Notifier Protects $1 Billion Auto Plant

Honeywell recently announced completion of a fire alarm system protecting a 2.2 million square-foot automotive manufacturing facility in southwest Georgia. AFA Protective Systems Inc. of Marrietta, Ga., designed and installed the extensive, 72-node network of Notifier ONYX Series NFS2-640 and NFS2-3030 fire alarm control panels, digital voice evacuation panels, 2.4 miles of fiber optic cable and more than 7,000 detection and notification devices monitored by five ONYXWorks graphic workstations placed throughout the facility. 

 Representing a $1 billion investment by a major auto manufacturer to construct its first U.S. manufacturing facility, the plant comprises 10 facilities for stamping, welding, paint, assembly/offices, two logistics buildings, three feeder plants and a utility building, plus an outdoor test track, sprawled over 2,200 acres of land. The plant's designers required a single fire alarm network solution, capable of being entirely monitored from one or more locations and able to grow with the car manufacturer's needs.

"We didn't cut any corners. We designed a full-blown system for the plant's multitude of facilities, all with diverse needs," says AFA Protective Systems' Regional Sales Manager, Robert Moseley. Each of the site's ten different buildings presented unique fire protection challenges.

The system's design had to accommodate for induced voltage issues within the welding shop and the paint shop's Class 1, Division 1 hazardous environment requirements. Providing adequate smoke detection for the facility's vast network of enclosed conveyors, used for transporting automobile components, was another hurdle AFA overcame. The plant's voice evacuation system comprises a number of pre-recorded messages in three different languages, programmed by AFA to be broadcast by speaker/strobes to all or specific parts of the plant, depending on the situation and areas affected by an emergency event. The varying levels of ambient noise within the assorted facilities, from offices to welding areas, further complicated the design of this fire alarm network. To achieve clear communications, AFA utilized a sophisticated intelligibility design program to determine the best placement, wattage and volume for speakers within each space.  Each of the site's ten areas had its own business manager, setting their own unit's timelines with the different trades involved with plant construction. 

"They were mounting thousand-pound robot support beams while we were working in the near vicinity, installing our system. So this all required unusual safely awareness, additional lifts, booms and extensive coordination with the various trades and managers," exclaims Moseley.

For nearly a year prior to the plant's construction, NOTIFIER representatives held extensive negotiations with the plant's designers and its ownership, providing extensive support during creation of the engineering specification. Once the spec. was written, AFA's primary team, consisting of Operations Manager Terry Smith, Business Development Manager Toni Keenan, Design Consultant Michael Reagan and Robert Moseley, met with plant managers and a number of local authorities to review the proposed system, especially given the plant's immense size.

"We met with city planners, we met with Factory Mutual and we met with the fire marshal numerous times," says Moseley. "The state fire marshal actually had to review some of the drawings in conjunction with the local fire department. There were a lot of code issues in the process that we had to smooth out."

Once installation was complete, the challenging process of training plant officials and the city's first responders began. The ability for the plant's management to operate and maintain its own fire protection network was a significant reason the auto manufacturer choose a NOTIFIER system. Ongoing personnel training onsite plus a number of trainings at the NOTIFIER branch in Duluth, Ga., have provided plant managers a strong understanding of the system's operation. Utilizing the ONYXWorks graphic workstations to view detailed, floor-by-floor layouts of the facilities and fire alarm network components, plant managers can easily monitor all events. Moreover, customized commands programmed by AFA through ONYXWorks will enable plant management to perform partial system shutdowns for maintenance. Reflecting back on the surmountable challenges his AFA team faced during the design and installation of this immense system, Moseley is very satisfied with the end result.

"It's been well inspected and well documented. It's up and running and providing continuous monitoring and life safety protection for this complex facility as well as for those who work there," says Moseley.

More information on NOTIFIER fire alarm and emergency communications systems is available at www.notifier.com

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