System Upgrade Sets Course for University’s Fire Protection

After a fire marshal placed the sports arena at Northwestern State University of Louisiana under fire watch, administrators took quick action to resolve the issue. A local fire systems provider came up with a temporary fix prior to renovating the facility with an advanced fire alarm and emergency communications system.

At 26,000 square feet, the newly renovated Prather Coliseum at Northwestern State University of Louisiana (NSU) is not only the largest facility in Natchitoches Parish, but one that is now equipped with a fully-supervised fire alarm and emergency communications system.

The university is taking advantage of one of Silent Knight’s newest Farenhyt products, the IFP-1000ECS combination fire alarm and emergency communications panel, in addition to the installation of speaker-strobes, smoke detectors, duct detectors and heat detectors from System Sensor throughout the multipurpose facility.

NSU’s fire/life-safety story began about a year-and-a-half ago when the antiquated 120V legacy fire alarm system protecting the arena, home to the Demon’s basketball and volleyball teams, was found to have irreparable issues that came to light during an annual inspection. The predicament prompted the fire marshal to put the facility, which was originally built in 1964, under a fire watch.

Chuck Bourg, NSU’s director of physical plant and facilities, wasted no time in contacting the university’s fire protection consultant, Shreveport, La.-based Fire Tech Systems, which also handles all of its maintenance and servicing, to come up with a temporary solution. And that was just for starters. “Since we were also in the process of renovating the facility and increasing its seating capacity, we then decided to upgrade the fire protection and voice evacuation system,” he says.

Renovation First Begins With a Short-Term Fix

Implementing an immediate short-term resolution that would result in lifting the potentially costly fire watch also bought the university the necessary time it needed to secure funding for the fire alarm renovation. Fire Tech’s first act was to relocate the main fire alarm control panel, as well as replace the facility’s original six pull stations. As a stop-gap measure, a few horns and strobes were added to the makeshift system.

“This allowed NSU time to find the funding, but also have their fire protection engineer come in and design the new fire alarm system. And once that was designed, it had to be put out on the open market to go out for bid, which we won. So, you are talking about a few months for all that to happen,” explains Ronald Case, senior project manager, Fire Tech Systems.

Fire Tech specializes in the design, installation, inspection and servicing of fire protection systems and is licensed in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. Its primary focus is working in high-rise, retrofit, commercial, industrial and residential structures, with a staff that includes three full-time designers, two estimators, a project manager, and a coordinating field superintendent.

Not only did the IFP-1000ECS system help bring NSU’s fire protection up to code, the coliseum was outfitted with more than 175 notification devices,  including addressable photoelectric smoke detectors, thermal detectors, pull stations, and 85 modules for integration into other building controls, such as HVAC and air handler units. Relays were also incorporated into the addressable duct detectors for HVAC shutdown, and heat detectors were installed outside the shower area to keep the humidity from tripping smoke detectors.Built in 1964, the 26,000-square-foot Prather Coliseum was originally outfitted with six pull stations and two horns. The newly renovated facility now boasts more than 175 addressable notification devices.

“We like the panel’s ease of installation and programming, capability to expand and user-friendliness for the operator,” Case says. “In my opinion, we got in every nook and cranny of that building.”

While filling out the specification written by fire protection consultant, Glen McBride with Lafayette, La.-based Associated Design Group, Fire Tech chose System Sensor products for the speaker/strobes.

“We have a long-running relationship with System Sensor and have never found anything comparable to the sound quality. In addition, they’re economical products and we can pass those savings down to our end user,” notes Case.

Mounting the speaker-strobe peripherals presented the project’s most difficult hurdle; a premium was placed on aesthetics and keeping to the facility’s original design. Using conduit or wire mold was not an option.

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