Your customer is required to have a voice evacuation system installed, and you may not be familiar with the various systems that are available. How do you go about selecting one that your staff can handle professionally and will work well for your clients?

In the audible evacuation systems market, some features and functions are fixed, while others are variable among different manufacturers’ systems. Some of the key considerations in selecting a system are: code compliance; power output and expandability; flexibility and ease of installation; functionality; compatibility with notification appliances; and performance/reliability.

Audible evacuation systems are governed by multiple codes and regulations, including both Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). In addition, the system most likely must be ADA-compliant and OSHA-approved. It’s best to start by consulting with your local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) to learn what’s needed in the system you will select.

Your system must be capable of providing sufficient power for both audible and strobe functions. But when selecting a product, how do you know in advance if your client will need 25W, 40W, or 50W of power, for example? Many times you won’t, so instead you should research the options the manufacturers provide for adding more power. Sometimes a client’s actual space will be expanded, and other times the noise level may increase so that additional power is needed to boost the volume level of audible devices. Therefore, it may be necessary for you to boost your client’s power output by adding either a separate system or using add-on modules. You will need to determine which of these options is more suitable for your company and clients.

Determining the flexibility and ease of installation of a system should be obvious upon examination: What kind of knock-outs and terminals are featured on the system? Is the enclosure easy to work in? How are wiring connections made? What features are provided on the system to make troubleshooting easier? Also review with the manufacturer the various helps that are available to installers, such as online tutorials and printed materials.

You may sell your client the most cost-effective system by selecting one with multiple functions. In addition to tones, prerecorded messages, and live voice messaging, some systems also can provide paging by zone; automatic messaging triggered by relay, contact closure, or timer; and background music.

“So now this one system that’s code-required can be used for other purposes,” says Scott Schneider, marketing manager, Facility Communications, Wheelock Inc., Long Branch, N.J.

Finally, before making a final product selection, check out the breadth of notification appliances that the manufacturer offers. The installation may require that all components be produced by the same manufacturer.

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Determining Your Clients’ Real Needs

How can you help your client get real value for his or her purchase of a voice evacuation system? First, ask your client about the purpose of the system. Even if the system is mandated by law in their community, the reasons for installing a voice evacuation system will vary from site to site. For example, Scott Schneider, marketing manager, Facility Communications, Wheelock Inc., Long Branch, N.J., suggests asking if the system is needed primarily for fire alarm incidents or for an OSHA application.

Professionals who are selling and designing these systems must be educated on intelligibility and audibility. They will be required to determine the ambient noise level in their client’s facility, and the decibel requirements for the area of coverage provided by the system, Schneider notes.