One of the primary responsibilities of any public space is ensuring a safe environment. It is the responsibility of every citizen to take due diligence to maintain safety, but organizations that open their grounds to others, especially the general public, are held to a higher standard. Malls, hotels, casinos, theme parks, airports, and train stations are just a few of the examples of places facing a large number of government regulations to ensure sufficient care has been taken regarding fire detection, public address systems, and more. However, any place where people gather does have specific obligations as well, and as we are talking about people’s lives, erring on the side of caution is always a good idea.
There are many ways that this need for public safety affects AV. One example is the EN54 standard for fire detection and alarm systems in the European Union. Part 24 of the EN54 standard has a specific requirement laid out for voice alarm loudspeakers. Voice alarm systems are output from the fire detection system, and gives a voice message rather than simply a traditional siren. Such systems are popular, as research has demonstrated that voice messages are more effective than traditional alarms in alerting people and directing them out of the building quickly.
However, because these systems are used to ensure the life safety of the public, government regulations like EN54-24 ensure that these systems have a high level of readiness and availability. A technology glitch in a life safety system isn’t simply an inconvenience. It can cost lives. That’s why the EU requires EN54-24 certification for any speakers that are to be used to transmit voice alert messages for fire alarms or other life safety events. EN54-24 certified speakers, like JBL’s AW-series of all-weather loudspeakers, are certified to meet the stringent requirements of a life safety system.
At the end of the day, the audio system for life safety has many of the same requirements that audio has in any application. You want it to be audible over the other noise in the room. You want it to be intelligible, so you know what is being said. And you want some redundancy, so if something unexpected happens, you have something to fall back on. Again, you expect this from any AV system. It’s just much more vital in a life safety system, which is why the systems are often so heavily regulated.
Of course, sirens and voice alarms are just the most basic ways a building can react to a life safety event. If you tie your alarm system (usually part of the building management system or BMS) to your AV’s resource management system, you can have all of the AV in the building respond to alerts as well. When the BMS triggers an alert, the AV resource management system responds with an automated “macro.” Because resource management software is designed to integrate and manage all of the AV within the building, every AV system within the building can react appropriately to the situation.
When a fire alarm sounds, all of the lights in the conference rooms can go on. Any audio playing over the speakers can mute (ensuring the audibility and intelligibility we talked about earlier). As well, the digital signage in the building can respond to the alert, displaying fire alarm warnings and even providing wayfinding so that people will know the fastest way out of the building. All of this would happen automatically in response to the BMS sounding an alert from the fire detection system.
When looking at integrating or updating life safety systems, it’s important to look at all the regulations in your local region to ensure compliance. It’s also important that you do all you can to ensure those who enter your space can take comfort in knowing they will be safe no matter what happens.