Last month, the National Fire Protection Association held their annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Each year, this event brings together the individuals responsible for the establishment and enforcement of fire codes, senior decision makers within emergency response and first responder organizations and the industry leaders innovating the next generation of fire protection technologies.
While the NFPA Conference was ongoing, a number of government and industry leaders were involved in a panel discussion about one piece of fire protection equipment in particular – the fire panel. The panel discussion, which was entitled, “The Future of the Fire Panel,” featured:
- Bill Denney, a Suppression Application Engineer at Hochiki
- Mark Pavlica, the Director of Product Marketing at Siemens
- Tom Parrish, an inspector for the Putman Township Fire Department
- Mike McDade, a System Sales Engineer at Cosco Fire Protection
While the discussion between the members of the panel was far-reaching and covered a number of topics, one of the first and most interesting aspects of the fire panel that these experts analyzed was something that many of us most likely take for granted (or even find annoying) – the alarm.
As the fire panel continues to evolve and new technologies are developed and integrated into fire panels in the future, the alarm is one area where significant changes could be in order – mostly because today’s fire alarms leave much to be desired.
As the panelists elaborated on, today’s mass notifications and alarms are used for much more than fires – they’re used to notify occupants within a building or structure about a wide number of emergency situations. While the standard operating procedure for when a fire alarm is sounded may be to evacuate the building in an orderly fashion, that could be the worst course of action for building occupants in certain emergency situations – such as a tornado or an active shooter situation.
In these instances, a smarter alarm or notification that does more than broadcast eardrum-splitting tones could be useful. A smarter fire panel that can differentiate between emergency situations and play a mass notification with instructions for building inhabitants would be a far more useful, and potentially life-saving tool.
Then there’s the issue of external notification. Part of the fire panel’s alarm responsibilities involve the notification of the people within the building, but the other part involves notifying emergency personnel that a fire – or other emergency situation – is occurring. As with any alarm or mass notification, the more ways a fire alarm can be distributed, the better. By diversifying the types of notifications and increasing the number of notifications that are distributed, external audiences – such as facility managers, building owners and the emergency response personnel – are more likely to see them in a timely fashion.
How could some of those different notifications be distributed? What if they could be sent to something that is perpetually and universally found in all of our pockets – smartphones and other mobile devices? That same question was posed by the panel’s moderator, Corey Miller of Sierra Monitor, when he asked, ”Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could have a fire alarm panel that could actually activate a cell phone in a particular environment, locally?”
While the answer from Mark Pavlica of Siemens – a humorous reminder that all attendees were asked to turn off their phones during the panel discussion – illustrated the need for multiple forms of mass notification, the idea that local personnel and other stakeholders may be able to get notifications on their mobile devices seems almost guaranteed for the future.
In subsequent posts on the Modern Equipment Manufacturer, we’ll look at other topics covered in the panel discussion, including remote monitoring and remote service. To watch the panel discussion in its entirety, click play on the video below.