Fidelity Alarm upgrades fire system at major transit facility

Silent Knight system chosen for large maintenance complex owned by transportation authority in Pennsylvania
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Friday, December 7, 2012

PHILADELPHIA—Ease of use was one reason why a new Silent Knight by Honeywell fire alarm system was chosen to upgrade a huge facility owned by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), one of the nation’s largest transportation hubs, according to the company that handled the project.

“It’s easy to use. A lot of people can interact with it,” said Patrick Phillips, sales manager with Fidelity Burglar & Fire Alarm Co., based here. He said that other panels can be “too complicated for the foremen that have to interact with [them].”

He said Fidelity did the upgrade earlier this year, installing an IntelliKnight 5820XL fire alarm system at the approximately 175,000-square-foot SEPTA maintenance facility.

Fidelity, a 41-employee, family-owned company established more than three decades ago, won the $250,000 contract in a sealed public bid process, Phillips said.

He said the company, whose business is 80 percent fire-related, does a lot of work for the city of Philadelphia and also has done numerous jobs for SEPTA over the years. He said SEPTA previously used a variety of brand-name components at its more than 20 sites—“whatever whoever got the job was using.”

“Now,” he said, “all they’re using is Silent Knight and we kind of pushed them into that over the years.”

He said SEPTA likes the versatility and affordability of the Silent Knight brand.

In the latest upgrade, SEPTA required the new system “to be non-proprietary, to avoid the high cost and service issues that could arise from being locked into one vendor for fire alarm parts, maintenance and testing,” according to a Silent Knight news release.

The release said that “two main hubs for servicing SEPTA’s 1,545 buses, 159 rail trolleys and 38 trackless trolleys, the Callowhill and Frankford Depot facilities, required a large-capacity, code-compliant fire alarm with the sophistication to control various ancillary systems—all within tight budgetary parameters.”

“SEPTA needed an addressable fire alarm system that would be expandable to accept future detection and/or output relay devices,” said Robert J. Tangi, SEPTA manager of contracts, EM&C administration, in a prepared statement. “In addition, the system had to be able to communicate fire alarm data to the central monitoring company seamlessly, without the use of a separate communicator device, and be end-user friendly.”

The news release said one unique challenge that came with the job was mandated by SEPTA’s insurance provider: The new system had to have the “ability to shut down the facility’s diesel, oil and antifreeze pumps in the event of a fire alarm.”

SEPTA serves more than 1 million patrons in the Philadelphia metropolitan area daily and the maintenance facility houses its vehicles. Phillips explained that trolley cars and buses come into the facility and “the buses get fueled inside the building every night so [the precaution was necessary] so something like that isn’t feeding a fire.”

Fidelity Alarm tied the system “to the pumps for complete 24/7 monitoring and utilized relay modules to close down the fluid pipes during fire alarms. Testing the devices without shutting off the fluid pumps proved to be a challenge. Ultimately, a bypass was implemented to activate devices for testing without disturbing the pumps,” the release said.

Phillips said the new addressable system can help maintenance personnel and firefighters locate a problem immediately.

“With the older system they had, it would tell them there’s a fire and they would have to walk around the complex [to find the problem],” he said. The new system pinpoints the location of a fire so “instead of them trying to find out where the problem is, it’s telling them.”

As part of the same contract, Fidelity also installed another Silent Knight panel with 120 devices across the street at a train wash station. Phillips said that system can be networked into the other facility’s fire alarm system in the future.