Category Archives: Dan Lajoie

The K-12 Fire and Emergency Communication Opportunity You May Have Missed

As of this fall, there are more than 98,300 public elementary and secondary schools operating in the United States, with nearly 50 million students and 3.1 million full-time teachers, according to the Institute of Education Sciences. At every one of these schools, fire safety and emergency response is a top priority; but with so many different facilities and buildings, how can school districts ensure that each and every student and teacher is protected?

The large majority of K-12 schools have fairly basic fire alarm and emergency communication system (ECS) technology, such as fire/smoke detectors and alarms, which may include bells or strobes. However, with the growing diversity of threats against elementary and secondary schools—including active shooters, fire and weather emergencies, and even terrorism—these antiquated systems simply aren’t enough.

As a fire alarm installer, you may be missing out on an opportunity to retrofit your K-12 customers’ facilities with a voice ECS—a more affordable option than upgrading their fire and ECS and adding an intercom system. For your customers, this missed opportunity could be keeping them from improved safety and emergency response. Now is the time to work with school districts to retrofit their facilities.

Why? Voice evacuation systems go a lot further toward protecting students and teachers during an emergency. Rather than simply alerting building occupants that an emergency exists, voice capabilities enable administrators to give specific instructions during such an event. In a school environment with hundreds or even thousands of students and teachers, this could give the occupants more time to exit safety.

For example, the Emergency Communication System / Voice Evacuation from Fire-Lite provides flexible communications features. Administrators can broadcast up to 14 different pre-recorded announcements, or use the microphone to give custom instructions, such as “lock your doors and shelter in place” or “evacuate the building and meet on the front lawn.” With certain devices, officials can even call in to the voice system remotely to provide instructions from a cell phone or landline. It is “fire-rated”, which provides peace of mind knowing that the system is fully-supervised and tested on a regular basis per NFPA 72.

Many fire alarm dealers have avoided pushing the benefits of voice evacuation to the K-12 market. In most cases, the cost of running wire puts these projects out of budget for many school districts. However, by opting for a voice system that can be easily retrofitted into an existing fire alarm/ECS, dealers can help their K-12 customers significantly cut down on the cost of upgrading to voice.

School officials are always thrilled to hear that their facilities can easily be retrofitted to include advanced voice capabilities. Not only do they save money and time over adding a separate paging system—which many consider—they also wind up with a significantly improved emergency communication system that is also fire-rated.

For the vast majority of K-12 school districts, budgets will always be a huge concern. Know that these customers often require long cycles to get funding approval. Plant the seed now by discussing the possibilities of voice capabilities with your K-12 customers, and make it a priority to establish voice retrofits as a growing part of your business.


About the Author
Dan Lajoie is Regional Sales Manager for Fire-Lite, Honeywell Power and Silent Knight.  During his 39-year career, Dan has been involved in many aspects of the electronic life safety industry, first as a technician and later as system designer for a nationwide equipment distributor. Dan is NICET Level IV certified and an accredited instructor for the New Jersey Electrical Board of Examiners, as well as the New Jersey Fire and Burglar Alarm Advisory Committee.