The biggest technology game changer right now in fire and life safety is the drastic improvement in the quality of voice-activated fire alarm emergency technology, with a primary focus on intelligibility. If you've been in a busy or crowded building when an alarm went off and heard an automated voice over a loud speaker, then you've been exposed to voice-activated emergency communication. The big issue with it so far is that of being clear enough to understand. In addition, in many locales having audible voice technology for fire and life is becoming law.
At first assumption this may appear to be a speaker issue, in that if you get a better quality speaker you have better audibility. However, the issue is far more intensive than simply speaker quality, and this is where the quality and experience of your installer and integrator are critical, as well as the brand of equipment used.
In this post we will examine key elements of sound, knowledge your integrator/installer must have, and a brief overview of one of the newest systems to hit the market which we carry.
Background: The Big Push
The big push for this technology occurred after the events of 9/11 drove the consumer need for better communication to a large body of people outside of a fire event. The Twin Towers were a great example of the critical need for buildings with complex layouts and evacuation plans to have better communication during emergencies. Warehouses, industrial complexes, and even structures like off-shore oil rigs are other types of structures with complex layouts and greater audibility and clarity of audio requirements.
Today, voice evacuation systems are in high demand, especially as more local areas require them by law or policy. Prior the major events of 9/11, the most common use for a voice system would be during a routine fire drill. At best it would be loud and often muffled between siren sounds. Today the technology has improved as well as the knowledge base regarding the principles of sound by integrators and system designers.
Additionally, today's much more advanced voice evacuation systems adjust for communication needs based on the type or magnitude of an emergency situation. For instance, weather or toxic chemical threats would have a different evacuation plan, message and tone than for a localized fire.
Regardless of the type of sound, alert, or communication message, none of it is truly effective if the variables affecting and creating sound are off or misunderstood. This is where hiring the right integrator is critical.
How is Sound Created?
Sound is created when something vibrates and displaces air molecules which then creates waves, or repetitive changes, in surrounding air pressure. What is detected and interpreted as sound by the ear as loudness, frequency, and pitch is varying degrees and magnitudes of change of air pressure.
* The standard ear can hear from a wide range of 20 Hz through 20,000 Hz.
* Young children can hear up to 25Khz * 13 years and up can hear up to 20KHz * Adults can hear up to 16KHz * Elderly adults hearing range depends on their total lifetime of noise exposure * Speech frequencies range from 500Hz to 4,000 Hz
How does Sound Travel?
Before a voice evacuation system is even installed, it is critical for the integrator to understand the sound output of the space and the way sound waves reflect and interact within the specified space.
The air molecules themselves don’t move very far; they simply transfer pressure changes into sound waves.
Sound waves move away from the sound source, such as a speaker, at a speed determined by the sound source. The more power the source emits, the wider the sound waves spread. In addition, the further out the sound waves travel from the source, the less intense they become.
Sound waves are regularly intercepted by other sound waves. For example, when two people jump on a trampoline simultaneously their waves overlap. When a sound wave is intercepted by another force, part of it deflects into another direction. It is for this reason that your integrator must understand sound output and the way sound waves reflect and interact within your space.
Intelligibility is King
If your system is unintelligible by the very persons it is attempting to save from disaster, then what good is it? If people can not evacuate for confusion, if they don't know where to go or what is happening, and all they hear is noise then it is easy for panic (and liability) to ensue. A skilled integrator must know how to optimize a system for intelligibility or your money is wasted. For instance, your integrator must understand, at the minimum, the following:
* How different spaces have different audibility requirements. For example, the decibel requirement differences between types of spaces, such as sleeping vs. public arena.
* How to assess and analyze what is called "acoustically distinguishable spaces" (ADS). Characteristics such as reverberation time and ambient sound pressure level vary in acoustics and sound pressure. Sometimes your integrator must be in collaboration with your space designer/architect to determine these factors.
* What the signal to noise ratio is for your facility.
* What the speaker frequency response for your equipment is and capable of.
* How to determine and optimize the total harmonic distortion.
* How to find the best location for speaker installation.
GenX Security Solutions System Spotlight
At GenX Security Solutions we only represent the very best in fire and life safety. Recently, our superior brand partner, Secutron, developed and launched their most state of the art voice activated alarm technology system called AUDIO MAX.
Secutron's AUDIO MAX Series is an expandable emergency communication system (ECS) utilitizing both a paging microphone and pre-recorded custom tones or messages in the event of an emergency. AUDIO MAX is an emergency and fire alarm audio system designed to provide notification for small to medium applications. This system supplies 30W for audio output and 5A for Notification Appliance Circuits (NAC). The optional 30 Watt Amplifier Module increases audio output to 60W.
Notifications can be sent using stored digital message recordings, the master microphone, or remote microphones. The AUDIO MAX comes with standard notifications and can store up to 14 messages for a total of 12 minutes of digital message recordings.
Up to six remote microphones and/or LOCs can be connected to the AUDIO MAX.
The AUDIO MAX operates either as a stand-alone audio system or as part of a fire alarm system.
Conventional fire alarm systems control the AUDIO MAX with relays. Secutron compatible Fire Alarm Control Panels can control the AUDIO MAX using Signalling Line Circuit (SLC). Optional Booster Panels provide support for a distributed system. These Booster Panels act as true slaves to the master with respect to Outputs.
All Inputs, Microphones and User interfaces are disabled on Booster Panels and they cannot be programmed through the configuration software. Up to five Booster Panels can be connected to a AUDIO MAX.
In summary, the AUDIO MAX features:
Supports up to 60W per panel and 360W per system
Two NAC circuits rated for 2.5A each, 5A per panel expandable up to 30A per system
Class A or Class B Speaker and NAC wiring
Field selectable 25V or 70.7V audio output
Comes with standard digital messages for fire, emergency, evacuation, weather, and all clear
Supports up to 14 digital messages or tones with a duration of up to 12 minutes
Custom message upload using the MGC ECS Configurator Software
Two relay inputs for Zone and message activation by UL or ULC listed fire alarm panels
Two Sync Inputs for Synchronization and activation of output zones, messages and tones
ULC, UL, CSFM
If you're ready to find out about how GenX Security Solutions can give you the best fire and life safety plan and equipment possible, please contact us today for a free quote.
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