CODE & STANDARD REFERENCES
What is a two-way emergency communication system?
In our last module, we discussed what is a one-way emergency communication system and we discussed the fact that communication comes in one direction, whether that be by e-mail, by text, by emergency voice alarm communication systems or mass notification systems. The messaging all comes in one direction to the target audience.
Two-way emergency communication system features communication that goes both ways. Take for instance a person stranded in an elevator lobby that needs to actively communicate with emergency responders. This could be with firefighters in the fire command center or dispatchers in a dispatch call center.
NFPA 72 REFERENCES
NFPA 72 - Section 3.397.2 defines two-way emergency communication systems as those systems that are anticipated to be used by building occupants –
THE WHAT & WHY
Two-way emergency communication systems are used to share and exchange information. Responders could share instructions, could acknowledge that someone is on their way, or get details from those needing assistance.
There’s plenty of benefit here. There’s the assurance aspect – like knowing someone is coming to help you when you’re stuck in a proverbial elevator.
There’s the urgency aspect – where someone is needing immediate assistance within the area of refuge. And then there’s the benefit to the responders as well. Where are they needed? Where do they prioritize their efforts?
NFPA 72 Chapter 24 provides all of the details for the installation of emergency two-way communication systems.
AREA OF REFUGE COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS
Today, we will discuss what is probably the most popular emergency two-way communication system. That’s going to be a means of egress or the area of refuge system. These directly connect someone waiting in an Area of Refuge with responders who can help.
An Area of refuge is a designated, accessible space where occupants that might have mobility issues are able to remain in place before getting help. It’s usually in a stairwell or elevator lobby.
REQUIREMENTS FOR AREA OF REFUGE COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS
There are multiple requirements that need to be followed when designing an area of refuge with emergency two-way communications. The requirements come from the International Building Code and Features such issues such as the space dimensions for the area of refuge - the size is very important as it must accommodate an individual within a wheelchair and provide enough room for others to exit around the person.
Then there’s the remain-in-place protection that comes with the Area of Refuge, to help resist the effects of smoke and fire. That comes from the location of the Area of Refuge, which can be in that fire-resistance-rated stairwell or a sprinkler-protected lobby. We’ll cover that in more detail in separate videos.
The Area of Refuge emergency communication system itself requires some protection too. They are typically routed within two-hour fire-resistance-rated enclosures. This is to make sure there’s durability (or survivability) with the system since it has to remain functional during a fire event.
These systems also need to be identifiable. They are also often easy to operate; just a push-button will connect the user to emergency help.
STANDARD REQUIREMENTS FOR AREA OF REFUGE COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS
There is also a new standard which is UL 2025 which dictates the requirements for areas of refuge and two-way emergency communication system which need to be in compliance with IBC chapter 10 - Means of Egress.
The emergency communication systems need to meet the requirements of NFPA 72 for monitoring and supervision, as well as pathway survivability.
The area of refuge can also be known as the area of rescue assistance.
The International Building Codes section 1009.8.1 and 1009.8.2 require that these emergency two-way communication systems have a direct path of communication with a 24/7 monitored facility.
OTHER TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS
You will find emergency two-way communication systems in high rise buildings and other large structures which feature stairwells as the primary means of egress system from the upper floors.
These need to have safe spaces for individuals that cannot evacuate by themselves and where they need to wait in order to receive help from emergency responders to help them evacuate and get out of the building.
OCCUPANT-EVACUATION ELEVATOR COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS
Elevators used for occupant evacuation may be required to provide two-way emergency communications with the building’s fire command center or at an alternative location specified by the fire department to allow for occupant communication between the elevator lobby or alternative location and the fire command center.
Elevator landing communications systems use the same type of technology as the area of refuge two-way communication systems.
Types of two-way communication systems can vary but are generally members of the same system type and are often required by the building and fire codes in many locations within a building. These systems are grouped together because they are basically the same type of equipment that provides communications in different locations.
So, in summary, emergency two-way communication systems are systems that are used to have information go in both directions. It is not like the one-way communication system where we receive a message which tells us what to do, and where to go - In this case, we have communications between someone at one point of the building to someone at another point of the building or off-site in order to facilitate emergency response.
In our next video, we will discuss mass notification systems.
Until next time I'm Al Yakel, and this is MeyerFire University.
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