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Baldwin Boxall in pharma site voice alarm upgrade

A 24-month voice alarm upgrade project had only two and a half days of system downtime thanks to careful planning and teamwork.

A leading pharmaceutical research plant in Hertfordshire, UK has been fitted with a Baldwin Boxall Vigil voice alarm (VA) system as part of a sitewide upgrade.

The end user decided to carry out a complete fire detection upgrade to the site, which had had a Baldwin Boxall BVR20 networked system installed in the early 2000s. The upgrade included a new fire alarm system, detectors, voice alarm, fibre network and loudspeakers; over 50 control panels, around 9,000 fire alarm devices and about the same number of loudspeakers needed to be replaced, checked and tested across the site during the 24-month project. At a site that employs around 2,000 staff, the challenge for the main contractor, fire alarm specialist Tri Management, was to keep any disruption during the replacement of any part of the system to the minimum.

The new Baldwin Boxall VA system is comprised of 14 EVAS digitally networked racks, touchscreen control, fire and control microphones. In December 2013 the systems were delivered to site and installed adjacent to the existing BVR20 racks. During this period a new multimode fibre backbone was installed throughout the complex and the new racks were then connected to the network and soak tested over the Christmas break, to ensure there were no faults on the fibre network. The existing BVR20 system remained operational during this period.

In January 2014, with the co-operation of Baldwin Boxall’s project management team, Tri Management planned the best way to swap over the BVR20 VA system to the new EVAS system, with the least possible downtime. A programme of works was carried out – starting with the fitting of new fire detection panels, detection loops/devices, and then connecting these panels to the BVR20 rack system.

Strictly adhering to good practice throughout the project, Tri Management checked all loudspeaker circuits prior to the migration, and cleared any faults that were found, ensuring that the new system would be fault-free at the time of changeover. New voice alarm termination boxes were installed in each rack room and, initially, connected to the BVR20 system. Loudspeaker lines were fed through the new EVAS racks and re-terminated back onto the old, in preparation for the changeover. One by one, each circuit was disconnected to the correct circuit within minutes. This method, along with taking full advantage of the fact that the system is wired on a dual-circuit basis, ensured that there was no system downtime throughout this complex site.

Prior to the final swapover, each building was tested with a local alert and evacuate message. At this point it was necessary to amend the messages, as the client wished to retain the existing VA messages. Baldwin Boxall’s engineer simply downloaded the existing messages from the old system then uploaded them to the new. Then each local fire microphone was tested. This ensured a smooth transition when the final swapover took place.

Effective planning and efficient methods meant that the transition from old to new was carried out in an incredible 2.5 days – which really impressed the client.

On the building’s fibre network sit three touchscreen control stations at various locations within the site. At each station, it is possible to quickly view the system status, carry out local and sitewide paging, broadcast messages and view various history logs. Two BVRD VA control microphones enable local and sitewide paging, message control, emergency all call, music selection and volume control. Each building is an independent zone, with the ability to evacuate independently. During evacuation, occupiers of the other buildings are automatically advised, via pre-recorded messages, that an evacuation is underway.

At various locations throughout the buildings there are background music systems installed to provide radio, CD or MP3 audio whenever needed. Some areas also include wall-mounted remote access points for local paging, background music inputs and volume control. There are ambient noise sensors installed to ensure that the system remains audible at all times; this is especially important due to the potential for high background noise levels, should there be the need to evacuate a building. The remote access points can be used to communicate with evacuated staff to keep them informed of the situation.

As part of the site’s environmental procedures, the old BVR20 system has been completely recycled using the sites WEEE scheme.

Commenting on the system, Stuart Nichols, director of Tri Management, said: “We have been delighted with the outcome of this project. Our relationship with Baldwin Boxall’s team has ensured that the system was installed smoothly with no downtime whilst swapping from the old system to new, which was critical at such a vital site. If we needed assistance from Baldwin Boxall their response time was extremely good and we were impressed with their engineers’ ability to come up with solutions when needed.”

Nick Baldwin, marketing director for Baldwin Boxall, said: “During the tour of the site I was most impressed with the installation. It is clear that Tri Management has taken great care when carrying out the work – it was one the most professional installations I have seen. It is obvious that Tri Management has carried out considerable planning prior to the swapover to ensure the end user was left with a system that fully met their requirements.”

Chris Hartup, Baldwin Boxall’s sales manager, commented, “We have had a long and varied working relationship with Tri Management, and various members of the team, over a number of years. The benefit with this particular site, was the fact that Stuart Nicholls was involved with the very first Baldwin Boxall VA network changeover there, 13 or more years ago.

“This prior knowledge, along with detailed planning, meant all parties had a clear understanding of what was required with the proposed new system. Regular meetings were held by Tri Management, on site, ensuring the client, consultant and suppliers were aware of how the project was progressing, as well as ensuring all action points were raised and completed, subject to timeframes, providing a very efficient and well-run project. It is also worth noting that the VA network system was only part of the works that Tri Management completed on this site.

“The new system provides greater functionality and flexibility that the client requires, including additional touchscreen graphic PC and microphone enhancements, a rackmounted message store, ambient noise sensing and local music/mic switch panels for areas needing this requirement. A project of this complexity required a high level of planning and preparation on site, which Tri Management is very well known for; this meant the project was built, tested, installed and commissioned well before the project handover date.”