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After years of struggling with its outdated fire alarm system, a 450,000-square-foot facility containing critical infrastructure and telecom equipment required an upgrade.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.

The building management team of a 450,000-square-foot Oakton, Va.-based facility housing a critical infrastructure of telecom equipment and data centers was confident that the fire alarm system they had installed in 1994 would provide the needed alerts to protect 2,500 employees in the event of an incident. And for nearly two decades, it had. However, time marches on for everyone … and every fire/life-safety system.

As the system neared the end of its lifecycle, building managers for the facility ran into a problem. Many companies in the fire industry had undergone mergers and acquisitions, which resulted in one company owning the fire protection hardware and another company controlling the software of the facility’s fire protection solution. When the system needed repair, neither company provided the necessary assistance to address the solution’s shortcomings.

“There were issues with parts availability and with service,” says Laura Graham, who formerly handled facilities management at the data center. “The manufacturers didn’t have anyone left on staff that had the skills or knowledge required to work on the system.”

Additionally, the system went off on a daily basis, and the fire marshal was strongly considering fining the building managers for the constant false alarms. Frustrated, facility owners realized it was time for a change. During that time, they also decided to renovate three wings in the building, which prompted building managers to seek a new fire alarm system.

“From a property management standpoint, we just wanted a system that was fully operational where if there was a problem, it could be easily and cost-effectively addressed,” Graham explains.

With that, building managers of the global telecommunications firm’s Oakton site sought the help of Chantilly, Va.-based Haislip Corp., an electrical contractor and fire alarm dealer, to provide an addressable fire alarm solution with integrated voice evacuation with the ability to add mass notification functions.

Technology, Cost Savings Win Bid

Started by Pliny Haislip Jr., Haislip Corp. is a fully licensed, bonded and insured commercial electrical company that has provided high-end electrical and fire alarm services to customers in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. since 1969. In 1995, Pliny’s son, James, a NICET Level III-certified technician, took over the company. Haislip’s 30 employees design, test, inspect, retrofit and install fire alarm systems for some 200 clients, including Dulles Int’l Airport, Fannie Mae, Hilton Hotels, Holiday Inn and Sheraton Hotels & Resorts.

Regarding the data center project, Haislip Corp. was very familiar with the facility as the company performed the installation of its first fire alarm system. “When we got the job in 1994, it was through a cold call from the facility managers asking us to give them a bid,” says Haislip. “They already had the equipment, and they just needed someone to install it. We met their requirement to work in the facility, and we actually won the project.”

After installing the fire alarm system, the building owners also asked Haislip to provide intrusion alarm and public address systems. “After we installed the fire alarm system, we never left the building. All of a sudden, we were doing service calls for them. Then they had us put in a building automation system and it just kept on going,” he says.

Although Haislip Corp. had previously performed installations at the facility, there was no guarantee it would be the provider of choice for the new system. Facility management required the new fire alarm solution have extreme reliability to address the mission-critical aspect of the facility’s operations, as well as ease of use and maintenance. Additionally, building owners needed the system to easily expand to adjust to any changes to the facility’s operational platforms with an option to add mass notification capabilities in the future.

In preparing its bid, Haislip considered solutions from four vendors: Notifier by Honeywell, Siemens, Silent Knight by Honeywell and SimplexGrinnell. Realizing that one of the end user’s main concerns was controlling the software, Haislip Corp. selected Silent Knight’s Farenhyt system to help the company earn the bid to retrofit the facility.

“The beauty of Silent Knight is that we would now control the software,” Haislip says. “We brought it all in-house. Additionally, the Farenhyt line’s networking technology allowed us to win the project because it helped reduce our installation costs by $100,000.”

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