Voice Evacuation Systems: The Sounds That Lead To Safety

Voice Evac systems are considered better alternatives to traditional audible

More specifically, Voice Evac applies only to Class A and Class B assembly facilities that house more than 300 people. NFPA 101, Sec. 8-3.4.1 states that all Class A and Class B assembly occupancies and art theaters with more than one audience-viewing room shall be equipped with an approved fire alarm system. Other requirements include:

  • Occupant notification shall be by means of voice announcements, either pre- recorded, or initiated by the person in the constantly attended location.
  • The announcement shall be made via an approved voice communications or public address system, provided with an emergency power source above the ambient noise level of the assembly occupancy.
  • The authority with jurisdiction determines if it's "impractical to have a constantly attended location" and allows installation of a manual pull station-type fire system.
  • Emergency voice alarm/communication systems are a requirement in high-rise buildings more than seven stories. In multi-story facilities, a zoned multi-channel Voice Evac system is preferred. For example, if a fire occurs on the third floor of a building, the system can direct third and fourth floor occupants to immediately exit via the nearest stairwell. Meanwhile, the fifth, sixth and seventh floor occupants can receive a voice message informing them of an emergency on the third floor and ask them to standby. Once the stairwell crowding has eased, the Voice Evac system will inform those floors to exit.

Calculating for the proper use of a facility's Voice Evac system will help to ensure that necessary information will reach the people on the premises during emergencies. As a general rule of thumb: provide 1 watt of speaker power for every 1500 sq. ft. in divided areas and 2000 sq. ft. in open areas. Speaker wattage should provide 15 dBA above ambient sound levels. To determine decibel levels, use a certified decibel meter and take readings throughout the building. Also bear in mind that wall-mount speakers are generally more efficient at delivering sound power than ceiling speakers; (ceiling speakers output about 3 dB less).

The requirements for the presence of Voice Evacuation Systems and certifications a dealer needs to install them vary throughout the country. (You should educate yourself on these issues.) After you survey your territory to determine whether this is a specialty worth getting in to you should also consider the benefits of value-added multi-use Voice Evac systems and the prestige that comes from being a full service provider. A general familiarity with Voice Evac and the codes and certifications associated with them will enable you to better advise customers and make good decisions regarding your own company's participation in this field.

To help better understand the Voice Evac market, the dealer's potential role in this market, and to provide insights into what the future of Voice Evac may hold, Security Dealer hit the airwaves tapping into experts Jeff Hendrickson of Silent Knight and Scott Schneider marketing manager, Facility Communications for Wheelock, Inc.

All-In-One Integrated Voice Evacuation System and Addressable Fire Panel
Silent Knight's Farenhyt IFP-100/1000 VIP (Voice Integration Panel) line offers all of the features of Silent Knight's well-known fire control panels, plus the added convenience and utility of a voice evacuation system. This all-in-one product includes 127 addressable devices that allow the user to determine precisely which device has been activated and/or needs attention. It also uses a distributed amplification scheme to enable power sources to be linked directly to appropriate areas of evacuation, rather than having to institute a complex wiring system.

The line is scalable from 50 to 400 watts to meet a variety of application needs, including small-to-mid size universities, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, shopping centers and other institutions. The integrated voice evacuation feature of the Farenhyt IFP-100/1000 VIP line offers built-in DMR supports playing 3 separate messages, field programmable voice prompts, a built-in microphone and ground fault detection to simplify troubleshooting of ground faults on the system.