Voice Evacuation Systems: More than just a fire alarm

Voice Evacuation Systems: More than just a fire alarm

Installing a reliable and effective fire alarm system is crucial for the safety and security of your facility, customers, employees, and inventory. While traditional fire alarms do the job, Voice Evacuation technology has developed to make notifying occupants about emergencies more organized and systematic while maintaining calm in times of panic. Installing a comprehensive voice evacuation system may be the most important security and safety investment for your organization!

What is a Voice Evacuation System?

Voice evacuation systems, or voice evac systems, provide communication capability in the event of an emergency by initiating evacuation or relocation procedures. Voice evacuation systems are an enhancement of a fire alarm system – They are used as a mass notification alert for severe weather, chemical spill, or active shooter scenario; in addition to providing fire alarm evacuation instructions. For this reason, voice evacuation systems are sometimes referred to as “mass notification systems” or “Emergency Communications Systems (ECS)”.

What’s the difference between Voice Evacuation and a traditional fire alarm?

Spoken message: The main difference between voice evacuation systems and a traditional fire alarm system is the spoken message voice evacuation systems use rather than strobes and sirens. The blare of traditional alarms can often be stressful, anxiety-provoking, and panic-inducing, causing a chaotic evacuation. The simple sound of an active alarm does not provide direction for evacuation and is limited to loud sirens and bright strobes lights. Voice evacuation technology helps diminish fear by guiding occupants out of the building using clear and coherent direction through the safest route.

Additionally, many employees can become complacent to fire alarm sirens as false alarms or drills. The presence of a voice, especially one specific to an emergency, instills a sense of urgency all should experience during an alarm event.

Life safety situations: Traditional fire alarms only warn about a possible fire in the building. Mass notification systems are created to warn occupants about a list of life safety situations. These situations range from severe weather events, gas leaks, chemical spills, a hostile intruder, and even train derailment. An Emergency Communication System can be tailored to your specific needs depending on your environment. Fire is not the only danger a building or business can face, and a voice evac system provides you with a comprehensive way of warning occupants of a threat.

Integration: While traditional fire alarms can be integrated with your security system, voice evac systems can be integrated with other building systems to provide voice messaging, email alerts, paging, among other things, to provide a complete building solution for you.

Do I require a Voice Evacuation System?

According to the International/Michigan Building Code, Voice Evacuation Systems are required to be installed in all new assembly occupancies with occupant loads of more than 1,000 people, all educational occupancies with an occupant load of more than 100, and all high-rise occupancies. Even if not required, there is no prohibition to installing a Voice Evacuation System in other occupancy types.  Additionally, these systems are not limited to indoor use – outdoor event centers, malls, and campuses can take advantage of the life safety features provided by a Voice Evacuation System.

Voice evacuation systems, although not necessarily new, are becoming more popular as a way of communicating hazardous situations. Voice evac systems can either use a pre-recorded message or a PA system to deliver occupant notification depending on the type of facility and what the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) determines. Fire alarm systems must meet requirements set by the NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. Chapter 24, Emergency Communications Systems, covers the requirements for mass notification systems including Voice Evacuation.

Voice Evacuation Benefits:

  • Direct instruction: During an emergency, there is no room for indecision. Voice evac systems guide occupants to the safest exit route, limiting uncertainty.
  • More than just fire: Voice evacuation systems are not limited to fire-related emergencies. They are now able to communicate things like severe weather, on-campus threats, or environmental hazards.
  • Evacuate or relocate: Traditional fire alarms make occupants aware of a situation within the building, but notifications are limited. A voice evac system gives more detailed information as to the nature of the alert and the actions to take.
  • Specified instruction: For multi-story buildings or large warehouses, voice evac systems can be placed in zones, directing each floor (or area) to their specific exit routes.
  • Compatible with existing security systems: Voice evac systems are compatible with most other security system technology, which means you don’t have to get an entirely new system.
  • Tailored to you: Just like an EPS security system, a voice evac system can be engineered and scaled to the size of your facility, so you only get what you need—nothing less.
  • Reduces the “false alarm” mentality: The noise of a fire alarm can often cause the “it’s just a false alarm, let’s ignore it” frame of mind. Voice alarms eliminate this mentality by providing occupants with awareness of an emergency.
  • Battery-backed: A voice evacuation system will operate in the event of a power outage

Knowing all the code and regulations of a voice evacuation system can be tricky and quite difficult to master on your own. If you are interested in installing one of these systems, EPS would love to help! Whether you decide you want to install a voice activation system, or you want to talk about the options that best fit your needs, we have the tools and technical know-how to make it happen. We are committed to providing you with a comprehensive system, customized to suit your facility, your business, and your needs.

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