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Combining fire alarm and voice evacuation on a single, IP-based platform accelerates emergency response and unlocks a wide range of efficiency gains. This evolution continues with a new generation of fire alarm panels.

One of the main tasks for every building and safety manager consists of preparing optimally for emergency scenarios. This includes having the right protocols in place for fires to make sure that a building can be evacuated as quickly as possible when every second counts.

For an optimal response, operators need as much live situational intelligence as possible; as fast as possible. Critical information includes the exact location of the fire source and current temperature levels in the immediate vicinity. Also an overview of the most critical rooms and floors that need to be prioritized for evacuation. In an ideal world, this information is available in a central location, such as a control room, from which all emergency responses are directed and coordinated. And even more ideally, the building’s fire alarm and voice evacuation systems should not only be connected and integrated – they should also deliver alerts and status reports on the same platform in a coordinated manner.For an optimal response, operators need as much live situational intelligence as possible; as fast as possible

In reality, most buildings lack this level of integration and synchronization in their disparate fire alarm and voice evacuation systems. Some buildings run on patchwork solution in which both systems may be controlled in a single location, but entirely without integration whatsoever. This not only creates challenges in terms of installation and maintenance of these systems. In the worst case, the lack of integration can cost valuable seconds in response time. But system integration between fire and voice alarm solutions has not only come a long way in recent years. As the latest evolution, a new generation of fire panels helps to connect and control both systems on a single interface, thereby opening the door to immediate efficiency improvements and future innovations.

Connecting IP-Based Fire Alarm and Voice Evacuation Systems

For the past few years, Bosch has been offering connections between IP-based fire alarm and voice evacuation systems as a standard, out-of-the-box feature. The “Smart Safety Link” is an interface that creates a connection between fire and voice alarm systems. As a direct, plug-and-play connection, it replaces workaround solutions or relay-based connections limited to single evacuation zones in the building. As the direct takeaways from a systems architecture perspective, the Smart Safety Link requires far less cables and significantly reduces installation costs and timelines. Bosch has been offering connections between IP-based fire alarm and voice evacuation systems as a standard, out-of-the-box featureAnd by creating the connection on an IP-based architecture, the system constantly monitors the health and status of all connected devices. For operators, this significantly increases the system’s overall reliability while lowering the risk for false alarms. It also allows for replacing or repairing components as needed, right when failures happen or become imminent.

The resulting systems architecture is not only more stable and reliable, but also far less complex in terms of set-up. Depending on the size of the building, one or more voice alarm systems can also be connected to the fire alarm control panels. The direct connection via Smart Safety Link eliminates the need for including additional interface modules to accommodate a voice evacuation connection, thereby keeping investment costs low.

Targeted Evacuation by Building Zones

Beyond the ease and efficiency of setting up a building’s alarm systems, the connection between fire alarm and voice evacuation on a single platform significantly improves emergency responses:

Firstly, in case of a fire alarm the Smart Safety Link allows for voice-guided evacuation of a building by separate zones. This allows for addressing rooms and building floors closest to the fire source first, starting with the evacuation of the most endangered building occupants. This not only supports an orderly evacuation response but also helps to avoid panic and additional complications.Studies state that using voice evacuation with clear instructions creates significant time gains

Secondly, the integration makes evacuations much faster overall in situations when time is of the essence. Studies such as David Canter’s “Fire and Human Behavior” clearly state that using voice evacuation with clear instructions creates significant time gains of up to 30 percent for emergency response teams compared to a non-voice alarm signal.

And thirdly, the Smart Safety Link also allows for a wide range of automated emergency responses, for instance pre-recorded voice evacuation messages directing occupants of different zones to their respective nearest exits. Supported by strobes, guide lights and clear signage, this automatic combination of fire alarm and voice instructions allows operators to focus on the big picture and monitor the situation in real-time.

Evolving the Link Between Fire and Voice Alarm

While the integration between fire alarm and voice evacuation via Smart Safety Link has been a widely adopted feature for several years now, with constant gains in efficiency and ease of use, the evolution continues. Bosch recently released a new generation of panels that provide the foundation for immediate new functionality as well as a platform for future technologies guided by Smart Building and Internet of Things (IoT) principles.Bosch recently released a new generation of panels that provide the foundation for immediate new functionality

Continuing the proven, modular concept of its predecessors, the new “Avenar” panels provide an intuitive user interface, simplified planning and streamlined purchasing process for operators and system integrators. The panels work with existing fire alarm system components, but offer enhanced scalability, computing power and functionality for future applications. Most of all, the Avenar series creates a single point of access and control for personnel and operators while putting both the voice alarm and fire alarm system components at their fingertips.  

A Combined Graphic User Interface for Both Systems

Previously, many systems still required two separate user interface environments to control fire alarm and voice evacuation components. Here’s where Avenar bridges the gap: Users can now fully control safety equipment such as fire alarm, voice alarm, door controls, and more, directly on the Avenar panel display via the “eMatrix” feature. With its 7-inch touch screen, eMatrix puts full control of all system components on a single interface. The results include faster response times from eliminating the need to switch between platforms, as well as a one-stop overview of the latest situation.With its 7-inch touch screen, eMatrix puts full control of all system components on a single interface

eMatrix displays the status of all connected fire safety equipment and evacuation zones in a color-coded format, indicating states by red, yellow, and green labels. Operators also directly see the status of automated emergency responses currently in progress, with the option to intervene manually as needed. These manual commands are available in the form of icons on screen that control sirens, strobe lights and voice announcements. Constant feedback on the progress of evacuation measures allows for an unprecedented level of control in emergency situations.

Networked Solutions for Tomorrow’s Smart Buildings

In a world where connectivity and cloud computing are key drivers of innovation, both panels support fast ethernet system architecture with 100Mbit data transfer rates. What’s more, fire panels and voice alarm components connect to a network, allowing for the integration of building management systems such as HVAC. In a world challenged by pandemic restrictions, remote maintenance and control are day one features of the platform.

Looking into the future, the next generation not only immediately puts faster response times and better situational oversight into system operator’s hands. When it comes to smart building technologies that support emergency responses with AI-based automation for even faster turnaround, the Avenar panels also provide the hardware and connectivity to pave the way.

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Johannes Stauber Head of Product Management Fire Alarm Systems, Bosch Security Systems

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