Meeting All the Requirements

Software configuration synchronizes fire and life safety systems

Comprising two interconnected threestory buildings, Silvercreek Premier Retirement Living overlooks the Cherokee Valley Golf Course in Olive Branch, Miss. Silvercreek has 98 luxury apartments and offers catered independent and assisted living opportunities.

Because it is a retirement facility catering to a senior community, the design of the fire system posed some unique challenges for AlarmTec Systems of Memphis, Tenn., designer and installer of the fire system.

“Seniors are often less mobile, and evacuations can pose a health risk, so the fire system had to limit unnecessary impact on the occupants while optimizing life safety in the case of a fire event,” said Mark Shipp, owner of AlarmTec.

Specifically, the design called for an intelligent detection system that could provide appropriate levels of alarms and notifications, including instructions for occupants, based on the location and severity of the fire. For example, if smoke is sensed in only one living space, it would need to trigger a supervisory signal in that room only. In living spaces with more than one room, the sounders would need to be grouped such that any activated sounder in that living area would automatically synchronize the activation of the other sounders.

If smoke is sensed in more than one living space, each instance would result in a supervisory signal synchronized across only those rooms in which smoke is sensed.

In a general alarm, voice messaging would provide guidance to occupants whenever fire is sensed in a common space or in the cases of sprinkler or pull station activation.

Because of the population involved, in order to avoid a total evacuation, a fire detected in Silvercreek’s East Building, for example, would result in speaker activation providing evacuation voice messaging in that building. Meanwhile, the West Building would receive a different voice message, putting those occupants on standby. In this situation, voice messaging would instruct East Building occupants to evacuate to the West Building in order to prevent elderly and disabled occupants from having to go outside unless absolutely necessary. If conditions warrant evacuation of both buildings, a voice alarm message would then direct residents to evacuate to the outside.

Built on three addressable loops tied back to a NOTIFIER NFS2 3030 panel, one of the biggest challenges of implementing the fire system was the requirement to synchronize signals across multiple rooms in supervisory alarm. To achieve this, AlarmTec chose to mount intelligent smoke detectors, in newly available System Sensor B200S addressable sounder bases, in all the living spaces.

Using the System Sensor synchronization protocol, these addressable sounder bases now enable installers to program a command set from the panel, including selection of volume, tone and grouping, to tailor the response to specific events. That means synchronization of the sounders can be achieved using software at the panel, not physical jumpers or hardwired interconnections.

“When we first began this project, the addressable sounder bases were not yet available,” said Rob Duncan, AlarmTec’s lead project engineer for the Silvercreek project. The original plan called for the use of interconnect wiring between sounder bases to group the signals. However, AlarmTec came in one day to find that painters had finished all the ceilings, severely limiting access to the wiring.

“We lost three days trying to find wires and work through that issue,” Duncan said. “Once we found out the bases were available, we made a decision to switch those in and eliminate the use of the interconnect wires. They mounted to the same junction boxes. Software configuration only took us two to three minutes per device from that point, and all of it was done from the panel. That decision saved us a lot of time and money.”

In fact, the initial configuration was programmed to provide a continuous tone in local events. The local fire marshal asked that a Temporal-3 tone be used for local alarm communications because voice communications would be provided for general evacuation instructions. In a hardwired system, that would have meant accessing each device and changing jumper positions, at a minimum.

It also could have meant changing out complete units. Either scenario would have meant days of labor and disruption to the project schedule. Using the addressable sounder bases, however, all it took was a simple software change to modify the command sets, which took less than 10 minutes to accomplish.

This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Security Today.

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