Located in northern Virginia, George Mason University provides a suburban campus environment for its more than 28,000 students, many of whom benefit from the opportunity to research, intern, and work within Washington, DC's business and government communities.
With over 160 buildings on more than 800 acres, the university comprises three separate campuses in Arlington, Fairfax, and Manassas. As is the case in all college and university environments, the high concentration of active students with diverse lifestyles presents a continuous challenge to the campus fire safety officials and staff. In addition to heavily enforced fire safety regulations, an extensive array of heat and smoke detectors, sprinklers, and other fire protection devices safeguard all buildings and facilities and are monitored at a central dispatch station within the GMU police department on the Fairfax campus.
Although much of GMU's diverse fire protection equipment functioned satisfactorily, over the years, the constant expansion and renovation of campus buildings and facilities produced a cumbersome system that was difficult to use and did not transmit standardized information to the dispatcher. It was time to upgrade to a better system with newer technology.
OVER TWO YEARS OF RESEARCHGMU's safety office spent more than two years researching the fire protection market for an appropriate solution to upgrade and enhance their alarm monitoring system. "We were particularly interested in facilitating communications to ensure the fastest possible response to alarms," said Fred Wharton, director of fire safety programs at GMU. Steve Bryson, lead fire alarm technician at GMU, developed a bid specification that included the following features:
- Connect existing fire alarm control panels on three campuses to a central receiving station at the GMU police department using the campus PBX phone line system.
- Conform to UL guidelines and requirements.
- Receive information from diverse fire alarm control panels.
- Provide comprehensive information to the dispatcher.
- Transmit event information to an offsite printer.
- Enable remote location programming via the GMU LAN.
- Provide history to generate standard format reports.
- Provide easy-to-use graphic user interface and audio.
- Provide a pathway for upgrades and future expansion.
GMU is a public institution, relying on state funding and tuition to pay expenses. Since cost is always a major factor in procuring new equipment, the GMU safety team decided to implement system upgrades methodically. "This required the new system to interface with a smorgasbord of existing fire alarm control panels and digital dialers and to accept signals using the existing infrastructure," said Bryson, who is responsible for all GMU's alarms.
In July 2004, GMU accepted a proposal from Actcom Security Solutions of Virginia Beach, VA, a company specializing in emerging technologies for mission critical environments. The proposed system, a Keltron LS 7000 life safety event management system, in combination with the Keltron DMP703 receiver, was chosen because it fulfilled the GMU specifications and offered capabilities for the future enhancements that GMU required.
GMU's buildings currently use fire alarm control panels from eight different manufacturers in a range of ages. The campuses have Siemens BAS that are connected to the fire alarm contacts in each building. Each building's HVAC system now has duct detectors with shutdown circuits installed (a variety of duct detector brands are employed, depending on the individual building's fire alarm system manufacturer). The systems employed include Simplex, Siemens, Edwards, Notifier, and Fire-Lite.
To replace all their panels with new equipment would be extremely costly. The Keltron system accepts signals from all GMU's existing panels, saving capital expense and installation time and fees.
The GMU dispatch office is located in the crowded, busy 9-1-1 center. The Keltron LS 7000 connects to a flat panel screen and a keyboard and mouse, helping to simplify the center's operation. By connecting securely to the campus LAN, the Keltron LS 7000 enables Bryson to program and maintain the system from a remote location without disrupting the activity in the dispatch center.