Delaware Technical and Community College offers educational opportunities for the community, including career/general development, transfer education, workforce training, and lifelong learning. Life safety is a priority for the 147-acre Owens Campus in Georgetown, which spans 10 different buildings and educates over 5,000 students. In order to maintain a high standard of safety, the college decided to install new fire alarm systems with emergency communications (ECS) and mass notification (MNS) capabilities.


Chief Bill Wood, the chief of public safety, was the main decision driver for Delaware Tech’s proposed ECS/MNS updates. At first, Chief Wood only wanted to upgrade the fire alarm system by adding System Sensor horn strobes. But after attending a conference and hearing of integrator Advantech Security’s reputation for campus life safety updates, Wood reached out to general manager Lee Thompson to replace the fire alarms in all university buildings. Advantech began upgrades in the five largest buildings by installing System Sensor strobes and speaker strobes.


“They are easy to install, and the plug-in design is great,” Thompson said. “The quality is excellent, especially with canned messages. We’ve used System Sensor products for the last four or five years and that is the only brand we install.”


In addition to heading the update initiatives and fire alarm design of the strobe system, Chief Wood determined that the ECS/MNS systems should be upgraded with voice capability. However, after installing speakers in the common areas, it was discovered that the conference room doors muffled the sound when closed, and that the soft tone of the original voice message didn’t register well from such a long distance. Advantech Security further customized the audibility for the college’s needs and improved the emergency messaging in order to solve the intelligibility problem by adding more devices.


Advantech Security also replaced annunciators with microphones and touchscreen remotes. Five buttons were programmed for speaker strobes and one button for a page-all function. New wire was installed, horn strobes were replaced by speaker strobes, and 26 additional speaker strobes were added throughout the campus.


Due to the number of buildings involved, Advantech elected to use a Gamewell-FCI E3 panel. The E3 Series uses broadband technology as an added benefit, which allows complete system integration over only two wires or fiber optic cables. Overall, 712 System Sensor devices were used over 10 buildings. The intent is to adopt this fire alarm/emergency communication system model for the remaining Delaware Technical Community College campuses.


Emergency communications and mass notification systems are more effective than a campus-wide page — especially in the event of an emergency — because of their clear messaging and advanced connectivity. Advantech also connected the school’s existing telephone system to the emergency system. Such a feature is state-of-the-art for a college like Delaware Tech.


“When the alarm goes off, it’s audible and grabs your attention so you listen to the message.” Thompson says. “In Delaware, you have to use an amber strobe if it’s a warning and it can only flash white for fire. So developing canned messages allowed us to put a new sound in the fire alarm system. Plus, we can control the sound level because you don’t have to control the variability of someone’s actual voice. The campus also has an interconnected phone system, so we installed a Gamewell-FCI Telco device to connect the fire alarm input to the phone. Now a select few people can call the school and put in a password to talk through the phone and the speakers. That’s a good safety measure, because an authorized individual could call and broadcast an emergency message no matter where they are.”