Safety in the Heartland

Youth sanctuary chooses high-tech safety protection, ensures room to grow

Growing up is never easy, but when things get out of hand, there are places where the most vulnerable can find hope. One such place is White’s Residential and Family Services in Wabash, Ind.

White’s children and youth home is located on a beautiful 70-acre property in the heart of an 800-acre wooded area, with creeks, ponds and farming fields. In this setting live 160 needy children and youth, ranging in age from 11 to 18. Many of the young people in White’s care have been devastated by horrendous abuse and neglect during their most vulnerable years as children, often witnessing drug use and experiencing terrible violence in their homes. Others are troubled youth who are suffering from their own misdirection.

The Challenge
To protect this uniquely designed community and its special residents, White’s wanted to upgrade and improve its older conventional fire warning systems. The campus sought a more technologically advanced addressable system that was flexible enough for future expansion but also hassle-free.

White’s had alarm systems in place in its 12 cottages, but many were outdated and had become non-code compliant. New construction of added living space and areas for other activities also required fire alarm protection.

“We needed something that provided complete protection for the campus-like design of White’s,” Ray Easterly said. Easterly and his business partner Steve Rolfs operate Priority 1 Life Safety Systems of Fort Wayne, Ind., a fire alarm and security designer and installer.

“We wanted to put an addressable system in place that would be reliable and easily maintained,” Easterly said. “Fire-Lite products have consistently provided this for the numerous projects we have worked on at White’s and elsewhere.”

Fire-Lite sets itself apart with its intelligent addressable fire systems. These systems not only provide superior precision in identifying the source of a fire, but they also extract vital information from detection devices to indicate device status (alarm/trouble), smoke levels (normal/ pre-alarm/alarm), dust accumulation (clean versus dirty) and the integrity of the device’s electronics. All of these features expedite troubleshooting and guarantee greater overall system control, which benefit both the installer and end user.

To ensure the most flexible and dependable system for this unique facility, Priority 1 designed a fire alarm system solution that used Fire-Lite’s MS-9600 fire alarm control panel.

“This really worked for us, given the size and layout of the facilities at White’s,” Easterly said. “Protecting the group homes on the site required a system that was easy to understand and maintain. We also wanted something that was compatible with an existing Fire-Lite MS-9200 in the administration building.”

The Solution
The MS-9600 is typically chosen when a larger system is needed. It provides a higher point capacity and complements the MS-9200 panel, which is known as the workhorse. The interface is built the same, making for easy transition between panel installations. Featuring maintenance alert and automatic detector test functions, this line of control panels offers the latest in advanced fire protection technology.

MS-9600 also is auto-programmable. In less than 30 seconds, it scans for all possible devices at all addresses, stores the device types and addresses found, and then loads default values for all options. It also checks for two or more devices set to the same address.

MS-9600 complies with the following NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code systems requirements:

• Local (automatic, manual, waterflow and sprinkler supervisory)

• Auxiliary (automatic, manual and waterflow)

• Remote station (automatic, manual and waterflow)

• Proprietary (automatic, manual and waterflow)

• Central station (automatic, manual and waterflow, and sprinkler supervised)

“The size of the White’s facility dictated a system that was modern and flexible,” Easterly said. “We worked with the architect to design a system that would work within their demands and their architectural requirements. We’re proud of this system because it provides peace of mind for students and staff.”

The Results
One of the campus’ original Fire-Lite systems underwent its first trial when a wall air conditioner overheated during the Fourth of July weekend. The unit was located in one of the resident staff living areas. There were no students in the group home at the time of the alarm.

“The damage was kept to a minimum because the system worked so well,” Easterly said. “Once it detected smoke, it quickly pinpointed the trouble and staff responded. We are very pleased with how the system performed.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Security Today.

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