Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works
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When are voice evac systems required?

Voice evacuation is needed when the fire alarm system does more than sound the fire alarms for the whole building at once. If there's staged evacuation or defend in place evacuation, or if another message like Active Shooter, fire alarm voice evacuation is needed.

When are voice evac systems required?


Good morning,

When are voice evac systems required? I know that NFPA 101 requires them, I'm looking for it in the 2012 International Fire Code as I have a contractor wanting to put it in a child day care.

Thank you,

J T

The rules and regulations are really going to be enforced by the Local Fire Marshal, by the City, State, and Federal licensing agencies for the daycare, or even by the Accrediting Agency overseeing the daycare facility. Sometimes the insurance companies or franchise owners also get involved. Each of these authorities will be following different rules, and I can't tell from here who ranks higher in authority.

I can't interpret the rules, but I can show why voice evacuation is needed. The following is an explanation.

Voice Evacuation Fire Alarm Systems or Mass Notification Systems

In many cases, a fire alarm system is no longer just a fire alarm system. Voice Evacuation is allowing Mass Notification to be used over part of the fire alarm system to announce to the occupants what to do for other emergencies. In other words, an FAS (Fire Alarm System) doesn't just function as an FDAS (Fire Detection and Alarm System) but as a Fire Detection and Emergency Announcement System (FDEAS - My Acronym).

In a FDEAS (Fire Detection and Emergency Announcement System) the occupant can be told:
  • There is fire - get out of the building
  • There is a tornado - get to a shelter in the center of the building
  • There is an active shooter - get out of the halls and lock your door
  • ETC.

The fire, the tornado, and the shooter require entirely different responses from the occupants. The Etc. for a daycare could even be announcing a child abduction in progress. The fire horns just are not adequate for much of what's needed for Mass Notification Systems, so Voice Evacuation is required in many situations now, especially where children are involved, or where large groups of the public are involved (like auditoriums).

Many people consider overhead paging to be useful for such situations, but these situations are life-safety situations that require a reliable system. Overhead paging systems just aren't installed, maintained, and regularly tested like fire alarm systems are, so to be reliable, it has to be a separate Mass Notification System or a Fire Detection and Emergency Announcement System (FDEAS).

Is Voice Evacuation Needed?

This whole explanation above is countered by what most people think of as a "waste of good money".

To find out if Voice Evacuation is really needed, the whole list of authorities needs to be contacted, especially the licensing and accreditation agencies who sometimes don't get involved until after the building is finished. They may have something to say, and knowing what they are going to say now is better than having them see and require that a problem fixed later.

Douglas Krantz
Based on his electronics training, and his understanding of Life Safety, Douglas Krantz has compiled his knowledge of Conventional Fire Alarm Systems into the book Make It Work - Conventional Fire Alarms. The book covers the basics of the Conventional Fire Alarm System, and shows how Life Safety and internal supervision affects the fire alarm system.

Douglas Krantz -- Fire Alarm Engineering Technician, Electronic Designer, Electronic Technician, Writer

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