Amassing Mass Notification Know-How

Understanding the mass notification/emergency communication codes, planning process and available technologies can open a new market of opportunities for dealers. Conducting a thorough risk analysis and making the most of its findings is key.

[IMAGE]12117[/IMAGE]Risk Analysis and Emergency Planning

By Jack Poole

When discussing risk analysis and emergency planning, it is important to define when a mass notification/emergency communication system is required to be installed. Currently, neither the NFPA Life Safety Code nor the International Building Code requires the installation of these systems. Therefore, with the exception of Department of Defense (DoD) facilities, the only time a mass notification/emergency communication system is required to be installed is when it is requested or required by the building owner or the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

Incidentally, Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) UFC 4-021-01, Design and O&M: Mass Notification Systems, does not require the installation of a mass notification system (MNS), but it does provide the design, operation, and maintenance requirements of the MNS for DoD facilities. The standard for determining when a MNS is required for DoD facilities is established by UFC 04-010-01, DoD Minimum Antiterrorism Standards for Buildings.

When an emergency communication system (ECS) is required to be installed in accordance with the 2010 edition of NFPA 72, a risk analysis is required to be performed. The primary intent of the risk analysis is to perform a comprehensive assessment to characterize the likelihood, vulnerability and magnitude of incidents associated with natural, technological and manmade disasters, and other emergencies. It can then be determined how to best communicate the “real-time” emergency notification information so the ECS can be properly designed, installed and tested following a performance-based approach.

It is recommended the following stakeholders be integrated in the risk analysis and decision-making process:

  • Authority Having Jurisdiction
  • Facility owner/user/employees
  • Facility/system maintenance staff
  • Emergency response representatives
  • Insurance company representative
  • Fire protection design professional (FPE)
  • Design and construction team representative

With the risk analysis, the entity should attempt to prevent, mitigate and prepare emergency response and recovery plans for identified threats, hazards or emergencies that could significantly impact people, property, operations, the environment or the facility. As a component of this performance-based evaluation, the risk analysis should establish the specifics of how the ECS/MNS should operate, be designed, installed and tested.

The risk analysis should identify and prioritize the likely scenarios in which the system would be deployed. It should address risk, probability and loss effect, and determine which methods of communication to deploy. It should also identify the appropriate management plans and procedures to implement. The method of determining what system should be installed or the best way to communicate with the building occupants should not be haphazard.

The risk analysis needs to capture the number and characteristics of the people who are expected to receive the emergency message or instructions, and explain the extent of notification throughout the facility or complex. The risk analysis should also determine if and when mass notification messages should override the fire alarm message, as well as provide performance and survivability requirements for the system.

As one might expect, not all mass notification messages should take priority over the fire alarm messages to relocate or evacuate. Message priority for emergency conditions, such as severe weather warnings, gas leaks, chemical spills and other hazardous conditions, should be outlined in the risk analysis.

Ultimately, once the risk analysis has been developed and agreed upon by all stakeholders, the ECS/MNS can be designed, installed and tested.

Jack Poole, PE, is Principal of Olathe, Kan.-based Poole Fire Protection.


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