Every year, more than 104 million people travel through the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to destinations across the globe. The Atlanta Airlines Terminal Company (AATC) is responsible for all management services for Hartsfield-Jackson, managing more than 7.4 million square feet.

For AATC, priority number one is the safety and security of all passengers, from the second they step onto the airport curb until they board the plane. One of the largest safety features of the airport is the networked fire alarm system, which contains approximately 20,000 points. Since 2010, Hartsfield-Jackson has only trusted one provider to manage its fire alarm system: AFA Protective Systems Inc.

In the early 90’s, the airport grew rapidly due to the 1996 Summer Olympics. During this time, maintenance problems with the fire alarm were a common occurrence. By 2005, the fire alarm system was not functioning to the airport’s standards, which prompted the AATC to initiate a complete system overhaul. 

After the fire alarm upgrade, the AATC tasked its general maintenance provider with maintaining all assets for the building, including the fire alarm. Once again, the system was not being maintained adequately. 

“We thought we had a good partner and time had proven otherwise,” said Kirk Hale, program manager for the AATC. “Every other day was a new face. As a result, the corporate relationship was floundering. There was no stability.” 

In an attempt to specialize the maintenance and support of the fire alarm, the airport hired a series of fire alarm vendors, which gave rise to new issues and frustration. One vendor exceeded the device capacity on a fire alarm loop resulting in the need to re-engineer the entire system. A different vendor would consistently trigger the alarm, causing a security breach which would upset the flow of airport traffic. 

The AATC realized that the fire alarm system was not getting the priority attention it deserved and it was impacting the efficiency of the airport. Due to the size of the system and the dynamic nature of the airport campus, where change is the only constant, the AATC realized it needed a dedicated and established fire alarm vendor.

AFA took over fire alarm inspection and maintenance services for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport in 2010. Fire alarm maintenance for the airport is demanding due to the size of the system and nature of the property, but AFA was able to rise to the task, dedicating a team of full-time employees to the airport. 

AFA was able to resolve all outstanding issues with the system in place and develop a close partnership with the AATC. AFA’s constant presence on the site also insured that no new issues would arise like they did before. 

“I don’t lose sleep at night worrying about the functionality of the fire alarm system,” Hale said. “And I haven’t for over 10 years.” 

Since AFA is the sole source provider of the fire alarm system, AFA is able to monitor the capacity of the system and can anticipate any additional work, growth or additions. 

“As the system grows, our partnership grows,” said Justin Demps, AFA’s airport project manager. “There are constant upgrades to the system. The fire alarm system should not be a nuisance. We try to stay behind the scenes and complete our work to keep the customer happy. We work to solve any issues before setting up a meeting. All of the work we do is in the best interest of the customer.”

AFA recently provided a solution to solve an issue the airport was experiencing with their transit system between concourses. The railway tunnel was full of brake dust from years of use, causing the tunnel’s beam detectors to consistently set off the fire alarm. These alarms would stop train movement and impact passengers trying to make their flights. AFA was able to provide a VESDA system as a solution. VESDA (an abbreviation of Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus) is a laser-based smoke detection system, which samples the air and can decipher between smoke and general dust. The AFA-installed system can now decipher between smoke and brake dust, causing these false alarms to cease.

AFA has successfully managed Atlanta Airport’s fire alarm system for the last 10 years. AFA’s partnership approach provides the type of service the airport needs and deserves. As a vote of confidence, AFA was recently awarded the installation contract for Hartsfield-Jackson’s addition of Terminal F. As a result, Terminal F’s fire protection was seamlessly integrated with the existing Hartsfield-Jackson fire alarm system. 

The AATC measures AFA’s performance and reviews their numbers during their weekly maintenance meeting. Regarding AFA’s performance, Kirk Hale said, “The numbers look great. AFA is an indispensable partner for both the AATC and the airport. Just like any good relationship, our relationship with AFA is built on trust and communication. It continues to grow year after year due to their effort and attention. We are very happy with AFA as our partner.”