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04/12/2017 / Graham Lowe

Add a laptop to your tool box!

Engineer with laptop purchased.jpg

Fire technology has developed significantly in recent years; gone are the days when a fire engineer could just bring a screwdriver and a pair of cutters to site, today an engineer won’t get very far without a laptop.

When a fire engineer is called to site, one of the first things he will do is check the event log on the fire panel, but he is going to need a laptop to download it. Even something as simple as adding a text description to a zone requires a laptop. When you begin to look at the more innovative fire panels featuring powerful configuration templates, substantial cause and effect capabilities and extensive networking capabilities; none of these features can be accessed or configured without a laptop.

Further examples requiring a laptop include;

  • Checking the airflow on an aspirating system
  • Checking the signal strength on a wireless system
  • Backing up configurations
  • Updating panel firmware
  • Configuring a beam detector

A fire engineer simply can’t do his job any more without a laptop.

We aren’t talking about an all singing all dancing computer with a high memory capacity; a simple laptop or netbook will do – so long as the battery is adequate.

This then becomes the next problem.

All too often an engineer will be sent out onsite with an office cast off and the battery will die. The engineer is then back to square one, struggling to find a power source.

Assuming the engineer manages to find a power source, the next problem is administrator rights.

We all understand why ‘administrator rights’ are set up – to protect our computer and the information held on it. However, this can be a real pain when an engineer is onsite and he can’t install the software he requires to access a fire system. This needs to be considered before the engineer leaves the office.

But what if the engineer doesn’t need to leave the office?

What if an engineer can access the panel remotely, check the event history, and identify the problem – all from his desk.

This is becoming the new reality.

Hochiki customers using the FIREscape Emergency Lighting System, will already be familiar with remote access to; event history, luminaire testing, measuring voltage, reading reports and much more. And, in the not too distant future, Hochiki will be offering similar remote access to the brand-new L@titude fire panel. The panel will not only be able to send service notifications to the engineer, but it will also allow them to make a remote diagnosis and isolate/ de-isolate devices if need be.

Of course, this doesn’t remove the need for site visits, but what it does ensure, is that an engineer can understand the issue and determine whether a site visit is necessary, and if it is, he can take the correct parts to site.

This is an exciting time for the fire industry, but it is going to mean that engineers need to be better equipped and up-to-date with their training.

For more information about L@titude, visit

For more information about FIREscape, visit

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