“You have to re-cable, disconnect old devices, install new devices and then install new panels that support the voice and intelligibility requirements,” Flowers explains. “A typical building that would cost $50,000 for a non-voice system would cost $50,000 to retrofit with voice evacuation technology.”
Fire panels can run from $5,000 to $50,000 depending on how many amplifiers and speakers must be supported.
The Precision Notification Path
The good news about meeting new code requirements is that they only apply to new construction in locales where the planning commission has adopted NFPA-72 2010. In other words, you are not obligated, unless mandated by law, to outfit your buildings with voice evacuation fire alarm systems. Therefore, if you intend to improve your emergency notification efforts, it is worth exploring an investment in an independent precision notification system.
“Independent ECS systems are a great solution,” Flowers says. “They have the same goals and intent of NFPA-72, but you can get there without being dragged down by the codification.”
The primary advantage of an independent ECS is that it can be layered in with an existing fire alarm system without having to touch any of the fire alarm infrastructure, freeing end-users from the burden and cost of compliance. As a result, these systems are less costly to install and often provide greater intelligence than a typical fire alarm system. Consider the following benefits:
• Intelligence. Command center software for a precision notification system enables end-users to collect, store and disseminate emergency information from a central location.
• Integration. The right software serves as a platform to integrate multiple notification efforts. This is where video surveillance, IP phones, text/cell calling, outdoor sirens and other vertical systems can be consolidated into one system, enabling a “one-button-to-press” approach to emergency notification.
• Redundancy. Ask yourself what happens to your emergency notification when phone power and Internet go down? Redundancy in communications and power are critical.
• Cost. Typically, voice-capable ECS devices cost from $800 to $1,500 including installation. Shop around to compare features and functionality. But insist on voice. NFPA has it right that voice makes all the difference.
In the end, we always hope that new standards and codes for emergency communications will raise the bar for everyone, making the world a safer place. But the fact is that it takes a long time for the effects of a new code to be seen in the street. Rather than wait, there is much that can be done to take a step forward without shouldering the time and expense of meeting a new directive.
Timothy Means is the Director of Product Management and a co-founder of Metis Secure Solutions (www.metissecure.com), a developer of next generation emergency notification solutions for higher education, commercial and government organizations.