems are usually hooked up with lots of accessories which will help reducing fire damage and ensuring safety during evacuation. As soon as the panel enters the
    alarm state, the following actions will be performed automatically:

  • All fireproof escaping doors will be unlocked, and the normally-opened ones will shut automatically;

  • Fireproof shutters will drop to about 1.8m above the ground - this blocks the smoke without interfering with evacutaion. They’ll continue to drop to the lower end if the heat detector near the shutters pops.

  • Main breakers of utility power will trip off, but emergency power leading to FA systems, pumps, emergency lighting etc. are uneffected;

  • Elevators will perform an emergency return, running back to ground floor and stop service;

  • Smoke vents will activate automatically, so do the fans for smoke extraction and staircase pressurization (this prevents smoke from entering the emergency staircase and facilitates evacuation)

  • Fire pumps are armed and they’ll start up immediately if the pipe pressure drops or if the one of the “Pump activate” call points inside hydrant boxes are pushed.

  1. There are barely any conventional systems installed in China. Even the smallest scale systems e.g. the ones inside grocery stores are addressable.

  2. Chinese FACP’s have no city circuits. The fire safety attendant need to call 119 (the fire alarm phone number) manually after confirming the fire outbreak.

  3. When it comes to initiating devices, most Chinese manual call points are resettable - You need a special plastic key to reset it, and each brand of alarms has its own key design. Break-glass call points do exist, but they’re becoming rare day by day.

  4. As for notification appliances, Chinese horn strobes usually plays a siren tone, the similar tone you’d hear on a typical fire truck. However, battery-powered smoke alarms use Code-3! Remote strobes and bells are quite rare - they do exist in some old facilities. Voice evac speakers are always separated. There are neither speaker strobes nor any sort of chimes in China at all.

  5. When it comes to gas suppression systems, FM200 is the most popular type in China. You can see FM200 systems in subway stations, archive rooms, electrical rooms and museums. Pre-engineered “All-in-a-box” systems are sometimes used in small protected areas. CO2 and IG541 are quite rare and could only be seen in data centers and industrial facilities. Talking about the operation of Chinese suppression systems, the logic of abort button is kinda different from American ones - You only need to press the abort switch once to pause the discharge timer forever. After everyone’s evacuated from the protected area, you need to push the manual release to resume the countdown and release the gas. Pneumatic delay unit, pneumatic whistle and wintergreen odorizers are extremely rare in Chinese fire suppression systems. All the delay and alarms are electronic.

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