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Public awareness for E-911 compliance has been heightened since September 11, 2001. We can draw upon the historical implications of the 1987 tragedy at Illinois Center in downtown Chicago and the recent loss of life at 69 W. Washington (Cook County Building), as well as the fire at the LaSalle Bank Building to create an endeavor that will enhance life-safety responding agencies assessment and tactics that preserve life.
The Chicago electrical code is considered the most stringent in the entire United States. The City of Chicago has been a leader in addressing life-safety issues, particularly with its heritage rising from the ashes of the fire in 1871.
Examination is now been initiated by the Office of the Mayor to investigate methods and tactics that will prevent further tragedies from occurring in commercial, as well as residential buildings.
Traditional equipment and techniques have resulted in the implementation of hardware including smoke alarms, cameras and primitive software systems to address this issue. Door locking devices have been implemented to prevent intruders from gaining easy access to floors in the building but have presented a completely different set of metrics in the event of an emergency.
In the event of an emergency, the responding agencies need to enter the building and obtain an immediate appraisal and assessment of the conditions that they face. Is it smoke, fire, chemical substances, biological agents, etc.? Where is the hot zone in the building? Where are people located? Are the egress routes accessible and safe?
Time is of the essence and telecom wireless communications are hampered in a steel-rich infrastructure environment. The traditional PBX solution for initiating an E-911 telephone call is not foolproof for locating the physical location of the call. In some instances, access cannot be found to even place that call due to lack of handset instruments in common building areas or corridors.
Application of Technology
The Signapse© solution creates four form factors for integration in building life-safety systems and real-time information flow to the Building Command Center.
The first platform is an “Electronic Exit Sign” that can display real-time information on available access to a particular staircase. The ability to display immediate status information on the safety of that staircase addresses the situation faced by those who thought that they were safe at 69 W. Washington. All of their building drills provided them with a false sense of security that the stairwell was a safe haven. Two way voice communication and IP-based camera interfaces would provide a visual/audio perspective down to the building command center.
The second platform is to provide an interactive communications that would provide Emergency Broadcast in the safe haven designated area of the floor in compliance with Homeland Defense requirements. It is a requisite to provide secure two-way communication and possible visual contact with responding personnel, who can then assess the situation and provide a strategy for employing correct equipment and tactics.
The third platform provides for the installation of
the Emergency Exit Sign within the stairwells, potentially within every three
stories to enable communication with people in distress or intruders who have
invaded the space. Again cameras interfaced with two way voice communication are
The fourth platform is to augment the fire annunciator panel with a visual display that is capable of calling up floor plans, live/taped camera feeds, life/safety equipment storage locations within the building and more.
The Signapse© solution provides a “Closed E-911 Communication System” that enhances direct initiation of a voice E-911 call from an endpoint device with a simultaneous graphical screen pop depicting the physical location of the call to the building command center.
For illustration purposes, this self-contained system could comprise the following configuration:
Typical High Rise 30 Floor Building includes elevator bank and two stairwells.
Visual display device at Fire Annunciator Panel & within the Building Command Center
Provide 1 Digital Exit Signs at the entrances to the each stairwell and at the elevator bank.
Screen Count: 90 Devices
Provide Electronic Exit Signs within the stairwells every 3 floors.
Screen Count: 20 Devices
Provide Electronic Exit Signs in Homeland Defense Area
Screen Count: 30 Devices or 60 Devices depending on floor size.
The individual Electronic Exit signs are powered by building power, attached to
the emergency electrical grid and are capable of battery backup for a minimum
two hour period. Internet connectivity is serviced as a closed system via
landline, Ethernet over power lines and Wi-Fi connectivity. Each endpoint device
is a fully operational computer capable of standalone functionality in the event
that network connectivity is interrupted. The units are addressable by
hand-held PDA units for text communication or control.
Risk Mitigation and Management
Building owners and operators consider both design functionality and esthetics for new construction. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems now have enhanced capabilities via attachment to the building sensory nervous system. Adjunct smoke, fire and heat detection, as well as intrusion systems are addressable end point devices that comprise the total automated building system. The Signapse© solution augments these embedded systems and should be considered by insurance companies as furthering life/safety in these structures. Just as automobile seatbelts have resulted in saving lives and have been rewarded with a premium discount, so will the Electronic Exit Sign provide additional tools to fire responders in the event of an emergency.
Resident life/safety systems employed in building infrastructure is typically a cost center and is reflected in the recovery of cost per
square foot. The Signapse© Solution Dual Use functionality allows for broadcast of information, entertainment and education in normal mode. Sponsorship and advertising revenue opportunities provide an attractive method of obtaining positive cash flow that could result in breakeven costs or ultimately a profit center for the owner/operator.
Municipal code must also reflect visual delivery systems that augment existing life/safety systems.
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