Lexus Retailer Gets Into Fire
High-end auto dealer protects assortment of amenities for patrons
- By Beth Welch
- Nov 01, 2010
Lexus of North Miami is a Florida-based, high-end auto retailer offering
an assortment of elaborate amenities intended to support the
lifestyle of the dealership’s patrons. Built and owned by the Craig
Zinn Automotive Group of Hollywood, the five-story, 1.2-million square-
foot facility has an estimated construction value of more than
To protect this massive complex, its occupants and costly inventory, Gamewell-
FCI Engineered Systems distributor LifeSafety Management Inc. of Greenacres,
Fla., was awarded the job of installing a fully integrated fire alarm and emergency
voice/alarm communication system.
“I’m told it’s the largest Lexus dealership outside of Japan,” said Nick Chaplin,
director of sales and marketing for LifeSafety Management. “There are thousands
of high-end Lexus automobiles and fixtures to protect, including special service
equipment stored in 116 service bays, as well as retail areas, offices, a spa and gym,
and a business center.”
Easy and Cost-Conscious
At the center of the dealership’s fire alarm protection is the E3 Series Expandable
Emergency Evacuation system, manufactured by Gamewell-FCI. Although not an
initial prerequisite, ease-of-use became a desirable feature in the eyes of the general
contractor and end user.
“The system itself is self explanatory and extremely user friendly,” said Doug
Poff, general superintendent of Stiles Construction of Fort Lauderdale.
Tom Riley, facilities manager for the Craig Zinn Automotive Group, had similar
comments about the system and service. He said he liked the fire alarm control
panels’ easy setup and LifeSafety Management’s quick response.
“I like how easy it is to locate a device that is in trouble due to the way the fire
alarm control panel is set up,” Riley said.
With the general contractor keeping a close eye on time and monetary expenditures,
any cost-saving measures were highly favored. While many current-day
systems require installation of four or more conductors per signaling line circuit,
the E3 Series requires only a single pair of wires. A single unshielded, twisted
pair of wires delivers addressability -- location and identification -- detection and
supervision, as well as operating power for each sensor throughout the facility’s
Sufficient, Synchronizes Coverage
Synchronization of the facility’s more than 600 horn and strobe devices throughout
the complex was a major code issue that LifeSafety Management’s team had
“Due to the sheer size of the Lexus facility, we had to make sure all of the notification
appliance circuit devices flashed at the same time,” Chaplin said. “The
challenge was synchronization and the creation of enough power to operate all of
them at the same time.”
To synchronize a large number of visual devices placed in an expansive, open
facility and provide adequate power, the E3 Series’ signaling line circuits supply
supervisory control to an ample number of notification appliance circuit boosters
to operate the visual strobes. By adding two more conductors for the NAC output
control, each NAC A/V device can be pulsed in unison per NFPA code.
The backbone of the auto dealership’s fire protection system employs a highspeed
network communication protocol for fast data transfers. This protocol,
called ARCnet, is the means by which intelligent, peer-to-peer connectivity occurs between the main alarm panel and the controllers, annunciators and other devices
in the system.
The E3 Series’ ARCnet will support up to 64 nodes per fire alarm control panel
on a UTP conductor or a single fiber-optic pair cable. To create a network capable
of protecting a multi-building campus, many E3 Series control panels can be interconnected,
via UTP or fiber.
The metallic cable topology used in LifeSafety Management’s fire protection
system design is comparable to the traditional network technology of a common
LAN, but with two significant distinctions. First, the UTP that interconnects the
controllers, amplifiers, annunciators and other core devices can run up to 3,000 feet -- 10 times the capacity of a typical computer network. Second, the ARCnet
communication protocol employed by the E3 Series system involves a high degree
of redundancy and interoperability, which allows digital signals to be regenerated
at each node, thus providing a high degree of survivability.
This redundancy also enables E3 Series systems’ transmissions to travel longer
distances, thereby reducing the number of repeaters needed in the total system.
In terms of speed, many current-day fire alarm systems operate at 9.6 Kbaud or
less. The data rate of the ARCnet backbone is 625 Kbaud, facilitating fast emergency
To ensure timely detection in a complex of this size, high-speed polling technology
is required. The E3 Series’ Velociti(tm) polling format monitors the dealership’s
more than 200 addressable initiating devices, comprised mostly of photoelectric
spot- and duct-type smoke detectors. Velociti polling interrogates devices
in groups of 10, minimizing the polling time for the total number of devices on a
loop to less than two seconds.
The system’s voice gateway can deploy live voice paging or a variety of 16
pre-recorded messages to individual floors or locations throughout the facility.
Live voice announcing can be performed via the complex’s two microphone assemblies
strategically placed in the front entrance lobby and at the main fire
alarm control panel.
Riley said the intelligibility of communications is noteworthy. “It compares
well to other systems I’ve seen. All messages are clear and easy to understand.”
When designing the system, LifeSafety Management gave careful consideration
to the differences in the physical scale of departments and levels of ambient noise
within the facility -- garage versus office area.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a wide range of AV devices on any single job,”
Fire alarm systems generally use two types of amplification: decentralized and
bulk. To enhance the survivability of system communications, Chaplin’s team used
amplifiers that allow for a decentralized voice command structure. In the event a portion of the system is damaged,
the distribution of all EVAC functions
throughout the facility helps to ensure
ongoing delivery of communications.
The fire alarm control panel installed
by LifeSafety Management, combined
with two Command Voice Gateway
controllers, is capable of integrating fire
detection and EVAC along with other
facility subsystems. The latter includes
door control for smoke spread prevention;
the control of heating, ventilation
and air conditioning systems; and elevator
recall and damper control. The
system’s flexible, modular design and
emergency voice alarm communication
system capabilities also pave the way for
emergency communication functions in
Integration became a critical component
when designing a fire protection
solution around the dealership’s unique
three-level tire carousel -- a major area
of concern identified by the authority
“This is an enclosed sprinkled concrete
shaft with access openings on
each level,” said Nick Scolaro, fire
systems project manager for LifeSafety
Management. “These openings
require fire doors that automatically
close when there’s a fire, providing
air-tight containment. Upon fire initiation
within and just outside the
shaft, the fire door controller is programmed
to release these doors within
six to eight seconds.”
Automatic door closure in the
tire carousel prevents smoke spread
throughout the complex. The same
method of integration was used where
door holder closers and traditional
magnetic door holders maintain fire
doors in an open position throughout
In South Florida, sprinkler systems
are typically “wet” in type, meaning water
is present in the pipes at all times. The
fire alarm system supervises all sprinkler
tamper switches and water-flow devices
to detect when water is turned on/off
or is flowing through the system in the
event of sprinkler head activation. A
fire pump is another integral part of
the dealership’s sprinkler system, also
supervised by the fire alarm.
The fire protection challenges and
how they’re being met at this expansive,
multi-purpose facility can offer a lesson
for practically any application. The
system’s advanced capabilities deliver
a scalable fire protection solution that
is easy to operate and economically
advantageous for new construction
and retrofit applications of any size.
This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Security Today.