Mass Notification: A-Z

Recent public tragedies have often led to the lament, ‘If only there had been some way to warn people.’ New alerting technologies and systems are answering that need in a major way. Find out what you must know to tap into this growing market.

There’s a crisis at our facility! What immediate actions do we take? How do we get emergency information out to our people quickly and effectively? How do we contact first responders? How do we go about notifying the public?”

Your answer to these end-user questions, and more, is a comprehensive mass notification/emergency communication (MNEC) system. These systems are proving to be the biggest catalyst for change in the life-safety market in quite some time.

MNEC projects require systems integrators to enhance their skill sets in negotiations, design, project management, deployment and testing. By their nature, MNEC systems require integrators to be a “cut above” their competition. By the same token, MNEC integrators bring more value to their clients.

4 Vertical Markets to Target

The four main vertical markets for MNEC are (in order of market activity):

  • Higher education
  • Military/Government
  • Large commercial
  • Industrial

The impact of MNEC has prompted the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to change the title of the “National Fire Alarm Code” to the “National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code” (NFPA 72-2010). In addition, UL has formed a Standards Technical Panel to develop a product standard for these systems. UL Standard 2572, “Control and Communication Units for Mass Notification Systems,” is in draft stage, but at least one manufacturer has already been listed to this “desk” standard.

For years, the term “integrated systems” has been discussed, but has never really been applied in the life-safety systems (LSS) market. That is changing. Facility systems will now have to work together to bring more comprehensive protection to the sites they cover. This change in focus and scope is opening up the field to fire and security integrators for great sales opportunities. At the same time, it poses a number of challenges. These challenges can include:

  • Maintaining listings and agency approvals on the overall system
  • Determining what codes and standards apply
  • Determining what has to be covered in design
  • Making the system inter-operational
  • Determining who will operate the system, and from where
  • Determining how signals will be prioritized
  • Ensuring the installation and its operation undergo the required inspections and obtain the approvals required by authorities

Most MNEC systems today are being combined with LSS. This is normally done because:

  • LSS are supervised for faults, including wiring/communication pathways
  • LSS has been tested/approved by a National Recognized Testing Lab (NRTL) such as UL or ETL
  • These systems have supervised secondary power sources
  • Installation and testing protocols are already established
  • In most cases, facilities must have an LSS to operate
  • Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) require these platforms

Most MNEC systems are enterprise-class and operate from a central command station (CCS) to many contiguous and noncontiguous facilities. Systems at the protected facilities are referred to as autonomous control units (ACU) and are usually combined with the facility LSS.

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