San Francisco company to upgrade fire system at landmark

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Friday, December 21, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO—The Marin County Civic Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a marvel of modern architecture with an old and outdated fire alarm system. Now, however, U.S. Electric Technologies, based here, has been awarded a contract of up to $2 million to upgrade the system.

“It’s a very prestigious project,” Kevin Green, branch manager for California-based Pyro-Comm Systems, told Security Systems News. Pyro-Comm is a U.S. Electric subcontractor on the job, providing the equipment, drawings, permits, programming and testing.

“They’re going to upgrade the whole fire alarm system to the current codes today,” Green said. He said U.S. Electric, which won the contract in the fall, will be installing a Notifier by Honeywell voice evacuation system at the center. Pyro-Comm is an authorized Notifier distributor.

The civic center, a multibuilding facility in San Rafael, Calif., is a national and state historic landmark. Although Wright designed it, he didn’t get to see it. He died in 1959, two years before the main administration building was completed.

The fire alarm upgrade includes replacement of alarm pull stations and installation of new devices, speakers, strobes and control panels in the main lobby areas, as well as related work at the county's nearby emergency operations facility, according to news reports.

James Magsombol, project manager for U.S. Electric, a 15-employee diversified company whose services include fire, low-voltage electrical work, communications and security, told SSN the project would take about two years. He said some parts of the center lack smoke detectors.

“With this project you’ll have total smoke detection coverage, and there will be a speaker and strobe system that will have announcements in case of fire so that everybody can evacuate,” he said.

Existing pull stations in the stairwells will be lowered so they’re handicapped accessible, and the new system will be tied into the center’s current outdoor speaker emergency communication system, Magsombol said. The system also will be tied into elevators, a kitchen fire-suppression system and the building operations system for HVAC control, he said.

The U.S. Electric contract is augmented with $525,000 in add-on alternates as well as a $200,000 project contingency, news reports said.