Casinos Can’t Afford to Gamble Life Safety

Mull over the safeguarding of a casino and instantaneously video surveillance comes to mind. But how about considering the fire/life-safety perspective? A Reno, Nev., facility serves as an example of what it takes to provide casinos with solutions that satisfy both codes and the unique demands of these customers.

The first function that needed to be certified and completed was the elevator system. In order to start using the elevators and receive proper certification, the fire alarm system had to be up and running for that section. This meant the electrical raceway system needed to be coordinated with the fire system wiring in place and programming completed in order to test it. This also included integrating recall, shunt trip and red hat functions.


The sprinkler system was next in line to be up and running long before the rest of the building was fully occupied. A complete raceway up to the risers was needed before the sprinkler system was partially operational in order to turn the water on to the systems. They also need to be integrated and monitored by the fire alarm system.

In the meantime, the tower’s system was being interfaced and tested with the HVAC air handlers, making sure the smoke control systems and HVAC shutdowns were integrated properly. Duct smoke detectors were mounted on the HVAC mechanical units to monitor the airflow in the duct work so that in the event of a smoke alarm, the HVAC units would shut down.


Little Downtime for New FACP


The installation called for replacing the casino’s existing NOTIFIER AFP-2020 fire alarm control panel (FACP) with the manufacturer’s new ONYX Series NFS2-3030 panel. The system replacement would now call for the new annunciator to function for all existing as well as all new areas.

“This was happening during the same time as the new tower construction and certainly added to the complexity of the whole project,” says Arlo Hanski, vice president of corporate engineering, Tri-Signal.

During the transition there was a short period of time that part of the building was on fire watch, while the new casino panel was brought on line.

The detailed task of having to move a complete command center posed its own set of challenges. “They had an existing fire command and they were moving that command over to the area of the new construction,” Hoff explains. “We removed the existing 2020 panel from where it was to the new NFS2 3030 located about 100 yards away. We had the new panel preprogrammed and all the underground fiber connections verified to minimize the downtime.”

Because the casino remained in operation, testing the transfer of the system presented another challenge. Testing was simplified, however, through the use of the smart panels, which essentially searched for installed devices. “If there were missing devices that didn’t come up on the display, we were able to rectify those right away,” Hanski says. “Other instances came in the form of converting initial programming from the existing panel and translating to something the new panel can recognize.”

Complexities arose during construction in other areas of the casino as well. For example, when a section of the casino was being demolished for remodeling, it took out a major artery of the existing life-safety system.

“It wasn’t just a matter of splicing the damaged wires; each wire had to be identified at each end and alternate cable routing found,” Hoff says.

Code interpretation was needed when repairing the demolished section. Once the code was interpreted by the designers, it would still need city approval. Occasionally the city provided a life-safety plan, but without specifics of how to incorporate the plan into the life-safety design.

“From there, a preliminary design was created and submitted to the city for review, and then we went back and drew it up officially and submitted it to the city,” adds Hanski. “There still could be changes that would need to be done prior to acceptance of the drawings.”

Fire/life-safety integration fundamentals at all levels were key to this seamless transition. “We were able to leverage the power of integration to minimize risk,” Hoff says, “by bringing together information from different subsystems for more unified and efficient fire and life-safety system control.”


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