Tag Archives: NFPA

Another Successful NFPA!

We had a great week in Chicago at the NFPA Conference and Expo!

The booth stayed busy and we enjoyed the opportunity to chat with life safety professionals, like you, and introduce our newest products and solutions. The conference portion held over 120 sessions ranging from code updates, product introductions, technical trainings, and more.  Attendees really seemed engaged in the conversations and interested in what’s new in the industry.

If you missed the expo this year or want a little more information on what we were showing, here are a few products we highlighted in the display:

SWIFT™ Wireless    Less Wire. More Opportunities.FL-Wireless-collage-plain
Fire-Lite Alarms’ SWIFT™ wireless fire detection system detects fire, just like their wired counterparts, while providing installation flexibility in a wireless format. Our wireless system can use any combination of Fire-Lite monitor modules, smoke and/or heat detectors. In addition, both wired and wireless devices can be present on the same fire alarm control panel providing an integrated wired/wireless solution for increased installation potential.

Lite-Connect™   Connecting Fire Alarms the Easy Way
Lite-Connect™ is a solution that allows building owners reduce the number of phone lines by consolidating the central station ANN-LC - 175communications to a single MS-9050UD fire alarm control panel. Using fiber-optic technology, the panels are connected together and the MS-9050UD sends point or zone information to the Central Station for the entire system. In addition, building to building connections with fiber-optic cable avoids potential ground fault issues and damage caused by lightning strikes.

Remote Telephone Zone Module for the Emergency Command Center
Emergency Communications is about getting the right message to ECC-50-100_webthe right people at the right time. The RTZM (Remote Telephone Zone Module) gives an authorized end user access to the ECC during an emergency using any telephone. By adding the RTZM module to any ECC system, users have the ability to initiate pre-recorded messages or even make a live page.

Don’t forget about our library of free tools that were created to support the products and your business.

If you’ve never attended an NFPA Conference or Expo, it’s a wealth of information for both product and industry! If your business is involved with fire, don’t miss next year’s conference at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV, June 13 – 16.

What was your favorite moment of NFPA 2015? Tweet us at @FireLiteAlarms or leave a comment below!

 

 

About the Author
Elizabeth Richards is the Manager of Communications for the SED Channel – Fire-Lite Alarms, Honeywell Power, and Silent Knight. Liz joined Honeywell Fire Systems in 2003 and is responsible for the communications, collateral, messaging, and events for all three brands.

Is Wireless Held to a Higher Standard?

Wireless technology is not new to the world or even the fire and security industry. Many products are converting to IP based and you also see a myriad of WiFi devices. However, in an industry that is highly regulated, there is always a concern about new technology. Despite the proposed benefits, adoption of new technology is typically slower. It should be comforting to know that products based on new technology still have to meet very stringent requirements due to the nature of its purpose.

The first regulatory approval / standard to look at is Underwriters Laboratories. The standard that is most common for fire and life safety systems is UL 864 (Control Units and Accessories fUL Logoor Fire Alarm Systems). UL 864 covers fire alarm control panels, like the MS-9200UDLS, and various products and accessories. The same UL standard covers the new Fire-Lite SWIFT Wireless gateway and associated products.

There are a series of UL requirements to ensure that the wireless devices meet the same performance criteria as standard wired devices (e.g., the 10 second activation to notification requirement). Although the standard is based on the performance of the devices, the actual tests are conducted with wireless technology in mind. In addition to UL 864, the standard that covers detection is UL 268 (Smoke Detectors for Fire Alarm Systems). UL 268 covers smoke detection, like the SD355, and also covers the performance of the detectors.

Next is National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). NFPA 72 2010 and 2013 cover wireless solutions for fire alarm systems in Chapter 23. Chapter 23.18 in the 2010 edition and Chapter 23.16 in theNFPA Logo 2013 edition are titled “Special Requirements for Low-Power Radio (Wireless) Systems”. Chapter 23 covers the listing requirements, power supplies, alarm signals, and more specifically for wireless systems. Is your jurisdiction currently on an earlier version? The 2007 edition of NFPA 72 also includes requirements for wireless fire alarm systems.

The final regulatory approval of interest is the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). The products need to comply with part 15 of the FCC rules, meaning that operation is subjecFCC Logot to the following two conditions:

  • The device may not cause harmful interference
  • The device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation

Since the intended purpose of this type of system is to transmit information wirelessly, special care is taken not to interfere with other systems. In addition, features and functionality are built-in to mitigate the effect of external interference on the system.

So the answer is – Yes, wireless is held to a higher standard and Fire-Lite Alarms is pleased to offer a SWIFT Wireless solution that meets it. Check out our SWIFT Wireless solution on www.firelite.com.

 

 

About the Author
Richard Conner is the Director of Marketing for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power. Richard joined Honeywell in 2002 and has over 15 years of experience in the fire alarm industry in Marketing, Engineering, and Product Support positions. Richard is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs for all brands.

 

 

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.

Hello? Your Customer’s Building is Calling

Many electrical contractors speak of the glory days when new construction was booming and there was plenty of work to go around. Those of us who have been in this industry for a while know there is always a cyclical nature to the construction industry. The key to riding through these ebbs and flows lies in finding ways to produce continuous growth and, at the same time, closely manage your monthly cash flow.

During a new construction project, once all systems are inspected and turned over to the owner, the electrical contractor’s minimum responsibilities are to warranty the installation for the next 12 months. In the meantime, they start hunting for a new project. But what happens to the building’s systems going forward? If you’re not offering ongoing testing and inspection services, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

Our Unique Industry
The fire alarm market may not be exactly “inflation-proof,” but it does lead the industry with multiple ways to offer growth. The fire alarm field even offers a healthy profit margin in the face of a slow construction cycle.

Our industry is also the most proactive in ensuring that systems are maintained and operating at peak performance, well in advance of a breakdown. Various legislation and codes, including NFPA 72, ensure that all systems are monitored, inspected and tested on a regular basis. Again, this is not an option on the part of the owner: It’s the law.

The Key to Continual Profits
For all fire alarm customers, testing and inspection is required annually, quarterly or even monthly – depending on the use of the facility and the local ordinances. Can you think of another system that requires the contractor to come back to the building periodically to ensure equipment performance? For an electrical contractor, no other system reaches out and says, “Come fix me.” The owner is required to invest in that recurring service.

As a well-qualified electrical professional, you have an opportunity to earn significant income by providing testing and inspection services to your existing customers. Plus, you can earn a wealth of other opportunities from these visits. This ongoing relationship is a true collaborative effort between you and your customer, leading to a stronger, more constant customer base.

Additional Sources of Revenue
Not only are you paid for testing and inspection visits; each one could potentially lead to additional work. For example, as you arrive for your fire alarm inspection, you notice that the parking lot lights are on at 10 am. Being well versed in energy efficient lighting, you could take this opportunity to tell your customer about the savings and rebates available for LED lighting. Have you discussed back-up generators with them? Do they need any repairs done while you’re there? The opportunities are everywhere.

Fire alarm monitoring service offers another potential source of revenue for electrical contractors. Most commercial fire alarm systems in the U.S. are required to be monitored 24 hours a day. They are connected either by traditional telephone lines, IP or cellular. Monitoring service is typically provided by the installing contractor, who simply sub-contracts to a third party (a UL-listed monitoring company) and then charges the building owner appropriately. These fees can typically be $35 to $75 per month and offer a 50 to 80 percent margin. Since this is an automatic service, if a device in the building is not responding, who do they call? You.

As you can see, the opportunities for recurring revenue are there. So, the next time you’re talking about the good old days of non-stop construction and you have several employees doing busy work in the shop, remember this: Your customer’s building is calling. Is there anyone home?

About the Author
Steve McCurdy is Director of Business Development at Fire-Lite Alarms by Honeywell.​

 

Detector Placement Gone Seriously Wrong

I’ve noticed a lot of talk on LinkedIn groups and other social forums recently about common smoke detector location issues, most related to device placement within condos, apartment complexes, dormitories and other commercial facilities where people live and sleep.

Is the following issue a new trend or a re-occurring issue that has always been around?

Detectors are only required in the sleeping area/space – WHAT???

Yep, I’ve heard more stories lately where system designs have only called for detectors to be placed in the bedroom areas where people sleep. I guess that means you’re out of luck if a fire occurs in the living room? If you know anything about NFPA 72, then you know detectors are to be placed inside every sleeping room, outside of every bedroom and on every floor – at the very minimum. This is detailed in Chapter 29 of NFPA 72 2013 Edition, specifically 29.5.1.1 and further detail for certain configurations and size of space are addressed in 29.5.1.2 – 29.5.1.3.2

Plug-in Detectors are okay for the rest of the unit, as long as you have one system-connected detector in the bedroom – Not Exactly.

Okay, I think this means if a full blown fire is happening in your dorm room or townhouse and that one system-connected detector goes into alarm, the fire trucks will roll your way. However, we all know this is not a reliable or responsible way to protect any living space. Case-in-point, how many times has the resident unplugged the detector because of that annoying low-battery beep or to stop it from going into alarm every time they make sauce?

Although having a single system-connected device is better than none at all, such a configuration sets you up with a single point of failure. If a fire elsewhere in the building compromises the panel or the wiring to that one system-connected detector, it could be some time before enough smoke makes its way into that particular unit to set off one of the single station alarm devices. At that point, all egress pathways may be blocked or compromised by fire and smoke, trapping the occupant in the unit.

There’s been so much emphasis put on protecting people when sleeping, that we’ve started to overlook the obvious. In addition, I think the growing concern over nuisance alarms, particularly for commercial residential facilities, has caused us to focus more on protecting sleeping quarters – there’s no stove or toaster in there to set off the detector falsely.

Seriously, have you seen this in your area?

 

About the Author
Beth Welch is the Manager of Public Relations for Honeywell Fire Systems. For a decade, she has strived to raise awareness of new technologies, industry trends and information, for the benefit of engineers, integrators and end users.

Accidental Deployment Offers Huge Emergency Planning Lessons

Today’s college universities, K-12 campuses, and healthcare and corporate facilities face a complex series of threats, ranging from active shooters to terrorism, severe weather and costly accidents. For any location that includes such large populations as these facilities, an emergency communications plan is an absolute must-have. However, as many universities and other facilities scramble to implement emergency communications protocol, they ignore the big picture. To achieve success, they must first define the mission and perform a full risk analysis.

Too often, because of the fast moving and dynamic situation, stakeholders and officials make uninformed – yet well-intentioned – decisions during tragic events like we’ve seen in the past. Many universities and other facilities have invested in emergency communications systems (ECS) to deal with these types of threats, without first establishing and defining the mission.

A recent event at a U.S. community college illustrates what can happen when a full risk analysis isn’t performed. The school’s Emergency Communication System accidentally sent out an active shooter message to one building on campus. Of course, students and faculty in the building panicked, fled the building and spread the word via text messages and social media. Soon enough, over 3,000 campus occupants were scrambling to flee, causing traffic jams, confusion and fear.

In this case, the problems were three-fold:
1. the initial pre-recorded message sent out was too brief and didn’t offer enough information;
2. the initial message was never followed-up with additional “live” information or directions;
3. teachers, students and staff didn’t know what to do in that type of emergency situation

Risk Analysis
The community college incident is an unfortunate example of why universities and other large campuses require carefully thought-out emergency communications plans. Rather than just jumping into the purchase of an ECS, stakeholders should first perform a risk analysis that includes the following considerations:

• What potential threats exist on your campus? (e.g., active shooters, hurricanes, tornadoes, chemical spills, etc.) Are there some risks that you can mitigate and do away with altogether?
• What is your mission or ultimate goal?
• What actions will achieve that goal in each situation? (e.g., evacuating the entire campus, telling people to shelter in place)
• If you decide to invest in an ECS, what is the intent of the technology? What exactly will it cause people to do? Will it provide them enough information to help get them to safety?
• Who will operate the ECS system and be responsible for the initial activation and follow-up messaging? How will you train them to use it effectively?

Risk analyses are a very important part of a facility’s overall security and emergency response solution. Security officials and other stakeholders who are unsure of where to begin can partner with their fire alarm and security distributor or integrator, or even an independent security consultant, to help ensure a thorough and accurate risk analysis.

The Role of NFPA 1600
NFPA 1600 (Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs) is a national preparedness standard that is extremely helpful for facilities looking to implement voice evacuation and other emergency communication technology. This code serves as a very effective guideline for completing a risk analysis, which can then be used when determining how an ECS should be set up and what the emergency messaging should say. That way, when stakeholders are ready to invest in emergency communication technology, they know exactly what the system should look like.

Best of all, NFPA 1600 helps ensure facilities create an Emergency Response Plan and employ ECS that take into account modern technology, such as smart phones and tablets, as well as changing conditions on their campus. As technology, funding and/or even stakeholders change and evolve, the code forces facilities to update and regularly test their plans with those changes in mind. In that way, NFPA 1600 takes the excuses out of emergency planning and makes each response plan a living document.

Making Safety a Priority
Too often, security officials invest in an ECS, put it out of their minds and hope they never have to use it. In reality, though, emergency communication should be top-of-mind each and every day. By starting with a thorough risk analysis and emergency response plan campus facilities can ensure that they are investing time and resources into solutions that will actually work for them—now and for years to come.

In a future post, we’ll talk more about emergency communication messaging, and how the right information, disseminated in the right way, can save lives.

 

About the Author
John Stofa has worked in the fire alarm and fire sprinkler industry   for more than 20 years and is NICET certified. He joined Honeywell Fire Systems (HFS) in 2006 for which he currently serves as its Municipal Account Manager. John was a volunteer/call firefighter in the States of New York, Connecticut and Vermont and has been a professional EMS provider in New York State for 10 years. John holds a Bachelors degree in Fire Science, an Associate degree in Fire Protection Technology and is currently studying Fire Protection Engineering.

 

 

Do Your Homework When Getting Into the Fire Business

We have seen a number of installing contractors showing interest in getting into the fire & life safety industry. It’s a noble cause to protect people and property from fire and non-fire emergencies and is a great industry to expand your business. Since its serious business, it’s important to learn about the regulations and what it would take to get started.

The first place to start is with the fire alarm code books. There are several publications relating to fire alarm codes and standards, some of which include: NFPA 101 Life Safety Code, NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm Code, NFPA 70 National Electrical Code, Fire Protection Handbook and Fire Alarm Signaling Systems Handbook (Excellence book).

Next, NICET (National Institute for Certification of Engineering Technologies) provides national certification that is required in jurisdictions to work on fire alarm systems. There are also several web sites, including: nfpa.org, nicet.org, and firemarshals.org, where you can find information on a national and local level. NFPA(National Fire Protection Association) offers the following educational programs: Self-Guided Online Courses, On-Site Seminars, Webinars, Training videos and Certification Programs.

Also, if you are just getting into the fire alarm business, a good place to start is getting to know the local fire marshal or AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction). They should be able to tell you what is required to work on fire alarm systems in your area.

Finally, Fire-Lite Alarms is here to help you in your endeavor. With over 60 years in the business, Fire-Lite is the leader in non-proprietary, unrestricted fire alarm and emergency communication systems for commercial applications. Our nationwide training is lead by NICET Certified Trainers and we have developed some great FREE tools to help you learn about our products including online training courses and how-to videos.

 

About the Author
Bill Brosig is a Product Manager 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.

Renovation Under Fire

Renovations are a part of life for a commercial building. Whether they’re renovations due to tenant changes or upgrades in an aging building, many facilities undergo renovations that coincide with the changing needs of the facilities. This became more of the norm as the economic environment stunted growth in new construction in recent years. Repurposing buildings or adding on became a viable option when investments were scarce. But where there is construction in an existing building, there is risk of fire.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve noticed an increasing number of reports of fires in commercial buildings undergoing renovations. Just a simple internet search will show at least a dozen fires in the U.S. over the last few months. These buildings range from commercial office buildings to apartment buildings. From an electrical problem to a spark caused by construction equipment, these fires have caused millions of dollars in damage. Fortunately, the buildings are less likely to be occupied due to the fact that they are being renovated except for some apartment buildings. Unfortunately, it’s a topic that doesn’t seem to get much attention. What are the causes for these fires?

According to an old study by NFPA, the leading causes of fires in buildings under construction were incendiary or suspicious (39.5%); open flame, embers or torches (20.8%); and heating equipment (9.7%)[1]. One could surmise that vandalism and insurance fraud are probably root causes for suspicious fires. Nevertheless, fires started by any reason are devastating to the building and dangerous to firefighters who risk their lives.

What do you think can be done to prevent these fires during times of renovation? Has much changed in the last decade and what could be done about it? We want to hear from you!Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

[1] Structure Fires in Vacant or Idle Properties, or Properties Under Construction, Demolition or Renovation, NFPA Fire Analysis and Research Division, Quincy, MA, August 2001.

About the Author:
Richard Conner is the Director of Marketing for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power. Richard joined Honeywell in 2002 and has over 15 years of experience in the fire alarm industry in Marketing, Engineering, and Product Support positions. Richard is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs for all brands.

Communication is Key to Saving Lives in High-Rise Building Fires

This blog is a follow-up to last week’s post, NYCHigh-Rise Fire Prompts Calls for Stronger Fire Safety Legislation, by Tom Von Essen, a former New York Fire Department commissioner.

In the two months following a deadly Hell’s Kitchen high-rise apartment fire, calls have steadily increased for improved fire safety legislation in New York City’s towering residential buildings. The horrible death of one man, and the hospitalization of his partner, seems to have mobilized an entire city to action; however, what is the best way to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again?

The beauty of modern technology is that there are countless solutions available to building owners that could help first responders better communicate with residents during an emergency. The key will be identifying the systems that are best-suited for this all-important task.

This is a huge problem for New York City. People have died and been seriously injured simply because there is a lack of regulation around residential high-rises. In many emergencies, residents don’t know what to do: shelter in their apartment? Evacuate via a stairwell? Depending on the nature of the fire (or, other emergency, such as a tornado or terrorist threat), the best course of action may vary. That’s why first responders must have a way to effectively communicate with everyone in a building — and I do mean everyone.

Strong notification systems are especially necessary for communicating to the most vulnerable members of our society, including young children, the elderly and those who with limited mobility. Some of these individuals may have very limited resources and, in many situations, aren’t able to save themselves. The more information we can give these populations to help themselves during emergencies, the better.

If new legislation does get passed, requiring building owners to install an emergency communication system, there will be a lot of businesses touting their solution as the best option. So, let’s take a closer look at how some of the technology available might perform in a high-rise, residential setting:

Paging system: One- or two-way paging is a good first step. This will enable, for example, fire fighters to notify residents about the location of a fire and advise them to stay in their apartments. However, your average PA system contains no redundant or survivable design qualities, so when the system’s backbone or devices are damaged, the system simply doesn’t work.

Digital signage: There are many options on the market for wall-mounted communication devices, many of which feature speakers, digital text and flashing strobes. These displays could be useful on the lobby of each floor and/or by stairwell entrances, to quickly tell residents (and other people in the building) what to do in an emergency. Strobes and other visual communication are especially helpful for deaf residents.

Social media integration: A building’s communication technology could be integrated with social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook, to provide emergency updates in real-time. While this is a useful tool in some cases, it shouldn’t be a primary means of communicating with people in the event of an emergency. However, social media integration provides fantastic redundancy in cases where other systems, such as one-way paging systems or phone lines, fail.

Fire alarm system with voice capabilities: In my experience, a fire alarm system with voice capabilities is going to be a building owner’s best bet for emergency communication. This technology is built around a backbone that is designed to survive for a period during a fire and still operate in intense heat. With this type of system, residents can be notified of a fire or other emergency with alarms and strobes; then, first responders can communicate with them using speakers installed in each apartment or floor lobby.

To fully solve the problem facing New York’s high-rise residences, first responders need not one, not two, but three or four effective ways to “talk to” people inside a building. A winning solution would bring all of these technology pieces together.

Of course, there is a cost involved. And, if new legislation requires the installation of communication technology in every high-rise residence, the building owner will be responsible. Consider the average cost of a system, and divide that by the number of residents in a given building; which might be into the hundreds. Then divide that by the number of days the system will be in service before in needs to be updated. The resulting price is less than a penny per person per day. And that’s the cost of a life.

I think this legislation is timely and very important. I urge those advocating for the new legislation, as well as any legislators who get involved, to do their research on the available technology. Together, we can find the right system that will work effectively to make sure tragic incidents like the fire death in Hell’s Kitchen never happen again.

 

About the Author:
John Stofa has worked in the fire alarm and fire sprinkler industry for more than 20 years and is NICET certified. He joined Honeywell Fire Systems (HFS) in 2006 for which he currently serves as its Municipal Account Manager. John was a volunteer/call firefighter in the States of New York, Connecticut and Vermont and has been a professional EMS provider in New York State for 10 years. John holds a Bachelors degree in Fire Science, an Associate degree in Fire Protection Technology and is currently studying Fire Protection Engineering.

 

Are POTS going OUT? Changes in Code Create Changes in Communications

Commercial Fire Alarm communication has stayed relatively the same for over 35 years but recently has been undergoing a fundamental technology change as the legacy POTS.  (Plain Old Telephone Service) infrastructure gets more expensive to maintain and service. Some of the larger telecommunications companies (such as AT&T) have already made reference that a sunset of the POTS network can begin as early as 2016. So what does that mean for the future of Fire Alarm communications? Well, there are many communication options available in the market today that will meet UL ,ULC and NFPA 72 requirements. Products such as the IPGSM-4G and IPGSM-4GC from Honeywell Power can easily be installed to replace legacy POTS lines with minimal installation and configuration required. When installing these types of Fire communicators it is very important to understand how each product’s technology works and their relation to NFPA 72 requirements.

For many years, legacy POTS communication using a DACT (Digital Alarm Communicator Transmitter) required both primary and secondary phone lines to communicate to a central station. Later versions of NFPA 72 (such as the 2010 standard) helped clarify the acceptance of alternative forms of communications. Chapter 26, Section 26.6.3.1.4.2 states Where two or more different technologies are used, the following requirements shall be met: (1) Provision shall be made to monitor the integrity of each communications path.(2) Failure of any communications path shall be annunciated at the supervising station and at the protected premises within not more than 24 hours of -the failure”. In addition, NFPA 72 2010 also helped clarify the ability to use a single technology to be used for Fire Alarm communication. Chapter 26, Section 26.6.3.1.4.1 states that “Where only one communications technology is used, any failure of the communications path shall be annunciated at the supervising station within 5 minutes of the failure.” NFPA 72 2013 Chapter 26 section 26.6.3.1.5 goes a step further to loosen the supervision requirements for a single communications technology from every five minutes to every 60 minutes. In addition, Chapter 26 section 26.6.3.1.6 tightens the requirements for multiple communication paths from every 24 hours to every 6 hours.

Keep in mind that not every jurisdiction is quick to adopt the newest NFPA 72 standards as the local AHJ’s still have the final say. With the future of the POTS infrastructure more in question then ever and the potential to save thousands of dollars by using newer and more reliable technologies, it is imperative to have a good understanding of the local codes. Also being able to provide AHJs with any relevant documentation for approval will help you stay on the forefront of this technology shift while also being able to capture a savings on monthly monitoring costs.  

 

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.