Architects & Engineers

Extend your Clean Agent System

Clean Agent Systems are a great way to protect your sensitive equipment and assets. It’s effective fire suppression with no water, residue or oily deposits. Now, you can extend your clean agent system by protecting several enclosed spaces from a single agent supply.

Storing clean agent tanks within your IT room can cause problems including a lack of floor space for the valuable material you need to protect. Your protected space should be reserved for the expensive assets and computer equipment for which the room is designed, not your fire suppression equipment. Most IT rooms are not designed with a large (up to 1,500 lbs) clean agent tank in mind – not the floor space, aisle size, or door width. While some property owners will build the room around the tank, this is a short-term solution.

If your clean agent system activates, your tanks will need to be removed from the room and sent to a recharging facility to be refilled with the suppression agent. If you room is modified or expanded, you may need to send your tanks to have the amount of agent increased or add tanks to your system. With a room built around the large tanks, you now have major construction in your plans which could have been avoided.

With a 725 psi clean agent system you can store your tanks in a closet, basement or mechanical room. These clean agent systems have the capability of a longer piping network which allows for tanks to be moved further from the protected area. The new “Multi-Zone” technology also allows you to protect several enclosures with a single agent supply. This design flexibility can make clean agent systems a better solution for your facility and provide more cost effective solutions.

For more in-depth information about the advantages of 725 psi clean agent systems, check out A1’s Lunch & Learns for architects and engineers.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

What is Swift Technology?

SWIFT stands for Smart Wireless Integrated Fire Technology. SWIFT systems provide a flexible, reliable solution for many applications that are problematic for traditional wired devices. SWIFT systems are a commercial wireless fire detection system using a robust, self-healing mesh technology. SWIFT sensors detect fire, just like their wired counterparts, while providing installation flexibility in a wireless format. This wireless technology is available for fire alarm control panels, voice evacuation panels, emergency communications systems, advanced detection, gas and flame detection, and notification appliances.

Traditional wired systems can be costly to install in concrete walls and ceilings, and with buried wires, they can also be obtrusive in surface mount conduit, or even dangerous if they are being installed in construction where asbestos is present. In addition, wireless devices are ideal for use in temporary structures such as portable classrooms and traveling exhibits. SWIFT systems are wireless, which make these potential problems obsolete. The systems can use any combination of modules, smoke and/or heat detectors.

SWIFT systems use a mesh network for communication where there is a child-parent relationship between devices, so that each device has two parents. This provides a second path for communication, to be used as a back-up in the event that one device can no longer operate for any reason. This back-up allows for the rest of the devices to still directly communicate with each other, or through one or more intermediate devices, even if one device becomes inoperable. The devices are also designed to find the strongest signal path for each device. SWIFT technology utilizes frequency hopping to prevent outside interference, whether intentional or accidental, to maintain your system security.swift mesh network

In addition, both wired and wireless devices can be present on the same fire alarm control panel, providing an integrated wired-wireless solution for increased installation potential. A system can have up to 50 devices per gateway, in any combination of detectors and modules. However, each device uses one address on the panel, so address capacity cannot exceed the panel limits.

Device spacing for wireless technology follows the NFPA guidelines. If signal strength is low, then an additional module or detector can be installed that will act as a repeater. Generally, it is better to use a module as a repeater, since detectors require additional maintenance.

For more in-depth information about this topic, check out A1’s Lunch & Learns for architects and engineers.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Selecting Speakers for a Mass Notification System

A Mass Notification System (MNS) is a platform used to deliver a message to a group of people. This is a crucial aspect of a Life Safety system. When an emergency occurs, being able to deliver precise, clear instructions to those affected can make the difference between life and death.

Standards and Codes regarding Emergency Voice/Alarm Communication Systems

NFPA 72F is the Standard for the Installation, Maintenance and Use of Emergency Voice/Alarm Communication Systems. This Standard from NFPA is a short description of requirements for Voice/Alarm Signaling Service and Two-Way Telephone Communication Service. A more in-depth Standard is from the 2010 edition of the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, Chapter 24. This Code provides a more thorough review of Emergency Communications Systems including many types of both one-way and two-way emergency communications systems, system arrangement and performance.

Speakers in MNS

Traditional MNS include one-way message delivery through email, text messages or reverse 911 calling mechanisms. PA systems and speakers are also part of an MNS. When you are delivering an audio message in the time of an emergency, it is imperative that your message is clear and understood by all affected. Selecting the best speaker system for MNS includes understanding the size of the area you need covered, if the area includes indoor and/or outdoor space, acoustics of the space, any background or interfering noise, speaker sensitivity, and directionality and layout of speakers.

While you evaluate the requirements that will be put on your MNS and speaker equipment, you must also take into account the desires of the system owner/operator, all operational goals for the equipment, and cost saving objectives for the owner.

Intelligibility Ratings of Speakers

The main operational goal for any speaker system is to ensure intelligible communications through the system. Although there is no Code or Standard set to require a certain level of speaker intelligibility, it does provide a new Annex D, entitled Speech Intelligibility, that treats the subject of measuring intelligibility levels in detail. In most designs of typical sound and communications systems, stakeholders measure intelligibility by whether or not the designers, installers, authorities having jurisdiction, and occupants can understand the messages. To help with this decision, speakers are rated on a speech transmission index. This is a complex formula which takes into account some physical characteristics of a transmission channel and expresses the ability of the channel successfully transmit syllables, words and sentences in a comprehensible manner for listeners. STI ranges from 0 for bad, to 1 for excellent.

How Hyperspike Speakers rate

Hyperspike speakers utilize some of the newest audio technology. These speakers employ a new and efficient design to minimize the number of speakers required over a large area. The audio output of the speakers has an STI rating between .85 and 1.0; which means it has some of the highest levels of intelligibility for any MNS speakers. In addition, these speakers are among the lightest and smallest in physical size which allows them to be mounted in almost any place both outdoor and indoor.

Options from Hyperspike:

Lightweight High Power Speaker Arrays (HPSA)

Electronic outdoor audible notification units function on AC-power with battery backup to provide continuous 24/7 emergency operation for the life of the battery – one of the longest running uptimes available. Loudspeakers are typically installed on a structure or pole, and are available in a number of configurations. Units can serve areas measured in radial miles. Models come in architecturally neutral beige or gray.

Lightweight Medium Power Speaker Arrays (MPSA)

Electronic audible notification solutions that are ideal for smaller outdoor applications as well as large or very loud indoor areas. Loudspeakers are available in a number of configurations.

Portable Loudspeaker System

Self-amplified, portable loudspeaker can be hand-held or mounted on a tripod, truck or other apparatus. It features Say-Then-Play (STP) microphone system that disperses clear audio without feedback or disorienting echoes.

For more in-depth information about this topic, check out A1’s Lunch & Learns for architects and engineers.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Requirements for Low Frequency Audible Alarms

Statistics show that smoke detectors and fire alarm systems save lives. As more homes and businesses have smoke alarm and fire alarm systems, the number of lives lost in fires has decreased. 520 Hz sounders are the next technological step in saving lives. 520 Hz signaling, also known as low frequency signaling, describes an audible warning signal that meets the UL standard for a 520 Hz square wave tone.

Code update for Low Frequency Sounders

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. As such, the NFPA establishes standards and codes for fire safety, the following requirements are from the 2010/2013 Editions of NFPA 72 that went into effect on January 1, 2014. Real-world challenges and studies led to the development of these specific low-frequency requirements located in Chapters 18 and 29 of NFPA 72, and related NFPA 720 requirements and ANSI/UL standards.

Code Updates mean Legal requirements in some states

Ohio and Kentucky have statewide adoption of the low-frequency sounder codes. While Indiana has not currently adopted the codes into their laws, preventing the loss of life during a fire is reason enough to utilize low-frequency sounders in fire alarms. Compliance is only part of the picture. As minimum requirements, codes and laws don’t take into account the nuances of good system design. Other considerations that must be taken into account with a life safety design include best practices, commercial viability, customer considerations and even compatibility. The primary objective for life safety systems is to keep building occupants safe. Because life safety systems must also be designed in an effective manner that is not cost prohibitive, it is important to understand the reasoning behind codes and laws. Only with this understanding can decisions be made that act in the best interests of building owners, designers, and occupants.

Why the new requirements?

Low frequency audible alarms (520Hz) have high waking effectiveness for individuals who are hard of hearing, middle-aged to elderly, or school-age children. In fact, 520 Hz square wave signal is the most effective in waking all individuals. Because of this, the requirements in NFPA codes are for low-frequency sounders in all areas intended for sleeping. This requirement is only for new construction or significant renovations, so there is no need to retrofit existing installations. The sounders are for notification appliances connected to and controlled by a fire alarm or emergency communications system.

Are any facilities exempt from this requirement?

Healthcare settings, correctional/detention facilities, and other facilities where private mode signaling is employed and where staff are trained to alert and evacuate occupants according to established protocols are exempt from the low frequency sounder requirements. In addition, these requirements do not apply to dwelling unit life safety systems as single- and multiple-station alarms and household fire alarm systems have requirements outlined in Chapter 29 of NFPA 72. You should always check with your AHJ for local requirements for your facility.

Design Considerations and Challenges

Some life safety systems may need special design consideration to accommodate low frequency notification. Power supplies, amplifiers, audio source units, horns, sounders, and speakers all play a part in achieving code-compliant 520 Hz signaling. The ease or difficulty with which the new requirements are deployed depends on the system and the manufacturer. Even if it’s as simple as specifying different horns or speakers for sleeping areas, there remains the challenge among life safety designers and building owners of using these signals with the greatest life-saving effect and in compliance with local, state, and national codes.

For more in-depth information about this topic, check out A1’s Lunch & Learns for architects and engineers.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Why you should be specifying cell dialers

Plain old telephone service (POTS) lines have served us well but are quickly coming to an end. As this technology becomes obsolete, communication systems that once relied on it – including alarm monitoring – are looking to cellular service as a replacement. There are many benefits to specifying cell dialers in your projects.

The end of analog lines is near. In December of 2009, AT&T reported to the FCC that is was seeing ways of phasing out ‘Relics of a By-Gone Era.’ Now, seven years later, analog lines have been replaced with digital or cellular devices for most industries. Alarm panels are one of the few remaining devices that regularly rely on analog lines for monitoring. Why though, are we allowing a vital part of our security and life safety systems to rely on outmoded technology? You should be specifying the latest proven technology, not outdated technology.

It’s not just that analog lines are outmoded, the replacement – cellular service – is significantly better. Single path cell systems report into the central station every 5 minutes, versus every 24 hours for a system connected via POTS lines. This dramatically increases the ability of the central monitoring station to discover a problem with the fire protection system. Consider this, if a system is on POTS lines it might check in at 2:00 a.m. If the system then experiences a problem and shuts down at 2:04 a.m., the central monitoring station will not know there is a problem until 2:00 a.m. the next morning. That’s almost a full 24 hours without protection!  However, if the system is on a cellular monitoring service the problem will be discovered at 2:05 a.m., allowing the Life Safety provider to notify property management almost immediately of a problem and decrease system downtime.

For more in-depth information about this topic, check out A1’s Lunch & Learns for architects and engineers.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Greg Lane