Emergency Communication Systems: Common Uses

Posted by Zach Nelson on Mar 14, 2016 7:30:00 AM

Watch Lee Kaiser speak about emergency communications in fire alarm systems. In the video excerpt below, you can watch as he distinguishes between different but common uses for both mass notification and voice alarm systems. 

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Lee: In the real world, some of the main places that we actually see voice alarm systems installed versus mass notification systems; public assembly buildings, high rises, K-12 education, shopping malls, and underground buildings. Mass notification systems; we see those in military bases. In fact, the military and the Department of Defense is really where the discipline of mass notification was created. And out of the militaries flowed more civilian uses for mass notification. Government buildings, college and corporate campuses, and industrial facilities are all using mass notification systems.

Attendee: We have UFCs or unified facility criteria for all the services, so if anybody wanted to read anything about that, you can find it online.

Lee: The unified facilities criteria is basically the military code—Department of Defense code—and it's got a lot of information about mass notification systems in there, and you can get that online. What we know is a trend is that more and more companies are becoming aware of the need for effective emergency communication. So even in instances where a voice alarm system or emergency communication system isn't required, they're still providing them.

As designers, you need to work with the owner to get the right type of system. First off, you need to do a risk analysis. And you need to be able to answer these six questions pretty well for you to be able to flow into what features you need for the system.

  1. What are the potential threats?
  2. What is the perceived peril?
  3. How many people are at risk?
  4. Are occupants capable of self-preservation? Remember, we talked about the hospitals where not everybody can exit the building themselves.
  5. This is an important question: are employees trained to provide assistance in an emergency?
    I think about high rises a lot with fire wardens on different floors, and that's a really good life safety system that many high rises employ where there is a dedicated individual for each floor of the high rise. During an emergency, their job is to give direction to the occupants on that floor on how to exit the space. Maybe which stairwell to go down and encourage them that, yes, there's a fire alarm, you need to leave your desks. All that is giving voice commands, basically. And so what we do with a voice alarm system is to automate that.
  6. And then, who are the emergency responders?
Those questions will flow into what type of features you need.

When I think about reaching the audience, is my building mostly staff people that show up there every day, or do I have visitors that come into this building? Do I have any need to do any outdoor notification? That's also an important consideration. Do I need to have multiple means for communication? Is just our voice messages coming out of the speakers going to be enough, or do I need to have some other ways to give some more detailed information—other visual devices besides the strobes: message boards, or digital signage, or display boards? Different things like that to give information during an emergency. And all that can automatically happen. And then finally, how will the system be operated? You know, this is a really important consideration. In a high rise the code requires you to have a fire command center, but most buildings don't have that.

Most buildings aren't high rises. So, where should I operate my system from? I don't necessarily want to bury my voice alarm panel and all of its interactive features in some far-off boiler room someplace. I may want to have some remote operating consoles in places where I'm more likely to use that day-to-day or during an emergency. So think about that. And you could work with the owner to understand their operations and help specify those features so that you give them a useable system that they’ll actually be able to use.

This is the sixth video in our Emergency Communications video series. Watch the other parts at the links below:

 You can also watch our previous series on Trending Technology Clean Agent Systems and on Dialer and Communicator Technology Changes at the links below.

Trending Technology Clean Agent Systems:

Dialer and Communicator Technology Changes:

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Topics: Technology Changes, Emergency Communications

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