The little fire company that could

Fire systems in 14 schools in five months? A handful of dedicated employees pull it off
Thursday, November 3, 2011

TRAVELERS REST, S.C.—The Addison Safety Group is a small company with just seven employees doing installation and service, but this summer it decided to take on projects that included installing fire systems in 14 area schools—with contracts for each school averaging around $120,000.  The opportunity was just too good to pass up, said company president and CEO John Ratliff.

The only catch was that Addison, which is based here, had to do the work in just five months—along with completing its regular workload, which included several churches and a high-rise apartment building.

But Addison’s employees managed to do it all, and Ratliff has nothing but praise for his team.

“My guys just pulled off such an incredible feat this summer,” Ratliff told Security Systems News. “We had some Saturday weeks and some Sunday days, but we met our schedule and we passed our inspections the first go-round.”

The jobs, which began in April and had to be completed before students returned at the end of summer, weren’t easy, he said. About nine of the schools were brand new construction and the rest were gutted and remodeled. They included three very large high schools, he said, “and one school alone had 454 speaker strobes in it and that’s a lot of parts to put up and still meet a schedule.”

He added: “The high schools had football fields with another [fire] system going in separately, a smaller version for the ballfield and stadium.” And he said Addison installed voice evacuation systems in eight of the schools.

Ratliff said, “We pulled the wire and hung all the parts and the only thing we did not do was install the conduit.”

Addison is a Notifier by Honeywell distributor, and Ratliff also credits the Notifier product line with making such a task possible. “They’re easy to install and they work the first time … It makes our life a lot easier,” he said.

The 11-year-old company that he and his wife run focuses on commercial fire alarm work, Ratliff said. “We try very hard to do one thing really, really well,” he said. Addison serves about two-thirds of South Carolina and the western part of North Carolina, he said.

Seven of the schools were in Pickens County and seven were in Anderson County. He said that for most of the schools, “we got spec’d in as product line, not as a company.”

But for two Pickens County massive high schools, he said, “they actually negotiated one contract directly with us.” Ratliff said Addison had installed fire alarms in three of the county’s elementary schools in the summer of 2010 and “I think they were so impressed with the work we did … they wanted to make sure they got to use us."