July 21 2023 0Comment

Transforming Life Safety: The Impact of Advanced Life Safety Systems

Article by – Robert Taylor – Life Safety Expert

The advancement in Fire Alarm Detection Systems as well as our professional approach to them has enabled tremendous gains in Life Safety.

As a seasoned professional in the life safety industry, I recall testing and inspecting high-rise buildings in Philadelphia where fire alarm detection systems were “Zoned”.  In these zoned systems, one entire floor was represented per zone, consisting of multiple amounts of smoke detectors. When a fire was detected, firefighters were directed to the zone where the smoke detectors reported but it would not tell of its exact location. This was an enormous problem with smaller smoldering fires as firefighters would wonder around the entire “zone” trying to determine the precise location of the smoke source which could be as big as the full zone or as small as a smoldering trash can. This was certainly not an ideal situation for attacking the fires quickly.

The same high-rise building today utilizes an “addressable fire alarm detection system”. This technology pinpoints specific smoke detector locations as opposed to a zone of multiple detectors. For the firefighters who risk their lives entering these buildings, this means no more wandering around aimlessly in a zone of devices. Along with the addressable smoke detectors, there are also heat detectors, manual pull stations and fire sprinkler water flow switches which can also be addressable, notating the exact location of the alarm. This fire alarm detection advancement saves time by increasing the first responder’s ability to know the exact location during emergency responses.

Another advancement in Life Safety technology is the ability to automate building responses in the event of Fire Detection. For example, the dark and loud environment of movie theatres are optimal conditions for confusion, were a fire to break out.  However, you can rest assured knowing that if a fire alarm condition did occur in a modern movie theater (one that has been built within the last 5 to 10 years) you can expect the theater lighting to automatically illuminate, the movie projector to stop its video and drop its audio power supplies and the exit signs will be clearly marked.  This automated mapping makes it a safer environment for movie patrons to quickly gain their bearings of their surroundings and safely exit the building.

Advances in Life Safety go far beyond just the new technology. In the last two decades, companies have prioritized Life Safety Training to all of their employees and facility managers. When companies take a more proactive approach to Life Safety, their employees are then able to have a greater appreciation for the potential threats of fire and how to react to them swiftly.

I know from experience that the simplest training lessons can sometimes have the biggest impact in our lives.  When I started my career in Life Safety, I was assigned a company car. But, in order to operate that vehicle, the company required that I take a defensive driving course. During this training, two of my biggest takeaways were to keep safe distances between vehicles and the other was to pull through parking spaces, especially in shopping centers. These two lessons in particular hit close to home with me, as I associated them with an experience I had when I was younger. A person I knew well had been killed in a parking lot when a driver, who had not been paying attention, backed up into them. This experience, associated with the driver training I had just received, hit a chord a has stuck with me throughout my life. When training people on life safety, you never know who or how it will relate to them, but taking a proactive approach can have profound impact on someone’s life.    

Life Safety and how we prioritize it has come a long way. Technology will continue to progress, making emergency response times even faster and thus saving lives. More importantly though, is that our attitudes are shifting, making Life Safety a greater priority, ultimately saving lives, and avoiding injury.

It is vital that we continue to not take Life Safety for granted. Be mindful of your surroundings and appreciate how these advances can make a life-saving difference in critical situations.

Dale Grant