Every 23 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the nation. In total, public fire departments responded to 1,389,500 fires in 2011, an increase of 4.4 percent from the year before, according to the “2011 National Fire Experience Survey,” published by the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fire Analysis and Research Division, Quincy, Mass. In short, fire never takes a holiday.
“Would you want to ride in a car that didn’t have a spare tire, or be in a fire without a fire alarm? When it comes to safety and security, everyone needs a fire alarm,” summarizes Ron Kruk, product manager, fire and life safety, Firewolf, Napco Security Technologies Inc., Amityville, N.Y.
With the perpetual necessity for fire protection, there is a perceptible strength within the fire market that never goes away. Of course, even fire has seen its own slow down with the recession. During the last two years, a group representing the single largest majority of SDM’s subscribers surveyed (41 percent in 2012, 42 percent in 2011) maintained that the potential for sales in the fire market was “good.”
But there’s still a persistent expectation for some kind of growth. This year the percentage of SDM’s subscribers sharing excellent/very good expectations for the 2013 fire market rose (check out “Dealers’ Rating of Potential for Sales Increases in 2013” on page 72), and the percentage of dealers and integrators expecting to increase their spending on fire alarm equipment also grew considerably (see “Dealers’ Spending on Fire Alarm Equipment ‘Heats Up’” on page 78).
“Last year, I think people kind of expected to work hard for growth; this year there's more cautious optimism,” remarks Stacy Deveraux, marketing director for Northford, Conn.-based fire panel manufacturer Fire-Lite Alarms.
When SDM interviewed manufacturers, distributors, integrators, and end users this year there was a calm confidence regarding the industry’s potential and a common awareness of three ongoing changes:
- a long-anticipated shift in spending for new construction and retrofits;
- innovative technologies — as well as new codes and standards — addressing the unavoidable decline of POTS and communications options; and
- an escalating importance of mass communications.
The fire industry is tied to the commercial building market. Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist, shares that AIA Consensus Construction Forecast panelists expect spending for nonresidential structures to increase 5 percent, to about $315 billion in 2013. By 2014, they expect this level to increase another 7.2 percent, to $340 billion.
David George, director, marketing communications, System Sensor, St. Charles, Ill., anticipates the return of some new commercial construction in the latter half of the year.
“It was expected in 2012, but never really materialized. Therefore, we will continue to see a focus on retrofits, upgrades and recurring monthly revenue (RMR) versus new projects in the early part of the year. Eventually, new facilities and new pockets of growth will emerge. There is simply pent-up demand after nearly five years of soft economic conditions,” George says.
Richard Kleinman, president and COO, AFA Protective Systems Inc., Syosset, N.Y., anticipates the fire alarm market will be strong for his company in 2013.
AFA, ranked No. 23 on the SDM 100, has a customer mix of roughly 80 percent commercial and 20 percent residential, with a strong concentration of fire alarm business.
“Customers that curtailed capital expenditures during the economic uncertainties from 2009 through 2011 are now upgrading systems that were planned but delayed. Additionally, as companies expand their facilities, they need to bring the building’s entire fire alarm system up to the current codes for the jurisdiction they are in. And, fire alarm systems are required by code to be inspected and maintained,” Kleinman explains.
That’s built-in business the industry highly anticipates in 2013.
Sales also are being triggered by new technologies, says John Alberino, director, Security Systems Division, MRI Premium Distribution Services, Plainville, Conn., a Powerhouse Alliance distributor.
“Whenever there are new technologies, financial growth is possible for all involved. It allows dealers to go back to older end-users’ fire systems and either update to current code or sell new technology that will enhance the customers’ life safety protocols,” Alberino explains.
In the wake of natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, reconstruction business is also on the rise, Napco’s Kruk shares. The company is helping builders counteract the rising cost of reconstruction and rebuilding by working to offer code-based products that are efficient and cost-effective solutions.
“Given the wide open field of opportunity, we expect sales to ramp up as we continue to introduce new technology and revisit existing customers with value-added products and services,” Kruk says.
FORCED TECHNOLOGY CHANGES
The growing acceptance of IP-based and GSM transmission methods is one of the industry’s largest technology changes, says Don Childers, SET, CCI, director of technical training, Security Central, Statesville, N.C.
“Panel manufacturers have done a magnificent job keeping up with, and in some instances, staying ahead of the code requirements in fire alarm systems and providing assurance to fire marshals and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) that all is being done to ensure communication integrity.
“Because these technologies are now in use, we have witnessed an increase in the sales of non-required fire alarm systems. In the end user’s mind, the IP backbone is already in place and paid for, so there is no perceived increase in cost. The days of two phone lines being required are quickly becoming memories in the rear-view mirror,” Childers comments.
And so, amidst the fire industry’s long-standing stability there are several ongoing changes at play that will eventually bring total transformation of some of the industry’s foundational practices, including using two POTS lines for signal transmission.
“With the phase-out of POTS looming larger on the horizon, our company is preparing for the use of IP/GSM for the transmission of fire alarm signals. NFPA 72-2013 made quite a few changes to clearly indicate the move away from DACTs using two phone lines and using transmission equipment using two technologies,” AFA’s Kleinman says.
“Many new fire alarm installations are being connected for transmission via IP and wireless communications due to the lack of actual POTS lines for communication and the sunset of any remaining POTS lines, observes Robert Gerber, SET, director of application engineering, Stanley Convergent Security Solutions, Naperville, Ill.
“The challenge is educating local AHJs on the new technology and the benefits of using that technology,” Gerber says.
“Many smaller municipalities don’t really understand NFPA 72 or alternative communications fully. Here in South Carolina we still have municipalities operating on the 2006 edition,” shares Bobby Johnson, Johnson’s Fire & Safety Systems Inc., Lake City, S.C.
Johnson, the owner and president of the company, is also a South Carolina-certified firefighter and paramedic with more than 20 years of experience in emergency services.
Johnson describes South Carolina as largely a volunteer state for firefighters, so most AHJs are not dedicated to doing inspections full time.
“Recently I had several fire departments ask for a small class on NFPA 72 — asking what they should be inspecting, how to determine if a system is installed correctly, etc. We’re happy to offer that training and talk about trends and where the technology is headed,” Johnson says.
Training opportunities should continue to foster a strong working relationship between the industry and local fire departments, says Ron Petrarca, director of operations for Electronix Systems CSA Inc., Huntington Station, N.Y., and president of the New York Fire Alarm Association (NYFAA).
When the NYFAA offers technician training, it allows fire marshals and city inspectors to take the course free-of-charge so they are on the same wavelength as the technicians and can stay up-to-date on the codes, strengthening the relationship between the industry and the fire department.
The NYFAA also assisted the city of New York Fire Department (FDNY) in writing the study material and the exam for its licensing requirement for a Fire Alarm Systems, Inspection, Testing and Service Technician.
“In New York, the fire department has a very strong presence in fire prevention including licensing people in our trade: central station operators, fire inspectors, technicians, etc. The association is assisting the FDNY in updating the licensing disciplines that it administrates for the different occupations in our trade,” Petrarca describes.
More local municipalities are requiring NICET certification — from the installers to design personnel, the industry reports. Petrarca describes a push for NICET certification from the New York AHJ community. Security Central’s Childers confirms the company will focus on NICET this year.
“On the installation side, we will continue to work with manufacturers on education and training of our fire alarm technicians, encouraging them to seek NICET certifications,” he describes.
Even distributors are tapping into NICET.
“One of the most positive internal influences we have had on our fire sales includes the investment we made a few years ago to offer training and NICET certification for our sales associates so they have better knowledge of the products and solutions and can provide additional support to our dealer base. With these resources, we are helping dealers quickly expand into adjacent spaces,” says Michael Flink, president, ADI Americas, Melville, N.Y.
The 2013 version of the NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm & Signaling Code also has been fully published, but don’t expect any dramatic changes there.
“There continues to be a really long cycle with any kind of code-driven changes,” Deveraux says. “Manufacturers like Fire-Lite are positioning products on those new code changes right away, however, we are aware that there are some jurisdictions that adopt the new trends very quickly and then there are those that are slow to adopt,” Deveraux admits.
One of those slow adopters, New York City, which still operates on 2002 version of NFPA 72 according to Petrarca, recently adopted the communications portion of 2013 NFPA 72 and for the first time ever, the NYFD approved the use of cellular and network communicators for primary fire alarm signaling to central stations.
“Hurricane Sandy decimated much of the telephone service, leaving more than 5,000 crucial buildings with no fire alarms. A large amount of time was needed to get those services fixed, so in the interim a lot of AHJs allowed the radio to get fire alarms back up and running. Once that happened and AHJs saw it worked — that shifted a lot of mindsets,” Petrarca explains.
Matthew Schweiger, director of sales, East, Digital Monitoring Products (DMP), Springfield, Mo., shares that the ANSI/UL 864-listed DMP XR100 and XR500 Series control panels with network and 463 Series cellular alarm communicators are approved by the FDNY and can be programmed to use a variety of cellular networks including AT&T and Verizon.
“DMP expects a tremendous amount of growth in New York City, just in upgrades from POTS alone. Fire alarm providers are calling their existing installation base and letting them know how much can be saved on the phone lines,” Schweiger shares. Compared to a dial-up communication link, cellular and IP can save significantly in annual telecommunication costs, anywhere from $700 to $1,200 annually by eliminating two POTS lines, a total that increases exponentially with multiple locations, Schweiger estimates.
Another benefit is speed. “The cellular and IP communicator checks in every five minutes, whereas with telephone lines you are checking in maybe daily.
A POTS line can take 20 seconds for an alarm to reach the central station receiving alarms, whereas the central station receives a cellular or IP signal in as little as seven milliseconds — that is a lifetime in a fire,” Schweiger observes.
Using sole pathway cellular technologies will be the fastest opportunity for growth as traditional phone land lines disappear, says Richard Keller, chief operating officer, Integrated Protection Services, Cincinnati.
“Unlike most IP communication products, there are cellular products that do not require proprietary receivers or equipment and can easily accommodate any system’s current communication protocol and transmit seamlessly. IP will be developed and pushed by the manufacturers, but will remain more difficult to apply because there are difficulties with maintaining integrity in IP networks and the current communicator products available require proprietary equipment and receivers.”
Keller thinks IP will be better accepted for non-control applications such as additional annunciation, particularly with larger installations that require secondary graphic annunciation without control.
Scott Barrett, president and founder of CWSI, Sunrise, Fla., also points out that sales of commercial wireless fire alarm systems will continue to grow in 2013 for several reasons.
“Advancements in wireless technology have put wireless fire alarm systems on an equal platform with that of its addressable counterparts, in addition with cost savings that continue to go a long way in this economy,” Barrett says. “Wireless products significantly reduce labor and material cost, providing for a cost-effective alternative for various applications.
“As an example, a CWSI system was recently installed in a petrochemical plant that involved 120 various monitoring points,” Barrett describes. “The system was installed within 10 days for about $120,000. The closest competitive bid for a more conventional system was $1 million with six months to install.” For more on wireless technology advancements, listen to the podcast, “5 Secrets of Wireless Addressable Fire Systems,” with Scott Barrett on sdmmag.com.
In 2013, the industry has taken note of mass notification systems’ (MNS) convergence with fire systems, says Jeff Schumacher, director, electrical products, Fike Corporation, Blue Springs, Mo.
“The industry has come to realize not only the market potential, which is still developing, but also the potential consequences of not embracing and taking a lead role in how to best implement systems that must work in emergency situations.
“In other words, who better to pick this up, improve upon it where we can and keep running with it? One of the changes that will be heightened is the codes and standards in play, including the ANSI/UL 2572 standard for MNS, which is now published and the ‘real deal.’ There are a lot of opportunities to educate in the marketplace — customers, partners, AHJs — and we expect that to continue as systems solutions evolve as well,” Schumacher says.
Gerber notes that in 2013 Stanley has seen customers looking for upgrades that include MNS, noting that “public safety officials and insurance concerns are forcing major healthcare, industrial, government and educational facilities to consider an emergency communication mass notification as an upgrade to any required fire alarm system.”
MNS is easier to add than ever.
“If dealers want to add MNS to an existing fire alarm system, Fire-Lite's Emergency Command Center (ECC) is an MNS that can leverage the speakers and strobes already in place so the end user is not paying to add that; plus, there's no running extra wires or buying extra speakers. Modularity is key too. Systems like the ECC offer a custom fit so end users only pay for what they need,” Deveraux explains.
In 2013 fire alarm panel manufacturers continue to incorporate the requirements for emergency communication as referenced in NFPA 72 into their indoor voice products,” says Ted Milburn, vice president of marketing, Cooper Notification, Long Branch, N.J.
“Fire alarm control panel suppliers continue to form relationships with giant voice suppliers and personal alerting suppliers. These relationships in some cases are providing the end user with varying levels of system interoperability,” Milburn adds.
A major driver of IP adoption is systems integration. Manufacturers typically use proprietary reporting formats and protocols within their products; however, an emergence of open protocols such as BACnet over IP allow for interoperability of systems to meet the exact needs of the facilities, describes Jason Falbo, vice president, engineering, The Mircom Group of Companies, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
“Customers are less interested to have IP communications within the fire panels themselves, but an IP option for external reporting, monitoring, and information-sharing are becoming increasingly critical.
“The reason for a fire alarm IP interface is building systems convergence. Especially in shared-tenant facilities, facility operators require centralized control and reporting typically at the security/concierge station. IP is the common platform that allows multiple vendor products to intercommunicate, turning system data into useful information for maintenance and emergency response,” Falbo says.
Matt Petnuch, vice president of sales and marketing for Intertech Security, Pittsburgh, shares that managed emergency communications and notification services represent a significant growth area for the company.
“Emerging, multi-use communications systems are helping us to protect our customers and their people more effectively,” he says. It is also “building a valuable new recurring revenue stream.” The company operates a Global Security Operations Center, providing comprehensive monitoring services.
For a more detailed examination of Intertech’s approach, read “IP Emergency Communications Create ‘Open and Secure’ Protection” on page 127.
End users are also demanding non-proprietary systems, pushing forward that feature throughout the industry.
“End users, especially schools, want non-proprietary systems. End users don’t want to get locked into high-end, exclusive brands where they can’t control the cost of a service call or react to bad service. The beauty of non-proprietary is if the end user decides that their current service provider isn’t living up to their standards or they want to go with someone else, they have the freedom to have another provider come in. It keeps pressure on service,” Deveraux says.
Deveraux also shares that modular systems are a broadening trend with benefits.
“Dealers learn how to program a system once and then can meet a wide range of applications and market needs without additional training. Once they learn this system, they are able to configure it in tons of different ways. It also helps in situations like schools or government buildings that are built small but then years later must add on. We are conscious about being backwards compatible and yet allowing that modularity so that you could add on that extra wing with so many extra classrooms,” she says.
Schools are targeting MSN heavily in 2013, especially after the recent school shootings in 2012.
“It is a well-known fact in our industry that ‘tragedy brings opportunity.’ Recent tragedies have also increased awareness and funding to better protect people and properties in the form of fire alarms and MNS,” Kruk observes. “A passive alarm is a small thing compared to the potential for losses that are entirely preventable.”
With the NFPA’s 2011 National Fire Experience Survey reporting 2,640 civilian fire deaths, 15,635 civilian fire injuries, and $9.7 billion in property damage, the importance of prevention is understandable. So is the industry’s confidence in the services it provides and expectations for growth in 2013. Confidence, or the industry’s ‘cautious optimism’ as Deveroux described it, can lead to good things. As Helen Keller summed it up, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.”
Aspirating Smoke Detectors’ Popularity Rises
Aspirating smoke detectors (ASDs) continue to gain traction into commercial and industrial applications after proven success in the data center and telecommunication industry. According to a study by IMS Research, now part of IHS Inc., ASD is predicted to have the strongest growth rate of all fire detector technologies with a compound-annual growth rate of 9.3 percent from 2012 to 2016.
An ASD detects the presence of microscopic particles of smoke suspended in the air by detecting the light scattered from the smoke particles in a sampling chamber. ASD systems use a fan or an aspirator that draws air samples in through holes in pipework fitted above a protected area. This technology is effective in difficult environments, such as data centers, where false alarm rates can be problematic. Servers generate a great deal of heat, which does not necessarily correspond with a potential fire. By effectively sampling the air instead of the temperature, ASDs can validate the fire threat, producing lower false alarm rates, and early, intelligent detection.
“ASDs are becoming more mainstream in the fire industry with deployments across a range of new verticals albeit in smaller quantities than traditional detection equipment,” comments Adi Pavlovic, market analyst and report author. “Harsh environments such as power plants and manufacturing facilities are beginning to adopt the technology as well as healthcare and transportation applications where the importance of early detection can be lifesaving, particularly in areas where there is a large concentration of people.”
With the added growth opportunities that ASD detection presents, the market has seen a number of new entrants over the last several years, including Honeywell and UTC as well as Xtralis. — Contributed by IMS Research, part of IHS Inc. For more information or full research reports, visit www.imsresearch.com.
The New Mass Notification Standard: UL 2572
On Sept. 11, we experienced a major tragedy that started to raise awareness among policy makers, businesses and society in general about the need for mass notification, the need to be able to warn many people about an emergency situation. And then each Virginia Tech, every Fort Hood, every school shooting has driven that need home, along with untold hurricanes, floods, tornados and other emergencies.
Mass notification is nothing new, but technology has come a long way. Over the last five years, the industry has begun to incorporate requirements into NFPA 72, using the pervasive fire detection and alarm infrastructure as a vehicle for mass notification.
As the technology began to advance, so did the need for standards. UL stepped up to the plate, and wrote a standard that laid out what we are going to demand of these technologies — and how we are going to test them. UL 2572 is similar to UL 864, the standard to test fire alarm control units. UL 2572 is an equipment standard that sets the standards and criteria for how the control units for mass notification systems will be design and tested.
Read more about UL2572 at www.sdmmag.com/ul2572_explained.
Jack Poole P.E. FSPFE, is a licensed fire protection engineer in 51 states and territories, NFPA 72 technical committee member, and principal of Poole Fire Protection in Olathe, Kansas.