Fire alarms are seen and heard

Gamewell-FCI partners with Alertus to integrate audible and visual alerts
 - 
Thursday, September 29, 2011

NORTHFORD, Conn.—In a partnership that’s designed to enhance its emergency communications systems offerings, Gamewell-FCI by Honeywell announced it is working with Alertus Technologies to integrate audible and visual notification devices and Alertus’ IP network command software.

Gamewell-FCI, which is based here, said its E3 Series of fire alarm and other emergency communications systems can “integrate seamlessly” with Alertus’ “wall-mounted Alert Beacons, text-to-speech interface modules, digital signage and computer desktop alerts.”

Alertus, headquartered in Beltsville, Md., said that its Alert Beacons are designed “with sounder and strobes to capture the attention of building occupants from a distance, coupled with an integrated LCD [text display of] the nature of the emergency and appropriate response.”

The Alert Beacons are ideal for a cost-effective emergency-notification retrofit of buildings without existing speakers, according to Brian Carlson, product marketing specialist for Gamewell-FCI.

“The strong suit with them is that they can take the existing IP infrastructure that’s in the building and just hook it in like a regular IP device so you can use the existing IP network. There’s no additional wiring that has be run,” Carlson told Security Systems News. “It all gets networked with the existing system and you just have to install their software package on the server side … and the integration is very, very straightforward and simple.”

Even in a building with speakers, Alert Beacons are ideal for alerting those who are deaf or hard of hearing because they can read the emergency notification messages on the large integrated LCD screen, the company said in its Sept. 27 announcement.

Through the new partnership, Gamewell-FCI also believes it is “the first in the fire industry to introduce integrated text-to-speech technology with its E3 Series systems.”

The company said, “A unique text-to-speech module from Alertus is designed to broadcast written messages as audible announcements through the speakers of a fire alarm, public address or giant voice system … with crystal clear intelligibility.”

Carlson told SSN: “That’s a very exciting piece.”

He explained how it works: “Let’s say there’s an emergency event at a facility. What happens is that the text message that is broadcast across those Alert Beacons is then translated into voice and then outputted into the E3 fire alarm panel … So they can visually see what’s being broadcast on the beacons or LED signage, and then you also have the same audible message [as the text message] that’s being broadcast across the fire alarm panel, so what you get is a consistent message.”

He and Beth Welch, public relations manager for Honeywell Fire Systems, Americas, said having both visual and audible alerts is important in such facilities as industrial plants and airports, where distracting noise can be a factor. “It’s all about trying to design a system that fits the needs of a specific facility,” Welch said.

Also, such alerts help meet the needs of people with disabilities, Carlson said. “You may have some deaf people in [a facility], but you may also have people who cannot see so you need the message to be visibly seen and audibly heard,” he said.