Notification Methods You Need to Know

Mass notification and emergency communications systems have received a lot of attention in recent years and represent a growing market for installing life-safety system contractors. Picking up where the previous column left off, find out where and how code plays a part, as well as the many different types of systems and applications.

Distributed Recipient Mass Notification Systems (DRMNS) — These are enterprise-class systems that may receive their trigger from an offsite location. They include the message system you might find on a local highway for road conditions. Messages on these systems may include:

  • Presidential alerts
  • Homeland security levels
  • Terrorism threats
  • Evacuation routes
  • Amber alerts

These may also be reverse-911 systems where a local jurisdiction would notify local businesses and residents about emergency information such as chemical spills, tornado warnings and so forth. These systems are found in Section 24.4.4.

Within the two-way classification, the following types are found:

Two-Way, in-Building Wired Emergency Communications Systems — These are the traditional firefighter phone systems found in high-rise and other large buildings. They are described in Section 24.5.1.

Two-Way Radio Communications Enhancement Systems — Within new high-rise structures, and when required for existing buildings by ordinance, these systems are being used by fire departments so they are no longer restricted to the location of the phone jack to speak to the fire control room. These systems “enhance” the radio signal used by the fire ground radios used within a building. A number of departments have found their radios do not work inside a building without boosting the radio signals within the premise. NFPA 1, Fire Code now requires these systems be installed if the fire department’s radios are found not to be able to function within a building. These systems are described within Section 24.5.2.

Area of Refuge (Area of Rescue Assistance) Emergency Communications Systems — Relatively new to the model codes, this is an area that a person(s) with mobility or other impairments can gather within a building or floor of a building until emergency responders can reach them. This system allows for communications between the fire command room and the area of refuge. These systems are typically hands-free, and are described in Section 24.5.3.

Elevator Emergency Communications Systems — These are similar to a 24.5.3 system, but for the inside of an elevator cab. They are installed in accordance with ANSI/ASME A17.1a, Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators. They are described in Section 24.5.4.

Be Prepared as Market Grows

While the “classic” MNS systems are still being installed primarily on military bases, the many types discussed in this
article are found throughout the built environment, and in everyday life. These systems will, in time, have more widespread use throughout the civilian population.

Systems integrators should become familiar with them now, prior to the first request for a bid. See the box on this page for a list of current and possible future venues these systems may be required or requested to be installed.

Shane Clary, Ph.D., has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is Vice President of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pacheco, Calif.-headquartered Bay Alarm Co.


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