Achieving Critical Mass Notification
High profile incidents are fueling greater demand than ever before for mass notification systems (MNS). Find out how new technologies, standards, designs, installation techniques and practices are helping fire/life-safety solution providers grow their MNS business and help clients better deal with emergencies.
Knowledge is critical in effectively responding to today’s diverse and complex emergency situations. The more knowledge one has about a situation, the better he or she can manage the crisis. Situational awareness is the state of knowledge of the event, what is happening around that event, and the anticipated risks. Decisions made from this knowledge define the present and future state of the emergency. Greatly improving situational awareness enables building owners and security executives to make more informed decisions when time is of the essence.
Through advanced IP-based technology, system designers and dealers can integrate disparate security systems such as fire alarm control panels, video monitoring and sensor detection with emergency communications systems for complete, accurate and up-to-the minute situational awareness. Advanced protocol interfaces (APIs) with vendors can provide full-featured bidirectional interoperability, for example, audible and visual emergency messages can be activated via either system.
In addition, multiple sites and facilities located anywhere in the world can be tied together through a Web-client server solution for managing global notification and system monitoring. It allows multiple points of command and control in order for administrators to have situational awareness of what’s going on in the system no matter where they are located.
Through a secure, real-time information sharing framework, a facility can communicate with other facilities as well as fire, police and health departments for a better understanding of the emergency situation. External data sources like the National Weather Service and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can also be integrated with MNS so alerts can be automatically sent when a threat is detected. This allows facilities to get the essential information out quickly and then follow up with additional information as needed.
Ensuring Intelligibility Is Critical
The final design trend comes from emergency codes and a heightened demand for MNS to provide clear, concise and intelligible voice messages that c
ommunicate how people should respond in an emergency. In order to properly plan, design and measure intelligibility, it is important to understand which spaces need intelligibility and the factors that affect it.
NFPA 72 2010 defines intelligible as “capable of being understood; comprehensible; clear.” Intelligibility is the degree to which people understand what is being said. Basically, if a voice message cannot be understood by building occupants, then the MNS has failed and may have caused more harm than good. The requirement for intelligibility was moved into the newly added Chapter 24, Emergency Communication Systems (ECS).
In the latest edition, NFPA 72 2013, changes were made to improve the basic understanding of sound and communication principals since there has been some confusion among system designers regarding intelligibility requirements. Previously, codes specified that where intelligibility was required, it must be verified via test methods identified in ANSI S3.2, IEC 60849 or other methods acceptable to the AHJ. In 2013, Chapter 14 clarified intelligibility testing requirements. The new codes state that voice communications must be verified as being distinguishable and understandable. A simple listen test, a qualitative assessment, is permitted by code. If users can understand the message being delivered, it would meet the intelligibility requirements. Quantitative testing measurements for intelligibility are not required by code.
New to the NFPA 72 2010 edition and an important term to understand when designing for intelligibility, is Acoustically Distinguishable Space (ADS). Defined by NFPA, an ADS is an ECS zone, subdivision, physically defined space or section of a room that might be distinguished from other spaces because of different acoustical, environmental or use characteristics such as ambient sound pressure level. All parts of a building intended to have occupant notification are subdivided in ADS. As determined by the system designer during the planning and design phase of the ECS, each ADS must be identified as either requiring intelligibility or not requiring intelligibility. Updates for 2013 include new sections that require system designers to not only identify but document which locations will have audible notification and which spaces will not.
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