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A Close Call

New addressable fire alarm system saves historic inn

A historic landmark is much like a piece of art. It reveals something about us and our past, and it must be protected and preserved as if it were priceless. That’s why the threat of fire is one of the top concerns for owners and operators of the nation’s historic landmarks.

“Imagine the loss of an irreplaceable historic site,” said Nick Martello, director of marketing for Fire-Lite Alarms. “It’s just not the same if it’s rebuilt. Once a fire begins, it can ravage a building in seconds, not minutes. That’s why smoke detection is so important. Once a fire starts, we know almost immediately.”

Old Meets New
Revamped from a farmhouse built in 1850, the Inn at Danbury is exactly the type of historic landmark that must be protected and preserved. The inn, located in a scenic rural area of central New Hampshire, features 14 guest rooms, an indoor pool and the award-winning Alphorn Bistro restaurant. A family of six runs the inn, which is famous for its combination of old-world German hospitality and New England charm.

Last year, the Danbury fire chief, Thomas Austin, determined that the inn needed a new fire alarm system throughout the restaurant, barn and guest quarters. Although several companies offered bids consisting of less sophisticated, conventional systems, the owners of the inn wanted a much higher level of protection. In the end, they chose Fire-Lite, which completed the installation of an addressable MS-9050UD system by mid- November 2007.

The MS-9050UD features advanced detection and point identification capabilities. Remote upload/download programming, notification appliance circuit synchronization and detector/module autoconfiguration made the system easy to install and maintain.

Just in Time
On Aug. 15, a four-alarm fire broke out in the three-story barn, threatening the attached inn and restaurant. The Fire-Lite MS-9050UD addressable fire alarm system detected smoke and notified fire and police a full five minutes before the first phone call was made from the premises to report the fire.

“The system detected smoke, which triggered an immediate alarm within the building,” said Beth Welch, public relations manager for Honeywell Fire Systems. “Simultaneously, the fire alarm system sent an alarm to the central station, which sent the emergency responders rolling toward the inn. The innkeeper heard the alarm and went to investigate, finding only smoke. Soon thereafter fire erupted, engulfing the top floor of the barn.”

Martello explained that the Fire-Lite system senses the changes caused by smoke and heat within just a few moments.

“Once the panel ‘sees’ the level change from the specific address of the detector in alarm and goes into alarm mode, the notification appliance circuits activate, sending voltage to horns and strobes for a local audio/visual alarm, the panel displays a text description of the alarm point and the system’s communicator automatically dials the central station with the coded alarm,” he said. “This whole process takes place in mere seconds.”

Back on Track
The fire drew firefighters from nearly 20 area departments. In the end, the barn only suffered water and smoke damage, and the inn and restaurant were left unscathed.

“Had it been five more minutes, the inn would have suffered total devastation,” Austin said. “I can’t compliment the alarm system enough. If it hadn’t worked, they might not have realized the situation until it was too late.”

After the fire, the Inn at Danbury’s fire alarm system was restored and put back into commission within 48 hours. According to the inn’s Web site, both the inn and restaurant are once again operating as normal.

This article originally appeared in the December 2008 issue of Security Today.

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