Fire Alarm System Helps School District Pass Annual Inspections

SPOKANE, Wash — When Spokane Public Schools (SPS) embarked on a district-wide renovation of its schools and facilities, a locally-based systems integrator was called on to provide upgrades to the fire/life-safety systems.

Camtek Inc. elected to install the Silent Knight 5820XL addressable fire alarm control panel (FACP) at the district’s facilities building and six elementary schools. The company also installed remote annunciators and remote expansion modules for NAC circuits and existing conventional devices. Beam smoke detectors were added to gyms, hallways and entrances, as well as smoke detectors to custodial closets.

“We used the combination analog addressable system for its flexibility,” Camtek Operations Manager Don Johnson tells SSI. “We were able to utilize expansion modules for the conventional devices. Since we also had the goal of meeting the city’s requirement of recording annual testing, we found we could get reports out of it. My technicians are able to operate it, and it’s easy to teach new people to use the software.”

Prior to the installation, each school had a fire alarm system from a different vendor, which oftentimes made the district’s fire/life-safety needs difficult to manage, SPS Electrical Foreman Brad Wolfrum tells SSI. Among other newfound efficiencies, the upgraded FACP solution has helped district officials cut back on man-hours when conducting the required sensitivity tests on smoke detector heads.

“We’re required to do a report to prove the smoke detectors sensitivity reading is accurate,” Wolfrum says. “The equipment is very expensive to buy, and then you have to test every head, and with a two-person team doing that, it’s about 80 hours a week. Now we can walk up to the Silent Knight panel and it will print out a report on any device and we’re done. We only have to clean the heads that are required, which saves a lot of man-hours.”

[IMAGE]406[/IMAGE]Camtek also integrated the fire alarm systems with the Galaxy Control Systems access control solution, which the integrator installed in 2005.  The integrated security system currently serves 50 buildings with roughly 100 security points and 220 access control doors to provide perimeter and interior protection. The solution also records more than 716 IP power over Ethernet (PoE) cameras, and it continues to grow. The integrated solution allows Wolfrum to monitor all systems in his office. 

Johnson notes that one of the most difficult parts of the job was making sure the fire alarm system had minimal downtime. “Most of the project was done after hours. The district allowed a 24-hour downtime, but we’ve always had zero downtime when transitioning from one system to the other. During this job, we were able to achieve this by utilizing existing wiring.”

Installing security solutions for school districts is nothing new for Camtek, as its specialty is providing integrated access control solutions in K-12 schools. Roughly, 60 percent of its business derives from integrated access control systems, while the remaining 40 percent varies between fire/life-safety, video surveillance and intrusion detection. The company also uses AvantGuard Monitoring Centers to monitor its accounts.

With the July 1 completion deadline approaching, Johnson notes that the fire alarm project was successful because of good coordination between Camtek and the district’s electrical team.  “Our project manager was available any time to answer any question. We also worked well with the electrical contractor to make sure wire and conduits were in place at the appropriate locations,” he says. “The process went smoothly due to great communications.”


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