Université Laval upgrades fire protection systems - Going beyond codeWritten by Peter Ebersold 01 September 2010
Established in 1852 in the City of Quebec, Canada, Université Laval was the first French-speaking university in North America. In 1950, construction began on its main campus in Sainte-Foy, which was then on the outskirts of the city. It has grown into what is now referred to as a city within a city.
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Local building codes and standards set by the ULC (Underwriters Laboratories of Canada) dictated the majority of the university’s fire alarm design. Acting as its own AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction), the Université Laval decided to exceed these requirements in certain areas.
For example, many of the classrooms have now been wired for students to plug-in laptops, which raised concern that this would increase the probability of electrical fires. Although code only requires rate-of-rise heat detectors in classrooms, the university decided to install the more expensive combination heat and smoke detectors to provide more thorough detection and faster response.
“We also went beyond code minimums by installing detectors in areas that are protected by sprinklers,” says Paquin. Although detectors are not required in most locations protected by sprinklers, Paquin’s team decided to install detectors anyway, considering the detectors would respond more quickly than the sprinklers. These added precautions not only increased the level of protection, but also enabled the school to receive more favorable terms from its insurance carrier.
Test and Tune-Up
Paquin indicates the insurance industry typically pays more attention to sprinklers and not detectors because they are usually poorly maintained. To assist in the regular maintenance and testing of detectors, the school’s ONYX Series system’s detectors and supervisory devices are simple plug-in appliances with built-in dials for easy addressability – no software interventions are necessary. “It is so easy even I can do it,” jokes Paquin.
His experience in the insurance industry has convinced Paquin of the importance of proper and regular maintenance. In fact maintaining and testing every one of the network’s 20,000 devices keeps his staff busy 42 of the 52 weeks during the year. The university emphasizes that all smoke detectors are tested annually using the prescribed methods for this process.
The Université Laval soon plans to migrate from the NCS to NOTIFIER’s latest graphic workstation, ONYXWorks. This desktop system will provide the school’s security and facilities personnel with a single point of control for the entire fire alarm network as well as security, access control and video systems. ONYXWorks can also support live voice paging for mass notification.
To upgrade its fire alarm network to also serve as a mass notification system, the university will add DVC (Digital Voice Command) to each NFS-3030 control panel. The DVC can deliver prerecorded, event-driven messages as well as live-voice paging by microphone to specific areas or the entire campus.
“When it’s installed to code and well-maintained, there is nothing better than a fire alarm system to ensure the public safety within your campus,” states Paquin. “We want to expand our fire alarm system to also make it a mass notification system, not just for fires, but for any other emergencies.”
The university is part of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA). “Although our crime rate in Quebec City is virtually nil, we know something could happen. There could be dangerous snowstorms, hazardous waste spills and campus-wide lockdowns. We also have to consider that we have students and faculty from over 90 different countries around the world. A mass notification system would make a vital contribution to our life safety,” Paquin says.
Peter Ebersold is director of marketing for Notifier.
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