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Fibre Optic Future

17 February 2012

Lancaster University

When it comes to the safety of a university’s residents and visitors, having the most reliable and efficient fire detection and alarm (FDA) system to protect both life and property is critical.

Ranked as one of the top ten universities in the UK, Lancaster University is renowned for being a centre for excellence in teaching and research. It is the educational home for more than 3,000 employees and almost 13,000 students, many of whom live on the large purpose-built campus in Bailrigg.

The main university building was erected in 1968 and parts of the current Gent by Honeywell fire alarm systems have been in the property since it was originally built.

Cook Fire, the fire equipment specialist and one of Gent’s technology centres in the UK, has been working closely with the university for several years. The company has recently won a tender package from the Lancaster establishment for a five-year maintenance contract that covers fire detection for the 100 buildings that make up the college campus.

Adrian Moss, account manager of Cook Fire, said: “The University asked us to put together an upgrade scheme over the course of the five years, which will eventually see fully analogue addressable fire alarm systems in every building. This is a huge project for us and, in line with modern health and safety laws, the university has to go through various system upgrades to make the buildings future proof and lay the foundations for the new generation of fire alarm detectors”.

The current fire alarm set-up in place at the university is a copper style network and plans for the new system include upgrading this to a fibre optic network. Once installed, the modern addressable campus wide system will help to increase the speed, reduce response time and improve maintenance issues. As a result, the Lancaster institution will benefit from enhanced life safety and property protection, and reduced liability throughout the whole of the site.

“Work is already underway and, once completed, 50 Gent Vigilon fire alarm panels will be networked together using fibre optics. The main benefit of using a fibre optic system is the speed of the transmission of information – it is instantaneous because it’s using a light signal instead of an analogue signal, so the panels communicate a lot quicker. Messages can be sent around in more depth and the security staff will have better control, so they can pinpoint faults and fires quicker to alleviate false alarms and, if necessary, help direct the fire brigade to the right part of the site”.

One of the key issues Cook Fire worked on during the planning stages with both the university and the local fire authority was to introduce a solution that would reduce false alarms on site. The high number of fire alarm panels spread around the university campus meant the likelihood of faults was increased significantly and it was a problem that needed addressing.

“We’ve put together some schemes that incorporate the Gent S-Quad multi sensor detector and other Gent technology that will significantly lower the number of false alarms on site. The plans are currently being rolled out across the entire campus and Lancaster University has entrusted us to select the latest fire alarm technology to meet its requirements. We’re working closely with Gent to put the schemes together and achieve the high level of equipment required for the project.”

The contract with Lancaster University was finalised in August 2011 and work on the system commenced shortly afterwards. When the equipment installation is finalised it will be a substantial combined system of more than 50 panels networked together.

Martyn Keenan, Gent business manager North West, explained: “The idea is to get the infrastructure in place over the next couple of years so the fibre optic network is up and running and we can simply build and add on to the system from there. The stability of the designated fibre optic system will reduce the number of faults they have on the network.

“In the long term there are plans to link into other systems such as the disabled refuge alarm and add a new front end PC which will provide a lot more in-depth information. We’re proud to be involved in such a prestigious project and to provide equipment that will help the university to build a base for the future”.

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