Life safety systems play an important role in high-security facility
- By Brian Carlson
- Aug 01, 2014
A 13-story, Atlanta mid-rise with high-security office space, training
and data centers—owned by a confidential, mission-critical client—
is now outfitted with an E3 Series fire alarm and emergency
communication system (ECS) from Gamewell-FCI that includes
an emergency phone system on its own and a dedicated fire alarm
circuit for enhanced survivability.
The robust system incorporates 31 “areas of refuge,” or locations equipped
with a two-way emergency telephone system, to enable occupants to communicate
with two redundant, on- and off-site security command centers. Each of the 31
areas also is equipped with a standard, high-rise, fire fighters’ telephone system to
facilitate communication between first responders throughout the building during
Dealing with an obsolete, legacy fire alarm system and a separate, standalone
ECS, the building owner’s property management company, Childress Klein Properties,
Inc., turned to local Gamewell-FCI distributor Critical Systems LLC, to
help them find a new, comprehensive solution. By code, the new system had to
meet the latest UL 864 9th Edition Standard for Control Units and Accessories for
Fire Alarm Systems. Childress Klein sought a solution with a high level of functionality,
backed by a solid warranty, intuitive displays for monitoring and control,
and intelligent peripheral devices for fast, accurate detection of smoke.
With the ability to quickly access and interpret data from the fire alarm system as
a primary objective of this mission-critical facility’s life safety response plan, the
highly-intuitive nature of this system’s Network Graphic Annunciator (NGA) was
a key ingredient of the upgrade.
“The NGA color graphic display walks the user through every step of the process
when responding to an alarm, supervisory or system trouble event,” said Bill
Van Loan, owner and CEO of Critical Systems LLC. “The NGA also is equipped
with a 512 customizable message center that provides additional information to first
responders beyond a standard fire alarm and emergency communication system.”
Tied to the E3 Series system is a Honeywell fire suppression panel, controlling the FM200 waterless fire suppression system that
covers two rooms within a data center. The NGA
displays various stages of the FM200 system along
with instructions on what to do in the event the suppression
system is discharged. For example, the NGA
is programmed to announce the following pre- and
post-activation stages of the FM200 system covering
the sixth floor data center:
- Data Center FM200 Stage 1: alarm activation
- Data Center FM200 Stage 2: alarm activation
alert given at 30-, 20- and 10-second timed intervals
until FM200 system discharge; and
- Data Center FM200 system abort activation alerts:
communicated when discharge is ordered to stop.
Not only is Childress Klein Properties pleased
with this functionality, but the local authority having
jurisdiction (AHJ), who subjected the system specification
to a stringent and comprehensive fire alarm
plan review, was impressed, as well.
“Cobb County fire marshals and fire fighters love
the E3 Series systems because the NGA tells them exactly
what they need to know and it is entirely intuitive,”
Van Loan said.
Existing Infrastructure and
Ease of Installation
Aiding in the system installation was the fact that
critical systems could take advantage of the existing
fiber optic infrastructure, which was then re-used to
interface the redundant NGA and two-way emergency
telephone communication system. The fiber
optics also offered survivability from water and inherent
lightning or power surge damage while supporting
faster information transfer across the network.
In addition to the existing fiber optics, the fact that
the E3 system is easy to install was of great benefit to
the building owner, being that their tenant is a highly-sensitive company that serves world-wide clients and
houses a world-wide incident response center.
“The ease of the E3 installation allowed us to keep
the existing system running while installing a non-invasive
E3 system behind the scenes, and maintaining
complete building protection throughout the change
over and upgrade,” Van Loan said.
To enable the building owner to periodically test
the system components without disrupting its tenants,
Critical Systems created by-pass switches to temporarily
disable/enable certain system components. This included
input points for weekly fire pump and generator
testing, and system output points for speakers, strobes,
elevator recall, door holders, fan shutdown, dampers,
smoke control, pressurization fans and fire shutters.
Detection and Communication
High-fidelity speakers were installed to ensure a high
level of intelligibility, or clarity, of communications
throughout this critical facility. Taking advantage
of the E3 Series system’s fully-digital, voice gateway
and remote amplifiers, the speakers integrated easily
to ensure the clarity of all standard and customized
fire alarm evacuation and mass notification messages.
This includes high-rise evacuation, manual evacuation,
all clear, false alarm, fire alarm and fire drill
messages as well as tornado alerts, weather alerts and
building threat/lock-down announcements.
The fire alarm upgrade also comprised more intelligent,
addressable devices, particularly in the area of
smoke detection. Using multi-criteria detectors, made
to monitor four different elements of smoke and
flame—smoke, CO, light/flame and heat—nuisance
alarms were greatly reduced. Built-in drift compensation
enables each detector to automatically adjust
to minor fluctuations in its environment, such as dirt
build-up and temperature changes, to avoid nuisance
alarm initiation. These same smart detectors also
send maintenance alerts to facility management when
it is time to be cleaned or changed, before erroneously
tripping an alarm.
Since its commissioning, the system has played an
integral role during a number of emergencies, one being
when smoke was detected from a fire caused by one
of the building’s supplementary system power supplies.
“The system was also used to initiate a shelter inplace,
live voice announcement after the activation of
the pre-recorded tornado message to alert the occupants
of the inherent danger during the recent tornados that
ripped through Georgia,” said Jack Kennedy, director
of engineering services at Childress Klein Properties.
All together, the devices tied into the E3 Series
system include manual pull stations, area smoke detectors,
duct smoke detectors, fire pumps, sprinkler
water flows, sprinkler supervisory valves, FM200
fire suppression, fire doors, elevator recall, access
control, smoke control, stairwell and elevator pressurization
fans, smoke dampers and fire shutter rolldown
“The E3 was the ideal choice due to the fact that the
system features and benefits met all of the facility’s needs
in addition to the system’s ability to
scale using building block technology
for all future expansion and upgrade
capabilities,” Kennedy said.
This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Security Today.