3 Elements Comprise Solution
Mass notification is defined by UFC 4-021-01 as ” ... the capability to provide real-time information to all building occupants or personnel in the immediate vicinity of a building during emergency situations. To reduce the risk of mass casualties, there must be a timely means to notify building occupants of threats and what should be done in response to those threats. Pre-recorded and live voice emergency messages are required by this UFC to provide this capability.”
In order to make this happen, UFC provides the information that architects, electrical engineers, and other qualified parties need in order to design and install an effective MNS. Not only does this document cover the when and where with regard to DOD usage, but also the manner in which the technology is to be applied. The technological considerations contained therein can be applied to the private sector as well.
Because of the similarities between MNSs and fire alarm systems, UFC classifies them under the same life-safety heading, with the former taking priority over the latter. Both types of systems are based on fault-tolerant technologies, meaning they are designed to work in the most adverse conditions.
A typical mass notification solution is comprised of three basic elements: 1) individual building MNSs; 2) wide-area MNSs; and 3) high power speaker arrays (HPSA).
By utilizing selective paging techniques it’s possible to send a number of distinctly different messages to a number of areas within a facility, all at the same time. These messages can consist of verbal instructions, unique tones and a variety of visual aides designed to convey a message. This helps assure the occupants respond in a specific way in order to maintain safety.
Outside speakers can be placed on buildings in an individual building MNS, but UFC limits the area of coverage to a maximum of 100 feet.
When dealing with a large campus, a wide-area MNS will work the best. However, for large public areas such as football and baseball stadiums, a HPSA provides the best coverage at higher audio output levels. Intelligibility becomes an issue to consider; by degrading the rated area of coverage of each speaker array, large audio outputs can be made more intelligible.
As with all life-safety systems, all aspects relating to notification and initiation must be supervised. This includes adequate standby capacity when the public electric power is lost for extended periods. For example, under UFC HPSA systems must contain a backup power source with a capacity of 72 hours following the commencement of a blackout. For a more comprehensive look at this technology and how to successfully make it part of your company’s product and service offerings, see “Mass Notification Appeal”.
Multicriteria Detection Arrives
The industry has long awaited the arrival of a multiple-criteria fire detection device capable of integrating a number of sensory inputs. System Sensor recently released such a detector that monitors an environment for carbon monoxide (CO), temperature, smoke and open flame.
Traditional spot detection provides separate smoke and heat detection with the addition of a thermal sensor. By adding flame and CO detection to the mix, and by introducing intelligence into the detector, we can now make a more educated decision as to when to evacuate buildings and summon the fire department.
For example, when there’s smoke and CO in the same room, it’s likely there’s a fire. This is because an open flame usually raises the CO level in its vicinity. At the same time, today’s thermal detectors are capable of detecting the slightest increase in ambient temperature in a room.
By placing all of this information into a central microprocessor, it’s possible to avert false alarms while assuring early warning detection when it’s appropriate. This was not always possible in the past.
Sprinklers Offer Additional RMR
One of the most overlooked areas in life safety for the fire alarm technician is sprinkler system monitoring. With the recent increase in emphasis by NFPA and other organizations come more opportunities for alarm companies to increase their recurring revenue income.
Sprinkler systems come in all shapes and sizes — from residential applications to gigantic high-rise facilities — and are high on the to-do list among fire and facility authorities. Almost every new building that meets International Code Council (ICC) criteria is fitted with a compliant sprinkler system. There are several types of sprinkler systems with which fire alarm technicians must contend. The most common are the wet, dry and deluge systems.
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