Protecting Critical Infrastructure From Fire Peril
After years of struggling with its outdated fire alarm system, a 450,000-square-foot facility containing critical infrastructure and telecom equipment required an upgrade. A local integrator helped deploy an advanced, five-node fire protection system with expandable, cost-effective networking capabilities.
To protect the critical infrastructure of telecom equipment and data centers inside a 450,000-square-foot Oakton, Va.-based facility, electrical company Haislip Corp. provided a Silent Knight fire alarm system. The solution included gas detectors, five fire alarm control panels and 40 remote modules to support fast data communications along the network’s extensive serial communications line, or S-Bus.
Designing An Effective System
Haislip designed the facility’s new system around the Farenhyt IFP-2000VIP addressable fire alarm control panel with integrated voice evacuation functionality with the goal of satisfying anything the owner might want in the future. The IFP-2000VIP is scalable and capable of networking in a variety of ways, according to Haislip.
“The system would give them enough room to grow so it wouldn’t give them any problems,” he says.
The Oakton facility is a large, flat structure comprised of four buildings joined with an atrium in the center. Located throughout the facility are more atriums, making the intelligence of emergency communications a challenge. As a result, Haislip designed and installed a five-node fire alarm system with 859 initiating and 841 notification devices.
Starting from the main panel, the network was able to reach out to four other fire alarm control panels in major areas of the complex. Forty remote modules were deployed to support fast data communications along the network’s extensive serial communications line, or S-Bus. The S-Bus allowed Haislip’s 10-man crew to remotely mount the panel, which reduced voltage on the lines.
Haislip also incorporated Silent Knight’s VIP-125 amplifier, designed to simplify fire alarm voice evacuation system layout, to further mitigate the enormous scale of the project. The VIP-125 contains its own power supply with battery backup and up to eight speaker circuits. Additionally, the 125 watts of amplification power produced by the amplifier can push audible communications through speakers to achieve mid- to large-scale fire alarm voice evacuation.
Another benefit is that the amplifier can be mounted up to 6,000 feet away from the main control panel, which helped reduce speaker circuit wire runs.
“The amplifiers were the big cost saving advantage over the competition,” Haislip explains. “We set remote amplifiers as needed throughout the complex and they ran off its independent V-Bus. Instead of bringing all the speaker leads back to a central location, using distributed amplification allowed us to send to remote amplifiers. A 1,500-foot run is now only 300 feet, so it saved a boatload in cabling. That’s where we saved the money, and it was all done to their modern V-Bus and S-Bus.”
Three preaction suppression systems protect several data center laboratories and one large vault of t
elephone and data communications equipment within the facility. To coordinate the monitoring and response of all systems, the installation team tied the three individual systems to the Silent Knight network. Additionally, the crew connected two Honeywell infrared (IR) flame detectors, which monitor the building’s main generator and fuel tank, to the fire alarm network.
Tackling Synchronization Concerns
Of course, a job that took a year to complete was not without its obstacles and glitches. During the renovation, the facility remained open for business. As a result, the installers had to work around employees’ schedules and during the off hours. Additionally, the fire marshal required that the old fire alarm system remained operational until he gave his approval for the new one to go live.
“There came a point where we had to pull off the original equipment, such as the tampers, flows and duct detection. That was all carefully coordinated with the fire marshal,” says Haislip. “About two-thirds of the way through the project, we were able to shut off the old system and everything was transferred to the new system.”
As with many large-scale projects, specifications changed after the installation got underway. A number of test labs in the building required under-floor protection, necessitating remote annunciators. That specification was added well into the installation, but it was easy to add the extra equipment into the system. “It’s an affordable expansion — you only buy what you need,” says Haislip. “It was not expensive.”
Additionally, standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) typically require all strobes to be seen within an area to be synchronized. However, the local fire marshal required all strobes on all levels of all buildings to be synchronized.
With 1,500 strobes, that was quite the hurdle to overcome. Originally, the Haislip crew had the strobes synchronized by floor; however, from the outside of the building, it appeared as if fireworks were going off in the facility.
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