Picture the following scenario.
In mid-teleconference, the meeting chair glances at the touchscreen control panel in front of him and sees: “Fire on fourth floor. Floors 5-10 leave building by east stairs, floors 1-4 use west stairs.”
It’s an increasingly common scenario and one that AV professionals are moving quickly to make real. Messaging for every kind of content, from “evacuate” to “lunch is ready,” is becoming a key capability for AV and conferencing systems.
“Over the next five years we’re going to see a lot more of this,” says David Silberstein, CTS, Manager of Consultant Market Development and Technical Services, Northeast Region at Crestron Electronics. Much of the impetus for this change is coming from national Homeland Security requirements although local police, fire and emergency management authorities are also playing roles.
AV systems, including building-wide networked control systems for projectors and other assets, are being recognized as a potentially vital means of communicating with building occupants in an emergency. These systems offer both a means of reaching the entire building with a single message and a way of customizing messages for particular areas.
“In today’s world, we have a fire alarm,” Silberstein says. “It can be regionalized, but that’s the only real messaging that goes on.” In effect, fire alarms tell everyone in the building to go stand outside for an hour drinking coffee until the fire department declares all clear. That’s an incomplete response to an emergency, at best.
What if you want to tell people to stay somewhere or use the rear exit instead of the front? A more effective solution involves recognizing the value of the networked AV assets on the premises. That can require rethinking the way digital signage is deployed or the way the audio system is deployed or rethinking the control system design.
The AV system administrator who uses a network to check on the status of projectors throughout a building, for example, can use the same network to turn on projectors or other displays in specific areas and feed them timely, potentially life-saving content.
Most manufacturers of control systems provide software that enables users to monitor and control their rooms. The professional AV integrator will provide this option to their client.
Meeting this new priority makes it much harder for whomever who is bringing all of these pieces together. They now must work with fire safety where maybe they didn’t before. They have to make sure the paging system ties into the building’s sound system. They also need to learn and understand more complex rules. Zoned paging continues to be a request but the AV Integrator must be careful to make sure that both they and their clients are very clear about the legal requirements for any system that they are considering and what regulations they are trying to meet.
How does your system stack up?