Six months later: new codes translating into business

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

PEORIA, Ill.—Six months after manufacturers were boldly predicting that changes in fire codes would mean more business for fire installers, GE Security’s Steve Hein says it’s happening.

“We are having a fantastic year in 2009,” Hein said. “And it’s not unique to GE; Notifier, SimplexGrinnell, and Siemens are all seeing gains on the mass notification side,” he added.

Last June, the 2010 version of NFPA 72 was approved, which defined for the first time what constitutes a mass notification system—or, as they’re officially called, Emergency Communications Systems. Search for “NFPA code changes=business for fire installers” at for background on that code.

In addition, Underwriter’ Laboratory’s pending standard UL2572 outlines the testing specifications for mass notification systems.

While the main impetus for end users to purchase mass notification systems is security, the NFPA code and UL standard are helping propel the sales of mass notification systems. It helps with the sales process and the codes make end-users comfortable that they’re making a wise financial investment, said Hein.

GE Security recently finished the first phase of the installation of an EST3-Sixty Mass Notification/ Emergency Communications system here at Bradley University. The system is built on the school’s existing fire system and includes a paging system, fire alarm, electronic signage, email notifications and other forms of communication.

Understanding that the system meets all current codes, “was very important to us” when deciding to go ahead with the GE system, said Ron Doerzaph, director of facilities management at Bradley University.

He also likes that it’s “an easy system to use. We didn’t want it to be a very complicated system for our people to have to learn.” The system is fully backed-up with batteries, so it will stay operational for 24 hours, even if the rest of the campus loses power. “That has happened twice already,” since the system was installed, Doerzaph said.

Rollin Arnett, safety supervisor at Bradley University, added, “it is economical, and helps upgrade the fire system at the same time. We kind of double-dipped when we did this.”

The Bradley project will be done is phases. Nineteen buildings are fully equipped with the MNEC system; when the project is completed 30 buildings will be online. Hein said these mass notification projects tend to be “large, multi-year projects” which give the end user the flexibility to upgrade and expand the project as funds become available.