In today’s world, those responsible for life safety and property protection face a wide array of threats, dangers and emergencies – from fire and intrusions to violence and natural disasters.
That’s true in all types of businesses, institutions and facilities, whether you work in the education, healthcare, government, commercial, hospitality or industrial sectors. In these highly challenging environments, safety and facilities organizations must be well prepared, equipped with appropriate fire and life-safety systems, and capable of communicating quickly and effectively in the event of an emergency.
While each individual life-safety system performs a specific function, one of the most effective ways to enhance overall protection and gain other important benefits is through the integration of fire, security, emergency communications, and life-safety systems. By bringing the annunciation, oversight and management of multiple systems together to a single point of control, you can strengthen the ability to identify problems, respond appropriately, manage the situation, and return to normal operations. This is all part of a trend toward leveraging the intelligence of today’s advanced fire and life-safety systems. The idea is to maximize performance, efficiency and cost effectiveness while providing long-term, sustainable value from a building operations and management perspective.
An integrated systems solution begins with a life-safety information management platform suited to your needs, infrastructure and applications. The right technology platform can enable you to manage a number of complex systems seamlessly, effectively and efficiently. It can expedite the delivery of data and facilitate quick response and effective incident management across your life-safety systems, including access control, intrusion, video surveillance, fire detection and alarm, and emergency communications.
With the threats, risks and dangers that exist today, emergency communications systems in particular have come to play an increasingly significant role in life-safety operations. By properly using today’s advanced technology, facilities and safety personnel can effectively and efficiently disseminate critical information to building occupants and other audiences who need to be reached in an emergency.
It’s advisable to bring multiple layers of technology together in an integrated emergency communications solution than includes interior voice-enabled fire alarm systems, outdoor speaker systems, duress buttons, emergency call stations, text messaging, and visual messaging devices. These emergency communications solutions can warn and direct people to take shelter, relocate or evacuate. They can be configured to transmit a common message to all targeted areas or to deliver area-specific messaging based on the type and location of the threat. In addition, emergency communications capabilities can be integrated as part of a total life-safety solution.
There are a number of important benefits for building owners and end users that can be derived from system interoperability and integration.
Enhanced Protection: An integrated solution can help optimize system performance and functionality, thereby enhancing your life safety and property protection program. An integrated life-safety information management command center can enable system operators to view and record suspicious incidents or electronically activate or lock escape routes. The integration of access control with the fire alarm system supports safe evacuation through the capability for doors and barriers to be automatically unlocked or opened if a fire alarm is activated.
Ease of Use: An integrated life-safety information management interface can provide ease of use, often with touch-screen functionality, and incorporate additional features such as floor plans, real-time images, and messaging services.
Operational & Cost Efficiency: System integration can positively impact overall operational and administrative costs. Remote services technology can enable facilities and safety personnel to effectively manage multiple sites from a single central station. Remote diagnostics of fire alarm systems and remote managed services for video surveillance and two-way audio systems can also provide important benefits. The ability for a life-safety provider to remotely view the operating status of your fire alarm system – and proactively diagnose trouble conditions – can increase system uptime, facilitate a first-time repair, reduce service visits, and provide peace of mind. Remote managed services for video surveillance and audio systems can help to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of security operations.
Data Integrity and Protection: Today’s sophisticated IT and data security capabilities are critical when fire, emergency communications, security and other life-safety systems are integrated. Advanced encryption technology allows life-safety staff to work closely with your IT group to protect the integrity of your network and critical data.
Building owners, facility managers, and security and safety directors have important roles in life safety and property protection. Integrated technology can definitely help in fulfilling those responsibilities. The key to effective and reliable system integration lies in understanding the challenges, the technologies and the applications – and making sure everything works together as intended.
If that capability does not exist within your organization, it may be best to work with a systems integrator that is proficient and experienced in needs analysis and in planning, layout, installation and maintenance of integrated solutions.
Tom Giannini is Director of Security and Emergency Communications Marketing at SimplexGrinnell. Tom can be reached at email@example.com