Integrating ECS into Fire Systems

Fire and life safety systems can incorporate emergency communications and mass notification messaging.

September 30, 2012

Fire and life safety systems are well positioned to incorporate emergency communications and mass notification messaging. NFPA 72-2010 offers more specific guidance on how all the pieces should work together.

Every facility has different occupancies, structural components and assets. When it comes to communicating an emergency event, however, the goal of grabbing attention and getting the right message to the right people at the right time is universal. It’s the design and execution of that messaging strategy that shifts to suit each application.

The concept of notifying large numbers of people in emergency situations is not new. Arenas, convention centers, universities, business complexes and other environments depend on emergency communication systems (ECSs) for these purposes. Codes covering the deployment and integration of ECSs with other building systems, especially in conjunction with mass notification systems (MNSs), have changed recently, however.

Let’s back up in order to clear any confusion about the distinction between an ECS and an MNS. An ECS can be defined as a system that indicates the existence of an emergency situation and communicates information necessary to facilitate an appropriate response. An MNS provides information and instruction using intelligible voice communications, and it can include visible signals, text, graphics and other onsite or mobile communication methods.

Simply stated, the ECS is the overall system to detect and communicate information to occupants, while an MNS is a subsystem of an ECS.

The question then becomes: How does fire and life safety fit into this mix? Some believe an MNS only involves retrofitting a fire alarm system to communicate non-fire emergency signals, while others think of it as a system of loudspeakers located on the exterior of a building. Yet, to be an effective tool, the MNS should be developed as part of an ECS that easily and effectively notifies occupants of an emergency and actions that should be taken.

Ultimately then, an ECS should integrate fire, security and communications systems for immediate, responsive and effective notification of fire, dangerous weather conditions, intrusion and many other important emergency situations.


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News · Around the Web · Mass Notification · ECS · View all topics
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