Editor, IFSEC Global

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James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
March 17, 2021

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IFSEC Interviews

“The development of cloud-enabled solutions is a focus” – Advanced’s Amanda Hope on overcoming current challenges in the fire industry

As Advanced’s Amanda Hope moves into her new role as UK Fire Business Development Manager, she reflects on her career to date and discusses with IFSEC Global some of the fire industry’s biggest challenges and how Advanced is innovating to meet them.

Advanced-AmandaHope-21Amanda, you’ve worked at Advanced for almost 20 years, what have been some of your highlights?

Being involved in devising fire protection solutions that keep tens of thousands of people safe every day is what I find most rewarding. Across London, there are now many examples of high-profile buildings protected by Advanced. From the Shard and 22 Bishopsgate – the UK’s tallest and second tallest buildings – to the London Underground and King’s Cross Station redevelopment, I feel very proud to have played a part in protecting these iconic locations and the many people who use them.


Check out two of the latest projects Advanced solutions have been specified for…


How will your responsibilities change as you move into your new role and what will be your focus?

Until now, I have concentrated on growing and managing customer accounts in the South East of England – and will continue to do so to ensure a smooth handover of responsibilities. In future, I’ll be taking a broader national view and helping contractors, specifiers and fire safety managers to understand what we offer at Advanced and how our versatile, high-performance solutions can simplify the specification, installation, configuration and day-to-day use and maintenance of fire systems.

I will also be involved in the launch and development of our cloud-based remote management solution. It is designed to provide fire system users with real-time access to and control of their fire protection, wherever they happen to be, and brings significant time and cost savings.

 

What do you regard as some of our industry’s biggest challenges and how has Advanced been able to address these?

I’d say there are several key challenges right now – so I’ll split this answer up.

False alarm management

False alarms are a global problem, representing significant costs to business, productivity, and the fire and rescue services. They can cause complacency – putting lives at risk – they disrupt day-to day activities across a wide range of settings, and can damage an organisation’s reputation, not to mention wasting fire and rescue services’ resources.

Our solution, AlarmCalm, is available as standard on our MxPro 5 multiprotocol fire panels and delivers unprecedented control of verification and investigation delays. By dividing sites up into virtual false alarm ‘building areas’ independent of fire zones, we are able to achieve much more precise control of false alarm management and reduction strategies, that exactly fit the needs of each part of a building. An optional AlarmCalm button allows trained occupants to verify if they believe a local fire signal is a false alarm too – a highly effective way of eliminating unwanted alarms.

Protecting sensitive sites

Our fire protection technology is also well suited to unique and sensitive sites – from national archives, data centres and oil pipelines to historic buildings and server rooms.

There is no ‘standard’ fire solution for sites of this kind. However, our gas extinguishant panel, ExGo, has been used in a number of cases to protect strategic and high-value assets. It is suitable for almost all single-flooding area applications and includes a range of control options and devices. It is approved to EN54 parts 2, 4 and 13 as well as EN12094-1 and is among the first systems to combine these with EN12094 in a single solution. (EN12094-3 relates to the integrated manual release on the front of the panel).

Compliance

For many of our customers, the ability to demonstrate compliance is paramount and we’re able to help them on this count with our Service Tool feature. This makes fire system management quick and straightforward, allowing for quick identification and resolution of any issues. It provides evidence that the system has been tested in line with standards, enabling the end user to prove that their system is compliant.

Other customers need to determine the best and most cost-effective solution to ensuring their premises are DDA compliant, meeting their legal obligations to building users with disabilities such as hearing impairments. As a route to DDA compliance, LifeLine is Advanced’s three-in-one ESPA pager unit that delivers: deaf and hearing-impaired alerts, detailed fire paging for engineers and instant staff paging. The system provides clear and instant transmission of fire alarm alerts, information and emergency communications via personal pagers, can be integrated into the fire system, and is designed to allow compliance with BS 5839-1 section 18.

Integration

Advanced’s MXPro system

Integrating the fire system with third-party BMS, along with smoke damper control, sprinkler monitoring or HVAC systems offers a host of advantages for those tasked with ensuring the safety of occupants within a building. These include greater efficiency, lower operating costs, and a more secure and responsive building environment.

The BMS interface allows any MxPro system to interconnect and communicate with independent third-party BMS (building management systems) as well as PC-based graphical control systems. This allows the fire system to be managed using existing fire or facilities management systems.

Physical connection to the external system is via a serial connection allowing the external BMS/Graphics systems to issue commands and receive information whilst the BMS interface handles all network traffic and event prioritisation. Multiple BMS interfaces can be connected to an AdNet network allowing independent connections to a wide range of control systems.

Aesthetics

Siting the fire panel can be contentious in certain premises, such as high-end stores or design-conscious commercial spaces. How do you integrate fire protection discreetly into the fabric of the building while maintaining up-to-the-minute status and control?

In these scenarios, Advanced offers the TouchControl repeater panel. Its sleek, flush touchscreen design allows adverts and retailer images to be displayed when in standby. However, if a detector is activated, it instantly changes mode and provides firefighters with a clear, graphical display of the building/site and the zone/area in fire.

In manned areas, it may also be a priority to implement workstations to allow for further interrogation and management of the fire system. Advanced’s PC graphics package provides a virtual representation of the fire system to the trained user, offering full visibility of the system’s status via computer screen and a range of functionality benefits from the isolation of devices to full resets of the system.

 

Advanced’s solutions are installed in a wide variety of sites, but are there any sectors to which they are particularly suited?

Our products are extremely versatile and consequently specified in locations around the world, from single-panel installations to large, multi-site networks of up-to 200 panels. This large-site capability however, means our products are regularly specified for use in a range of healthcare premises, such as hospitals and care homes, as well as educational institutions.

In a drive to reduce costs without compromising protection, many hospitals have moved from closed-protocol to open-protocol fire systems. This approach brings with it a number of flexibility and efficiency benefits, such as greater choice over detection protocol, suppliers, installers and service companies, as well as free training and unrestricted access to the latest software – saving time, money and inconvenience.

Many hospital sites are complex, combining old and new buildings – covering large areas. These conditions demand the use of high-performance panels that can effectively support large numbers of devices across networked systems. Compromising on the equipment used under these circumstances can be very costly and results in lower safety standards. The MxPro 5 easily supports 200 node networks and offers extensive programmable cause and effect, delivering ease of use and peace of mind concurrently.

Our solutions are also well used across a range of education settings – from schools and colleges to universities and student accommodation. An area where Advanced has particular strength is in accommodating requirements for lockdown or ‘invacuation’ – the process of making building occupants aware of an emergency and helping direct them to the most appropriate safe refuge within the site – away from external windows and other exposed areas.

High-performance systems, such as our MxPro 5 panel range, can be supplied with a dedicated key switch unit integrated within the fire panel. When operated, this enables the invacuation sounders to activate – signalling for a responsible person within the building to guide occupants to secure areas or instruct occupants to remain inside. This action may be required as a result of a chemical release incident, dangerous animal at the perimeter of the premises, or a terrorist threat.

In scenarios where the fire system may be required to deal with a bomb threat, our MxPro 5 panels can be programmed to trigger a specific tone, different to the fire tone, to alert personnel to exit the building.

 

How do you see the business changing over the next 10 years?

Fire detection and alarm systems are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated, benefiting from cutting-edge digital technology. At a time when it’s so critical to be able to work remotely, whilst maintaining high standards of safety, cloud-based technologies have become an important ally.

More recently, we have witnessed an industry-wide drive towards digital innovations to make control, monitoring, maintenance and servicing of fire systems much quicker and more convenient. The development of cloud-enabled products and services is a focus for Advanced, and we have already adopted the technology across our emergency lighting product offering in the form of LuxIntelligent.

This emergency light testing system provides cloud monitoring and management via mobile and web apps. Data is stored securely in the cloud and the system delivers live details on status, faults, test failures and advisories from a smartphone, tablet or via a web browser allowing engineers and maintenance staff to share maintenance and test reports in one click.

We also see digital innovation opening up new ways of working and transforming how we interact with our fire systems.

Find out more about LuxIntelligent by watching the company’s recent FIREX Tech Talks session, below…

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