Emergency Communication Systems: ECS Components

Posted by Zach Nelson on Mar 21, 2016 7:00:00 AM

Watch Lee Kaiser speak about emergency communications in fire alarm systems. In the video excerpt below, you can watch as he explains the flow and purpose of those components used in this type of system.

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Some of the components, as we start to drill down towards the panels themselves inside of our buildings—we always have a fire alarm control panel and then we add on the ECS panel or voice alarm panel. I could have a number of remote consoles. Something I always add in a voice alarm fire system are the speakers.

The normal horns inside of our building aren't capable of producing the voice quality that we need for our voice fire alarm system, so we have to pull out the horns—in a retrofit situation—and put in speakers. And often, we're going to have more speakers in our system than what we would have had horns so that we can create that distinguishable and understandable voice quality. And then we still have strobes.

When we change into emergency communications and are potentially signaling for more than just fire emergencies, we still have to have strobes in our system or in our building. That never really goes away. The code says that when I have devices that work in combination for both fire emergencies and other emergencies, I need to have a clear strobe lens. And then the device either needs to have no marking or have a word alert on it—that's really important. Now, when I have just strobes for emergency communications dedicated for that, it can use any color strobe lens. And so this table gives us some of the different colors that are out there and being used for different emergencies.

General alarms or general alerts are typically amber or yellow. We see a lot of facilities using blue for weather and then some facilities using red for chemical releases. Now some of these pictures help illustrate that. See how this device has the amber lens and is marked alert?That would be a good example of how to do an ECS strobe. This is a combination device, and all the different manufacturers that make devices have these out there, where they've got a dedicated fire strobe on top. Which, remember, we have to have a clear strobe lens for that and its labeled fire. And then they've got an ECS strobe below where you've got an amber lens there and it's marked alert. That's pretty common for that.

So, how do we start to put together the nuts and bolts of different voice fire alarm systems? Well, I've got two examples here. The one on the right is the smaller system and the one on the left are larger and specifically for mass notification systems like big campuses. And so, let's start with the smaller systems. I always have my voice fire alarm panel there in the middle, and instead of having horns coming off that panel, now I use the notification appliance circuits just for strobe notification. And the strobes get wired from that.

Now, I use other inputs into the voice fire alarm panel that I add on. That's a new thing, typically, if I only had a regular fire alarm system before. And inside of the voice fire alarm system is where we've got a little computer in there with memory for the prerecorded voice messages. I've got amplifiers to drive the new speakers that I've added to my system, and then I've got a microphone that I can pick up and broadcast my live voice messages.  So all the speakers need to come off of the voice alarm panel.

In my larger system, things are pretty similar. I still have the fire alarm control panel. I never am able to get rid of that. And then into the fire alarm control panel, I have all the detection devices. But I may have, in some cases, some ways to signal other emergencies. I could have push buttons.

One example would be a push button for a severe weather emergency, so if you press that button, then you get an audible tone for severe weather along with a prerecorded voice message telling the building to report to the designated tornado shelter—by the way, you're very close to our designated tornado shelter. Let's hope one doesn't kick up, but what we do today in this building is somebody broadcasts out over the phone and all the speakers on the little phones let people know that they're supposed to report to the tornado shelter. But we're hoping, because this is very near and dear to the Orr family's heart, that we're going to put in a voice fire alarm system for here, and then use it for more than just fire alarms. And specifically, locate one of those severe weather buttons at the receptionist's desk and also one in our HR department so that they can signal to have everybody come down. And right over here, as we put these partitions down, this becomes our designated tornado shelter. This room doesn't count because of the windows, right? So, I can have other inputs I add on my mass notification panel.

There's a difference between these two systems. Here, I just send back and forth electrical signals to make the voice alarm panel work, but in the larger systems, I actually send data back and forth. Those panels actually network together. And then I can remotely interface to the larger system panels through the internet and I can operate the system—if it need be for an emergency—in another part of the building, across town, across the country, over the internet.

Often on these larger systems that are installed in larger buildings, to distribute the voice, there's a limit to how long I can run the speaker circuits. So, I often have to add amplifiers that give me more capacity to run more circuits and drive more speakers throughout my larger space that I'm providing coverage to.

This is the seventh 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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