Saving Money and Improving Safety with Standardization

The University of Portland’s newly upgraded fire, life safety and voice evac system now protects twice as many buildings for the same price as the previous system.

To create and maintain this safe and enjoyable learning environment, the University of Portland (UP) has taken a proactive approach to campus safety, investing in fire and life safety systems that, in many cases, exceed the requirements of International Fire Code, NFPA and the Clery Act as monitored by the U.S. Department of Education.

For instance, the university has invested in the Gamewell-FCI E3 Series fire alarm and emergency communication system (ECS) – a system that exceeds code requirements – to quickly detect and notify students of significant emergency situations involving an immediate threat to their health or safety.

“If your goal is to just meet code, all it takes is one little slip and you are out of compliance, but if you exceed requirements, you can build the best system possible to meet your safety goals,” says Jeff Rook, UP’s environmental, health and safety officer.

UP Wanted Consistency, Redundancy
With its goal of exceeding requirements, the public safety department decided it was time to revamp its security and life safety systems, including a number of fire alarm systems.

“We wanted a system that is redundant, robust and easier to manage to boost emergency response times across the campus,” explains Rook, who turned to Advanced Alarm Systems, Inc., a local company that specializes in the distribution, design and installation of life safety systems. The integrator installed the Gamewell-FCI E3 Series fire alarm systems and FocalPoint Graphic workstations.

As one of the country’s few proprietary campus alarm monitoring stations, the UP public safety department made consistency and redundancy across all of its fire and life safety systems a priority. Approximately 95 percent of the campus is protected by Gamewell-FCI fire alarm control panels including 12 E3 Series, 12 7200 Series and one 7100 series. All of these fire alarm control panels collectively interface thousands of detectors, pull stations and all other system points to a FocalPoint Graphics computer workstation at the public safety office.

Workstation Enables Quick Response
Six full-time dispatch officers monitor these systems using the FocalPoint graphic workstation to evaluate and respond to complex situations. FocalPoint is a software program that displays real-time fire alarm system information in text and color graphic displays. The screen shows the type of device(s) in alarm, their location and any other relevant information pertaining to the event and specific area. Simultaneously, the display zooms in on the event location on a detailed map where the floor plans of all buildings can be seen with icons showing all major fire alarm components on every floor.

“The FocalPoint Graphic Workstation installation at the university was the largest deployment at the time,” claims Scott Sullivan, who is president at Advanced Alarm Systems. “As a customizable solution, we’ve invested several hundred hours to make this the most user-friendly interface available. This provides real time events to dispatchers and can also be used as a troubleshooting tool for service and maintenance.”

The workstation is easy to use and clearly shows what alarm is going off and where. This enables the school’s public safety department to quickly assess a situation and dispatch an officer to the correct location, or engage the Portland fire department if necessary.

“Before, we had to read through lines of code to decipher where the problem was and dispatch an officer to the site, who would then have to go to the main panel to locate the alarm in question and determine the next steps,” says Rook.

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