A Howling Success

State-of-the-art veterinary hospital secures premises with multi-functional facility communication system

WHEN Red Bank Veterinary Hospital broke ground in Tinton Falls, N.J., in August 2003 for the construction of its state-of-the-art medical facility, many structural challenges accompanied the design and building of what was to become the nation's largest privately owned veterinary hospital.

"Our firm was contacted at the outset of the project to install, maintain and upgrade the facility's entire security and life safety communications network," said Bob Napoli, president and owner of Security World Inc. "Given the specific nature of the business, we knew there were numerous inherit issues that had to be addressed.

"First of all, a conventional life safety system using strobe horns would be totally counterproductive. In our experience, both children and animals react adversely to the harsh, piercing siren. In fact, I have even seen some animals become aggressive during their use. Second, in keeping with the facility's state-of-the-art design, it was necessary to exceed minimal safety standards while maintaining a level of cost."

To meet both criteria, Napoli turned to Wheelock Inc., in Long Branch, N.J., for the answer. Of particular interest to Napoli for the RBVH application was the SAFEPATH® system's combined fire alarm and public address functions. Given the sensitivity of animals toward certain sounds, the use of voice announcements provided by the system for emergency notification was appealing.

In addition to being more friendly, voice instructions are more likely to be followed during emergency situations. Another benefit to the integrated system is that, while fire alarms are seldom used, public address systems fulfill a multitude of services that range from paging, to the widespread dissemination of non-emergency messaging.

In addition to these separate benefits, the combined life safety and public address system also served to meet both of Napoli's key criteria: functionality and cost-effectiveness.

"The system's multifunctional nature certainly addressed several key concerns regarding the use of strobe horns that would upset the animals, as well as the overall pricing of the unit and its installation," Napoli said. "Not only did the Wheelock system meet the unique communications needs of the hospital, but it also provided benefits at a cost far less than it would have taken to install separate fire alarm and public address systems. Plus, the system is easy to install and readily expandable to meet the needs of a medical practice that has grown considerably since its launch nearly 20 years ago."

In 1986, RBVH was a typical one-person practice. Since that time, the hospital has expanded tremendously to include numerous specialties, such as cardiology, dentistry and oral surgery, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology and surgery.

To accommodate the growth and rising demand for its services, RBVH expanded its premises three times in the ensuing years -- once in 1991, again in 1998 and a third time in 2004.

Today, the newly opened veterinary hospital employs nearly 300 employees in a three-story, 58,000-square-foot facility that includes 25 exam rooms, nine state-of-the-art surgery suites, a 120-seat lecture hall for continuing education and a 13,000-square-foot waiting room featuring an aquarium with a live coral reef.

"It is a magnificent building that exudes style and state-of-the-art capabilities all the way through," Napoli said. "This is one of the reasons we chose to work with Wheelock. SAFEPATH not only thoroughly met our needs, but also offered the benefits of a system that we knew required minimal maintenance and the ability to easily upgrade on an ongoing basis without changing its overall infrastructure."

The installation required the use of nearly 100 speaker strobe appliances and was completed in less than four weeks with the assistance of a few trained technicians.

The system offers the flexibility to deliver pre-recorded tones and/or announcements from either an onboard microphone or remote microphone station, in addition to general paging and voice evacuation messaging. It also combines onboard 24-volt DC power for strobes with either 40 or 80 watts of supervised audio or supervised line-level output with an eight-tone generator that can be used as an inquiry or pre-announcement tone. Two discrete outputs also ensure that prerecorded messages can be broadcast over multiple zones simultaneously with mic override (all-call) capability.

The system's integrity is further enabled through the use of NAC circuits that automatically respond when the associated audio output circuit is activated. Furthermore, all module inputs and outputs are supervised with onboard circuitry while the module's circuits are monitored by status relays and LEDs for remote trouble reporting.

"The Red Bank Fire Department toured the entire facility upon its completion," Napoli said. "They were especially appreciative of our efforts to exceed local codes. Trouble-free and no harder to install than conventional systems, SAFEPATH proved the ideal solution for this application."

As a result, Napoli said, the hospital has already begun to upgrade the system with multiple messaging options designed to address a wide array of emergencies.

"Thanks to the modular design, we also are very comfortable with the system's expandability, since the facility and its services continue to grow every few years," he said.


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