It’s a mixed bag for those ready for integrated fire

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Friday, April 1, 2005

Where the opportunities lie for integrating fire and life safety with other building or security systems depends on several factors, according to those who spoke with Security Systems News, ranging from what types of buildings are ripe for such systems to who is best to install them.

“When we talk to people on campuses, they all want to do it,” said Steve Wolk, vice president at Florida State Fire & Security. “But you have to look at how to do it,” he said, which typically means starting with the head end of a network and adding systems to it down the road.

Large campuses and manufacturing facilities will benefit in terms of safety with all the information going to one location, said Dave Tamulevich, network product manager for Notifier. He said he currently sees more retrofit applications “because building owners and insurance (carriers) want things brought together. It’s tighter security for the facility.”

Troy Paddock, co-owner of Evergreen Fire and Security, said large facilities, such as stadiums and event centers, have integrated information for access control and visitor management, but have kept fire separate.

Retrofitting can be challenging, he said, but integration of fire information with new buildings or remodels “is something they (customers) are catching on to.”

Sometimes the decision of whether to network isn’t up to the client, but is in the hands of the authority having jurisdiction.

“We ask the AHJ what they want to see,” explained Steve Hein, vice president-marketing for Edwards Systems Technology. “Once we walk them through it, we get them to understand it.”.

“Some AHJs want to see fire kept separate; others are more accommodating. It depends on who is the authority there,” said Tim Frankenberg, fire and security product manager for Potter Electric.

He said because Potter doesn’t manufacture large-scale panels, they haven’t witnessed the move to fire onto the network. “We’ve gotten more (interface) on the nurse calls and things like that,” he said, but not with HVAC or card access.

Bob Barker, southwest regional sales representative for Gamewell, said not only is the fire industry changing as it moves toward integration, but so too is the person who installs the system.

“The day of the fire-only guy is limited because owners are looking for a single solution from the systems integrator,” he said. “My stronger dealers are the ones who can do a integrated package.”

Because of all the things end users now want to do, it’s important, Barker said, to have trained and certified integrators in charge.

EST’s Hein agreed that as fire integration moves ahead, systems integrators will play an important role. “I think the electrical contractor may be less equipped (to handle this),” he said. “I think the systems integrator has more knowledge.”