Last week, we defined Mass Notification and Emergency Communications (MNEC) systems, and discussed their increasingly “smart” capabilities. This week, we talk about how to deploy these systems in your facility.
The first step to deploying an MNEC solution is creating a Risk Assessment Report. This report sets the parameters for the system requirements. The report should document the functionality of any existing systems and evaluate current risk response plans. Finally, a suggested system narrative is created that also documents items that must be addressed by the in-house risk response team in coordination with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).
Once that risk assessment has been created and approved by the AHJ, the system can be designed. As NFPA 72 is not law, but rather a guideline for how to deploy an MNEC system, it is up to the AHJ to determine which aspects of the code to enforce. While the code stipulates that there be signal path redundancy and separation throughout the MNEC system to ensure functionality even in the event that the connection between two devices is severed, the AHJ is the sole entity that can determine if there are exceptions or exclusions that can be made.
The next step is coordinating with vendors and the contractor providing the fire alarm. In all likelihood, if a company decides to build an MNEC solution, they will need to source different services from different vendors. The software for SMS or email messaging will be provided by a different company than the one that provides the voice enunciation system. However, since this system is going to be used in the event of an emergency, it’s best to be certain that operation is simple enough that any authorized user can quickly deploy a message one time and have it reach all systems. That means making sure that software development or control triggers between systems are coordinated, tested, and implemented to keep the system simple to operate.
Getting the Right Information
MNEC is all about getting the right information to the right people so that people can take the best action in an emergency. One of the ways these solutions do that is through constant monitoring of the devices on the system. Each device that’s connected to the network or physically connected together using control triggers can be set up to provide error notifications if they lose network connection, lose power, or experience an internal fault. The central processor of the system can then be set up to provide an email or SMS text notification to a single user or group of users to let them know there’s an issue that needs to be resolved.
A system that’s capable of alerting you to problems gives you the assurance that if you ever do need to trigger an emergency announcement there is absolute certainty that the message will go out and be heard.