Why do we need a Backup for Audio Amplifiers?

National fire codes require voice evacuation systems in places of assembly with over 300-person occupancy, in theaters with more than one screen, and in buildings where an occupied floor is higher than 75 feet above the exit level. Government applications typically have more stringent requirements and voice evacuation (as part of an ECS/MNS) is more of the norm.

Some installations such as government buildings, military bases or college campuses, survivability can be a key requirement when installing an Emergency Communication System (ECS). Some specifications mandate that if a primary amplifier fails, a back-up amplifier is required to take over so that critical life safety messages can be delivered to building occupants during an emergency.
Providing backup capability for all speaker circuits will allow the Voice/Mass Notification panel to be used in more ECS jobs and provide better survivability and peace of mind to End-users and Building owners while meeting more Local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) requirements.

Fire-Lite Alarms meets these requirements with the award winning ECS solution – Emergency Command Center (ECC). To learn more about the ECC and the backup capability of the Distributed Audio Amplifiers products, you can visit our website at www.firelite.com.

 

About the Author
Bill Brosig is a Channel Product Manager for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power with more than 25 years in the Life Safety business and a NICET IV certification. Bill focuses on the customer experience surrounding current offerings and new product applications.


The Psychology Behind Deferred Maintenance & Repair of Fire Alarm & Suppression Systems

Throughout my career, I’ve seen many instances when otherwise properly-installed and once-functioning fire alarm or fire suppression systems were inoperable because of the failure to maintain or repair them. Each time I observed an inoperable or malfunctioning fire alarm or fire suppression system, the same question came to mind, “How did the system get from where it was to where it is now?”

Often, deferrals were due to concerns about the costs of periodic inspections and tests or fear that repairs would be costly. What owners or managers failed to realize was skipping the required inspections and testing or failing to make repairs simply increased the probability that maintenance and repair costs would eventually be much higher if problems went undetected and uncorrected for any length of time.

The axiom “It’s easier and less expensive to fix little problems than large ones” is as true with fire alarm and fire suppression systems as it is with other things. The essential question then becomes, “How do we overcome the deferred maintenance issue?”

In order to keep fire alarm and fire suppression systems properly maintained and in a constant state of readiness, facility managers must be committed to ensuring the systems are always ready to accomplish their intended purposes. The commitment needs to be preceded by motivation, hence the reference to the psychology behind deferred maintenance of these important systems.

What people may not realize is the lack of fire alarm or fire suppression system maintenance or repairs can, in most instances, be alleviated by the actions of others whose efforts are geared toward motivating facility managers. Who are these “others” who can do the necessary motivating?

These “others” are:
• the local fire inspection authority (fire department, building inspector, other entity, etc.);
• the facility’s property insurance company;
• the fire protection contractor(s) who initially installed the system(s).

This is where “psychology” comes into play. It’s necessary to have a multi-tiered approach to ensuring fire alarm and fire suppression system maintenance and repairs aren’t deferred. Long-term or short-term, no one benefits from the deferral of system maintenance or repairs.

Five important steps can help keep fire alarm and fire suppression systems in proper working condition.

1. The local fire inspection authority needs to inspect these systems periodically (at least annually), verify their status and determine if further work is needed to ensure the system is operable.
a. Periodic inspections by the fire inspection authority serve to remind facility managers that the system needs to be functioning and ready for inspection.
b. The fire inspection authority must be committed to working with facility managers and their designees to ensure fire detection and suppression systems are always operable.
c. The fire inspection authority must take steps necessary to gain corrections of violations of applicable codes and ordinances. The objective is compliance and maintaining systems in proper working condition.

2. The local fire inspection authority needs to convince facility managers and their personnel of the authority’s willingness to form an alliance with the facility to ensure that their fire alarm and fire suppression systems are properly maintained. It takes time and regular contacts in the course of motivating managers by whatever means are necessary to ensure proper system maintenance is provided. Sporadic inspections and infrequent contact by the fire inspection authority set the stage for apathy by managers and the possibility of poor or no system maintenance.  Do you remember the phrase, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind?” Frequent contact and visits are preferable to infrequent or no contact. Relationships must be pleasant and productive.

3. Facility managers need to understand they are directly responsible for ensuring system maintenance is performed at the required intervals and that the systems are fully capable of serving their intended purposes day or night, seven days a week, every day of the year. A persistent, yet polite, fire inspector who has taken the time to build an effective working relationship with a facility manager is much more likely to see satisfactory maintenance efforts undertaken to maximize system operability.

4. Property insurance companies need to conduct periodic inspections of fire alarm and fire suppression systems. In all likelihood, the insurance company required the systems and/or provides a reduction in premium for systems that are operable and properly maintained. When managers see the insurance inspector checking the system and realize insurance premiums may be adjusted upward or coverage reduced or cancelled due to lack of system maintenance, the importance of ensuring the systems are properly maintained is driven home. This is another form of “motivation.”

5. Fire alarm and fire suppression system contractors should take the initiative needed to remind managers of the need for a periodic evaluation of the system(s). A post card, an email, a telephone call, a personal visit or a combination of these approaches may be needed, but a lack of initiative by fire system contractors with regard to providing maintenance for clients’ systems only aggravates the problem. The fire protection contractor or company that initially installed a fire alarm or fire suppression system should pursue service agreements or “time and material” relationships so the systems are properly maintained by trained personnel who are familiar with both the equipment and the protected facility. A blend of marketing skills and a genuine interest in maintaining a high level of fire and life safety by contractors’ representatives are likely to motivate managers to authorize maintenance of their systems. Motivate the managers.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines psychology as “the study of mind and behavior in relation to a particular field of knowledge or activity.” It’s reasonable to conclude fire alarm and fire suppression systems are more likely to be properly maintained and quickly repaired when efforts are made to motivate and support the people who are legally responsible for their maintenance.

Periodic maintenance and repairs in accordance with NFPA and manufacturers’ recommendations help ensure these vital systems are able to alert occupants, transmit alarms and take appropriate suppression actions.

© 2014 Phil Johnston All Rights Reserved
[Permission to Reproduce or Use is Granted:
to Beth Welch of Honeywell Fire Systems]

About the Author
Phil Johnston’s fire protection career spanned 49 years, including a total of 24 years of service as the fire chief in Chico, CA; Boise, ID; Springfield, MO; Little Rock, AR; and Warrensburg, MO.

Campus-wide Pride: Making University Fire Safety a Priority

For facility managers and technicians at college campuses across the U.S., my story might be somewhat familiar. I came to the University of North Georgia nine years ago and took on a daunting task: Fix the campus’ broken fire safety protocol, standardize its numerous devices and systems, and do away with its long-standing tradition of twice-weekly (or more) false alarms. The safety of our students, faculty and staff depended on it.

Much like other higher education campuses, the University of North Georgia had, over the years, adopted a hodgepodge of various fire alarm systems – mostly, just stand-alone, local systems in each building that used proprietary devices. The campus had never undergone NFPA 72 inspections, so every system was in various stages of non-compliance. And not surprisingly, we had ongoing problems with faulty and unreliable technology.

We had developed a nasty reputation for frequent false alarms, and with good reason: The local fire department was called to campus for a false alarm two to three times a week. Eventually, Lumpkin County, where the campus is located, passed a false alarm ordinance. By that point, our students were so desensitized to false fire alarms that some would remain in the building when an alarm sounded. Of course, there’s no way to tell a false alarm from a legitimate one, and these students were endangering themselves every time they chose to stay put.

Troubled by the state of fire safety at UNG, I made it my personal mission to standardize all devices under one non-proprietary brand – and to do away with false alarms altogether.

A Nine-Year Challenge
My first step in bring UNG’s fire system up-to-date was to get administration buy-in. Many stakeholders simply didn’t realize the importance of fire safety – not to mention how much money the school was wasting in false alarm fees and proprietary system upkeep.

In the end, the opportunity to ensure student safety and save money captured everyone’s attention. We’re located about 70 miles north of Atlanta, and we were being charged a fortune in system maintenance and troubleshooting fees. With the existing proprietary systems, though, we were locked in – we couldn’t have used another technician if we wanted to.

That’s why early in my career at UNG I pledged to transition to a 100 percent Fire-Lite solution on campus. I had worked with Fire-Lite systems before, and I knew that UNG needed fire alarm technology that was easy to use, easy to maintain and, more importantly, integrated across the entire campus.

 A Campus-wide Solution
I started working with non-proprietary systems in the late 1980s, so I know first-hand how reliable and user-friendly certain manufacturers’ systems can be. Now that UNG is 100 percent non-proprietary, we’ve decreased false alarms by 99.9 percent. And on top of that, our maintenance and service calls are much easier and faster now.

Our campus officers are trained on the non-proprietary systems, so they can reset any panel on campus. If we need parts or service, we can call any certified fire alarm installer: no more exorbitant travel fees from proprietary techs in Atlanta.

For example, recently one of our dorms was struck by lightning during a storm. Since I have every panel downloaded on my laptop, I was able to have the building back up within about three hours. With other systems, it might have been down for days at a time – which is simply unacceptable in the college campus environment.

We also are one of the only campuses in the university system with our own central station. We monitor all of our own fire systems on campus; when an alarm sounds, the building is evacuated and public safety officers are dispatched to assess the situation. Then, they decide whether to call the fire department. Because the contact ID tells operators the exact location of the situation, officers are able to respond quickly and effectively. And our campus is better protected than ever before.

Although not every campus can establish its own central station, in our case doing our own monitoring works well and has saved us money in the long run. For most campuses, though, a great first step would be to assess your fire alarm systems and consider how you might be able to streamline them over time. Look into highly reliable, easy-to-use and non-proprietary solutions, which will be easier and less expensive to maintain. And all the while, keep in mind the end goal: to protect students, faculty and staff through a comprehensive fire safety protocol.

About the Author
Kim Harris is the Electronic Systems Technician at the University of North Georgia and has more than 30 years of experience working with fire alarm systems.

For more information on the products and services offered by Fire-Lite Alarms visit: www.firelite.com

How Easy Was That! Training on the ECC

Through the year, I’ve trained dozens of technicians on the ECC-50/100 Emergency Command Center. We get a lot of the same comments during each session on the products and programming. This is just one of them:

When attendees learn that the entire system is programmed by making selections from a series of drop-doEasy Buttonwn lists, and then get the chance to go “hands-on” and configure a system for both fire voice evacuation and mass notification applications, it’s become a normal occurrence for someone in the class to say: “Wow! How easy was that?” at the conclusion of the lab assignments.

If you want to see how easy it is and earn CEU credits at the same time, visit the Training Section of Fire-Lite’s website or contact myself or the Training Admin for details on an upcoming ECC session near you.

About the Author
Tom Rosa oversees all Fire-Lite Alarms training programs as a Training Supervisor for Honeywell Fire Systems. With more than a decade of experience as a Fire-Lite trainer and the support of a strong team of experienced, NICET-certified trainers, Tom guides the content and methods by which the company educates Fire-Lite users throughout the United States and Caribbean.

The Basics of Public Relations: 5 Tools of the Trade

For any business owner, brand recognition is the key to continual growth. In the highly competitive fire alarm dealer market, it’s especially important to keep your brand top-of-mind – and always in a positive way, of course. That’s where public relations comes in.

What is PR?
Public relations (PR) refers to any activity that helps to build awareness of a company, product, service or technology. PR also works to establish a company’s identity – whether it’s fun-loving, tough or heartfelt – within an industry.

Why is PR Necessary?
To some, PR might seem like an abstract business activity that only large, shady companies or celebrities require. But in fact, smaller fire alarm dealers could see a significant impact from PR, such as:

  • Getting your company’s name out there – in newspapers, online, etc. – helps potential customers become familiar with who you are and what you offer, and more importantly, establishes you as an “industry expert”.
  • PR can help educate end users on fire alarm technology and codes, to which most people outside of the industry are new.
  • It highlights the good you’re doing. As a fire alarm dealer, your business helps other companies, their employees and the community. PR helps you spread the word and ensure that it stays positive.

Tools of the Trade
PR professionals use a variety of tools to reach their audiences. Here’s a quick summary of some that can benefit your business:

  • Press releases: Notifications of company news, customer wins, events, charity work, successful projects, etc. Press releases are sent to local and industry media outlets, such as newspapers, magazines and websites, to encourage press coverage.
  • Interviews: Here is an opportunity to establish yourself (and your company) as an expert in the fire alarm industry. At industry events, or following a new press release, reach out to members of the media and offer to do a one-on-one interview on industry trends, current events, fire safety tips, etc.
  • Case studies: Following a successful installation, write up an overview of the project with quotes and information from your customer. Case studies can be posted on your company website to illustrate to potential customers how your services solve specific challenges. These offer great content for your social media channels to share too.
  • Public service announcements: As part of the fire alarm industry, you have an opportunity to conduct community outreach and education on fire safety, response and technology. You might post fire safety PSAs on your website or social media pages, or even partner with a local television or radio network to provide your expertise on the subject.
  • Bylined articles: Industry publications often look for articles written by fire alarm dealers, consultants and other experts. Reach out to editors in your field and offer to provide a bylined article on an emerging trend, current challenges, new codes, etc. However, keep in mind that most publications require bylined articles be strictly vendor-neutral; so focus on the broader topic, not your particular company or product offering.

Get Started
You can start by doing some PR work yourself. If you’re comfortable with a bit of research and some writing, you can get off to a good start with a few press releases and press interviews. To find out more, search “DIY PR,” and dive right in!

Many companies of all sizes – from start-ups to global corporations – hire a third-party firm to handle their PR. A wide selection of PR firms are available to companies in any area, and many specialize in specific industries. A LinkedIn search can help you identify PR professionals with expertise in the fire alarm industry.

Whether you do your own PR work or contract out to a professional, keep in mind the end goal: You want potential customers to become more familiar with your brand, and to have your company positively recognized. With each piece of positive media coverage, your company will be one step closer to success.

About the Author
Meg Weadock is Content Strategist for CompassPR, which provides comprehensive public relations, marketing and communications services to emerging leaders in the technology space.

For information on Fire-Lite’s Public Relations please visit the PR Web Page or contact Beth Welch, Public Relations Manager.

A New Horizon for Fire Alarm Dealers – and End Users

One of the things I’ve always admired about the fire alarm industry is the fact that it is constantly evolving. We continually have opportunities to better protect life and property, and every year exciting new methods emerge to do just that.

Take, for example, one of Fire-Lite’s newest innovations, the Lite-Connect multi-mode fiber solution. This product enables fire alarm installers to join as many as 16 remote panels together over fiber-optic cable. Previously, multiple buildings were linked with copper through several connections, which limited reliability and caused issues with upkeep. Now the fire alarm control panels can report to a central monitoring station as one system, making schools, apartment buildings, nursing homes and retail complexes ideal for Lite-Connect.

So what does this type of unified system mean for dealers, installers and end users? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits:

Lower communications costs.
The centralized reporting method saves end users money by eliminating significant telecommunications costs that are traditionally associated with communicating signals from each individual panel.

Improved emergency response.
When a Lite-Connect system sends an alert to the central station, the information reported contains actual point or zone information for all event types. This gives first responders and service providers a better understanding of the issue and where it is located – before they even arrive on the scene.

A competitive edge.
This type of system also provides dealers with a competitive advantage. For any job involving two or more panels, Lite-Connect offers dealers the chance to provide a lower-cost, non-proprietary system with the highest level of protection and dependability available. Previously, this type of solution was only available for single-unit facilities using proprietary systems.

Protection against electrical damage.
With multiple panels connected through fiber-optic cable, each end user’s system is now less susceptible to damage from transient power surges. Unlike traditional panels using copper connectors, Lite-Connect uses multi-mode fiber-optic cable, which protects all control panels from common ground faults and electrical surges caused by lightning. As a result, the end user can rest easy knowing that their system is better protected, and their fire alarm dealer receives fewer call-backs for those types of power issues (which, in turn, saves the end user money).

Simple, more robust installations.
For multi-unit facilities, Lite-Connect provides a simple, more efficient install. Any combination of up to 16 MS-9050UD and MS-9200UDLS remote fire alarm control panels can be connected via fiber and report out all signals through an MS-9050UD as the “main” panel. As a result, the system can be customized specifically for the end user’s needs.

Lite-Connect is just the latest step in the evolution of fire detection. With each new innovation, we find ourselves a little closer to eliminating fire-related deaths in commercial buildings. I for one look forward to seeing how technology will continue to improve with each coming year.

 About the Author
Dave Pakech is the Vice President of Sales for the SED Channel – Fire-Lite Alarms, Honeywell Power and Silent Knight. He joined Honeywell Fire Systems in 2008 and brings over 20 years of Security Industry experience to the brands.

 

 

 

 

 

Fire Up Your Fiber Training: Fiber Optic Cable Installation

As fire alarm systems grow in size and complexity, it is becoming more common to connect fire panels together from multiple buildings to provide a fully integrated fire alarm system. Copper has been used in the past to achieve this but more often results in damaged hardware from lighting strikes due to the wire being run underground.

Fiber optic cable has been identified as much more reliable building to building connection as it is immune to lighting strikes. Manufactures such as Fire-Lite Alarms now offer a fiber optic, building-to-building solution called Lite-Connect that allows multiple fire panels to be connected together. Solutions like these help eliminate the risks of ground faults and hardware damage due to lightning strikes, while at the same time reducing central station monitoring costs by connecting numerous fire panels together.

When fire installers first make the decision to use fiber for an installation, more often than not, the first questions that come up are “Where I can get trained to install fiber cable?” Typically an installer can acquire training on the installation and termination of fiber through their fiber optic cable manufacture or wholesale distributor. Some companies that currently offer this type of training are AFL and Lightbrigade.

Before starting a job that involves working with fiber optic cable, an installer should identify which companies offer the training they need and schedule it well before the job starts to avoid any potential setbacks.

 

*Disclaimer*
Fire-Lite Alarms is not selling, supporting or endorsing AFL or Lightbrigade. Fire-Lite Alarms makes no representations whatsoever with regard to the quality or function of these companies product or their services.

 

About the Author
Ken Gentile is a Product Manager for Fire-Lite Alarms and Honeywell Power. Using his more than 15 years of marketing and engineering experience, Ken’s primary focus lies in the development of new products.