Trendy Beverly Hills
Reducing the clutter of disparate systems
- By Brian Carlson
- May 01, 2015
Beverly Hills, Calif., has been glamorized in countless film
and television depictions as the home of the wealthy and the
famous. Beyond the glamour, though, it has municipal management
issues that are much like those faced by any city.
In particular, Roy Johnson, the city’s chief engineer, has experienced
a long-term frustration with the fact that the municipal buildings
in his purview often had different, mutually incompatible and
sometimes antiquated fire alarm and building energy management
systems (EMS). This made maintenance more complex and costly,
and potentially limited response capabilities in emergencies.
Johnson was determined to reduce the legacy clutter of multiple
vendors and systems operating in the city hall, library, police
headquarters, fire department and other facilities. He also wanted to
enhance functionality in areas such as emergency communications.
With those goals in mind, Johnson took steps to upgrade and standardize
around a single vendor family that could reduce costs, simplify
monitoring and facilitate future expansion and reconfiguration.
Johnson teamed up with JAM Fire Protection Inc., a Los Angeles-area
fire alarm/life safety systems integrator. Together, they determined
the most cost-effective choice, compliant with the requirements of
The National Fire Alarm & Signaling Code, NFPA 72, and the CSFM
(California State Fire Marshal), was the E3 Series fire alarm and emergency communications system produced by Gamewell-FCI.
Once the city’s equipment procurement decisions were made,
Johnson began updating each building for which he had responsibility
whenever a major renovation was scheduled.
“We started out about ten years ago when we were remodeling
the library,” Johnson said. But, he didn’t just want to simplify—he
wanted to improve safety capabilities along the way. “The library
project was an opportunity to embrace Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA) standards, using alarms that incorporate strobe lights, as
specified by NFPA 72.”
More recently, Johnson noted several historic city structures that
needed updating. That presented an opportunity to network the fire
alarm systems within and between buildings to simplify system monitoring
and speed response to alarms and maintenance alerts.
The Gamewell-FCI FocalPoint graphic workstation, located in
Johnson’s central plant office, provides facility managers and first
responders an integrated view of the entire network of systems. An
event history and floor-by-floor layouts of every building, depicting
fire alarm components and special notations such as hazardous
materials storage or occupants needing assistance, are all part of this
monitoring system’s customized graphics. The city’s FocalPoint system
is also programmed to deliver alerts to standard mobile devices,
providing a full description of any emergency events in real-time.
“For Beverly Hills, FocalPoint was the key,” said John Mongillo,
president of JAM. “They had a LAN so it was natural for them to tie
communications for all buildings together from one location. That
makes it less labor intensive and easier to run with just one person,”
According to JAM Fire Protection, the city did not originally
specify an emergency communications, or mass notification, system
as part of these updates. However, when Beverly Hills officials saw
this capability demonstrated by the system installed in the library,
they favored its value for this and other municipal buildings. The E3
Series can be enhanced with programming and the necessary local
operator consoles (LOCs) to offer a supervised means of delivering
immediate notifications to some or all areas of the network in the
midst of disaster or public safety situations.
Mongillo said that modern alarm systems can now be supplemented
and upgraded affordably with many new capabilities. For instance,
Gamewell-FCI’s E3 Series systems require only a single, twisted-pair
of wires or two fiber optic cables. The affordability of scalable fire
alarm and emergency communications systems (FA/ECS) such as the
E3 Series allows it to be expanded incrementally, as budgets allow.
JAM’s installation approach for Beverly Hills involved using
existing conduit runs and equipment when possible while adding
new Gamewell-FCI technology to provide additional voice communication
and the ability to monitor the entire network through
the FocalPoint workstation. Mongillo said his company has used the
same cost-effective approach for other customers, such as the city of
Both Carson and Beverly Hills were able to take advantage of existing
LAN systems, which reduced the need for new physical connections,
and both municipalities needed alarm upgrades because
their existing technology dated back 30 to 40 years.
Over the course of the project, many of the city’s major municipal
buildings have been reequipped and modernized.
City Hall has been upgraded with a Gamewell-FCI E3 Series fire
alarm with voice evacuation. This California Historical Building, built
in 1932, offered special challenges to installers working around decorative
facades and ceilings. The building’s fire alarm system provides
full area coverage utilizing approximately 250 sensors while providing
smoke control through interfaces with elevators, HVAC and access
Equally challenging was the work in the police headquarters,
which is now protected by an E3 Series network. The fire alarm system
was installed as part of a major renovation, which included the
addition of a new Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Further upgrades
to the system were made during the renovation of three lower
levels underground, which included a new state-of-the-art indoor firing
range. The system is using 180 new addressable sensors and modules
and approximately 60 hard wire zones with standard interfaces
to HVAC, six banks of elevators and access control.
At the fire department headquarters, another E3 Series networked
voice evacuation system with four nodes was installed. The retrofit
of the fire alarm system was completed utilizing 180 sensors with full
sprinkler coverage in three buildings.
Buildings recently constructed include the Third Street Parking
facility and 331 Foothill Road office building. The garage is equipped
with a Gamewell-FCI E3 Series voice evacuation network system
with two nodes while the office building only required a small, standalone
E3 Series system.
The transformation of an historic post office building into a theatre
and construction of an adjacent underground parking garage are
currently underway. Given the E3 Series’ scalable capacity and ease of
expandability, the fire protection systems for these buildings will be
tied to the network to simplify monitoring and maintenance.
Mongillo stresses that the networked system does not alter the
basic alarm system.
“All buildings’ systems can still operate independently if the network
is unavailable,” Mongillo said. “It’s meant to be fail-safe.”
In addition, if one or more system components are damaged, the
E3 Series is designed to be “survivable”. A distributed audio design
helps ensure the continuity of clear, accurate communications.
Today, with the majority of planned retrofits complete, Johnson,
who is the city engineer, has amazing capabilities available from his
office—an EMS monitor and the FocalPoint network graphic workstation,
managing a sophisticated network of five fire alarm and emergency
communications systems throughout the city’s core. Work will
soon begin to equip additional buildings.
“Our city has always tried to be on the cutting edge. Back in the
1930s, we installed a Gamewell fire alarm call box system around the
city, which was state-of-the-art for the time, and that system stayed in
service for decades,” Johnson said.
The fire department still retains and displays, in working condition,
the original Gamewell Master Box system that was used to
protect the City of Beverly Hills. “This new system follows in that
tradition,” Johnson said.
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Security Today.