Intelligent fire alarm control panels were installed in approximately 50 percent of the buildings on the New England College campus.

For over 50 years, New England College (NEC) of Henniker, N.H., has helped students reach their full academic, personal and social potential. With the school’s undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, students have been thriving at New England College. The fire system, however, was not thriving.

Gary Harper, director of operations and life safety at the school, is responsible for improving safety, particularly fire safety, at NEC. “When I arrived at NEC five years ago, the school’s Board of Trustees, president and senior administration were in agreement that they wanted to make safety/fire safety a top priority,” said Harper.

The problem was that, while the existing fire systems met the required codes, they were not up to NEC’s recently elevated standards. “NEC basically had a menagerie of different systems throughout the school. As we had ‘local-only’ detectors in the resident rooms, there was no way to pinpoint the source of an alarm. And often the fire department was dispatched to the campus unnecessarily because the school had no central monitoring capability at these locations.”

Systems Solutions

“I’ve long been a fan of intelligent system capabilities, and had previously incorporated systems into a number of private education and daycare centers where I had supervised facilities management processes,” Harper said. “As New England College is comprised of many different buildings of varied sizes and shapes, I felt that the customizable nature of Notifier products was an ideal solution for the school.”

Harper contacted BK Systems, a local systems integrator. Karl Klardie, president of BK Systems, recommended a configuration that included intelligent fire alarm control panels, in conjunction with digital voice command as well as an array of smoke detectors, pull stations and notification appliances to complete the system.

“It was clear that NEC needed a system with the intelligence to pinpoint the location of problems and eliminate nuisance alarms, the flexibility to accommodate a spectrum of different buildings, and a voice evacuation capability that would ensure the safety of students, faculty and visitors. A system based around intelligent control panels in every building was a natural solution,” said Klardie.

To cover the smaller buildings on campus, intelligent fire alarm control panels were installed in each of the buildings, which is capable of supporting up to 318 intelligent devices. Intelligent control panels capable of supporting up to 636 intelligent devices were installed in each of the larger buildings being retrofitted.

Nuisance Alarms Addresses

Harper described how the system addresses the nuisance alarm issue. “In the past, when students tampered with a ‘local-only’ detector in their resident room, we would have no indication of tampering and there was no way to validate the problem. Now with the new system, any time a student tampers with a room detector, a ‘trouble signal’ is sent to a central monitoring company. And because the control panel indicates the exact source of the trouble condition, we can quickly investigate and address the situation. It also prevents unnecessary visits from the fire department. In the past we had to scour the building to locate the problem – neither a safe nor effective method.”

New England College has 34 buildings; it anticipates that systems will be installed in 50 percent of them by the beginning of 2009. “We started our installation process in the school’s skating rink/gym facility,” said Klardie. “We then moved on to the eight residential halls, and are currently installing the fire safety system in the science building. The vast majority of the installation work is, and has been, performed during the summers when the buildings are empty, making it imperative that projects are completed in timely fashion to meet the stringent deadlines. But thus far, as expected, we’re right on schedule.”

According to Harper, the systems are currently meeting all of NEC’s expectations, not to mention the fire officials’. “The local fire department supports NEC and its system. They love the intelligence of the system, as it makes their jobs easier when visiting the campus to access a problem,” said Harper.