New fire systems enhance campus safety

Published by adviser, Author: Daniel DiFabio, Date: November 12, 2015
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New methods for fire detection and suppression are enhancing the current safety and security systems on SRU’s campus.

Paul Novak, interim executive director of planning and environmental health and safety emergency management administrator, is helping to introduce these new enhancements that will make emergencies more manageable and help to lower the damages these emergencies can do to both students and technology.

“Older fire alarm systems are reaching the end of their useful lives and are starting to periodically fail or not provide continuity,” Novak said.

Novak said with the older system requiring parts that are hard to find and running on older phone lines, new equipment was needed. One of the new additions enhances the old copper phone lines with a fire fiber loop. The fiber is run between various campus buildings, creating a loop that will upgrade fire alarm panels on all the buildings. This will lead to state-of-the-art fire alarms that will enhance the overall system to become a mass notification system.

“Not only will the alarm sounds in buildings send a signal to campus police, but in the event of an emergency on campus the new system will let us communicate to individuals and occupants in buildings,” Novak said.

The installation of these new fire alarm systems won’t interfere or impact a student’s day to day experience, Novak said. He said he believes that upgrading the existing technology could help stop occasional activation of fire alarms where no fire or emergency situations existed.

Novak believes this will help combat the sense of complacency many have adopted when it comes to fire alarms and that by reducing the number of false activations people will react appropriately.

The new fire alarm panels come with microphones where, with the touch of a button, one can transmit a message to anywhere on campus. In the event of a threat to campus, security university police or an emergency management administrator can get on the intercom and give updates through the same speaker that would normally sound the alarm. This includes exterior speakers of certain buildings so security can give notifications to individuals who would be outside.

“It really enhances [the fire alarms] and is a compliment to our existing mass notification system,” Novak said.

While the new system enhances security, it also saves on the cost of replacing technology that could be damaged with a traditional water sprinkler system. Novak said he has upgraded a lot of the fire suppression systems in buildings with certain information technology operations. If there is a fire this suppression system releases a compound that is a dry chemical which will put out the fire but not damage the IT equipment. This saves money since the technology won’t have to be replaced.

“Costs for IT are astronomical,” Novak said. “You really are saving a lot down the road and reducing the risk.”

Novak is working with campus police at adding swipe card technology on some of the academic buildings, hoping to monitor and control access.

Novak said control leaves many with a negative perception, with people believing that control means limiting access.

“We’re not limiting access, we’re simply monitoring in the best interest of an individual’s personal safety and security,” Novak said. “People would still have access at various times but it would be controlled access.”

Novak said the new upgrades show commitment at the senior-most level, with the introduction of the new technology speaking a lot to the vision that the administration has to protecting its students.

“We really take pride in knowing that SRU is one of the safest and most secure campuses,” Novak said.

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