St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center
Syracuse, New York
Hospital Receives Healthy Dose of Fire Protection From
Consolidated Gamewell-FCI System
Life safety is extremely important in hospital environments due to the large
majority of occupants who may not be able to fend for themselves in an
evacuation situation. This is especially true of large multiple-building campuses
where the lives of hundreds of patients could be in jeopardy if a fire
were to go unnoticed for even a small period of time.
St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse, New York is one of the area’s
largest health care providers. The downtown campus is comprised of a sixstory
facility, connected to eight other structures using either climate-controlled
tunnels or overhead enclosed bridges.
This 140-year old institution has grown to occupy six city blocks. Other facilities
contained within this complex are a four-story office and administration
building; a ten-story garage and medical office building; an eight-story college
of nursing facility, equipped with a six-story dorm and classrooms; a
two-story special services facility; and a ten story medical office center.
Old Systems Laid to Rest
“Our fire alarm systems were made up of FCI, Mirtone, and Simplex equipment,”
said Matthew Auwae, St. Joseph’s Manager of Building Services.
“Each system was of various ages. Some components had become antiquated
and no longer available on the market when service or modification was
Considering the complex was protected by eight different fire alarm systems,
hospital officials were eager to consolidate all using a single integrated fire
alarm platform. “The numerous systems made maintenance difficult and
costly,” said John R. Urciuoli, President and CEO of ST&A (Syracuse Time &
Alarm Co. Inc.) of Syracuse, New York. To make the systems operate satisfactorily,
with the facility’s growth over the last 20 years, has been a real challenge.”
According to Urciuoli, every time there was an expansion project at the hospital,
confusion among the systems grew. The only means of integration
required ingenuity and on the spot engineering to comply with code requirements.
Looking ahead, the hospital was contemplating several more expansion projects.
Given the current state of integrated systems, key personnel decided it
was time to consolidate all systems into one.
Working cooperatively with
the hospital, ST&A, a
Systems Distributor, suggested
the hospital look at an integrated
fire alarm solution. The
hospital hired an independent
consultant, RobsonWoese, Inc.
Consulting Engineers, to
design a technically advanced,
sole-source integrated system
for the complex.
The consultant’s main task
was to design a horizontal
evacuation plan that complies
with current NFPA standards.
Defining fire zones and smoke
and fire barriers was the first
step. Next was the conception of a voice alarm system that indicates fire
‘zone’ origins to all occupants while providing evacuation instructions to relevant
The new design called for Gamewell-FCI’s most versatile fire alarm platform.
The 7100 NetSOLOTM fire alarm control integrated with the E3 Series® voice
evacuation system completed the new network.
According to Mark Simpson, a Vice President with ST&A and NICET Level IV
Certified Electrical Technician, “We had two custom cabinets built to house all
the ASM-16’s (addressable switch modules). Firefighter phones are installed
throughout the complex and ring only to the pertinent command centers. The
command centers are configurable to fit 40 of the ASM-16’s. These 16-button
modules have three colored LEDs associated with each button to provide
feedback on the status of each button.”
As one of the E3 Series’ addressable modules, the ASM-16 is programmable
via software. Each ASM-16 pushbutton switch can be utilized for an assortment of functions, including fire zone speaker circuit switch, firefighter phone
switch, auxiliary control switch or any number of applications that pertain to
system functionality, such as device reset.
“With the new system we installed, just the push of a button will take a zone
out of operation. This allows hospital management to do whatever they need
to with regard to maintenance or testing. No one can believe how easy it is
now,” said Simpson.
The new system is made up of 54 nodes on a 100 percent fiber backbone. A
great deal of planning was done, relative to conduit routes and firewall patching.
The installation used CI (circuit integrity) cable in conduit to provide two-hour
fire NAC (notification appliance circuit) survival with one terminal box in
each fire zone. All wires are labeled, tagged and archived on CAD (computeraided
drawing) files. The result is an amazingly serviceable and expandable
Technology Breakthroughs Expand System Welfare
The E3 Series’ EVAC (emergency voice/alarm communication) capabilities
delivered on one of the project’s most important specifications. Its ability to
provide custom announcements on a zone-by-zone, floor-by-floor basis
assured hospital personnel of a more organized and safe evacuation during
any number of emergency situations. “We can sync audio messages from
multiple sources being outputted by multiple amps and still maintain sync
across the network,” states Aldrich, Gamewell-FCI Project Engineer. “We have
messages stored in nodes near each area they protect so if one or two areas
go into alarm, the messages that those occupants hear come from the nearest
Another breakthrough in the design of today’s fire alarm systems is survivability.
A distributed architecture design allows the E3 Series to continue
operating when portions of the network are severed from the head-end during
a fire or other disaster incident. “I call this a self-correcting, fault-tolerant
system, because if part of the network is severed in one or more places, each
fragment will still perform according to information contained in a node within
that area,” said Aldrich. “And then, once the problem is corrected and the
network restored, the system will synchronize within as little as 4 seconds.”
The use of network technology to transport signals from fire alarm control
center to each NGA (network graphic annunciator) was another important
feature to hospital officials.
The E3 Series’ NGA offers better command and control due to its user-friendly,
intuitive touch screen human interface, which is as easy to use as a common
ATM. In instances where the operator may not be familiar with system
operation, the NGA provides immediate communications and easy-to-follow
instructions through the use of layered menu screens.
High-Speed, Low-Cost Treatment
The E3 Series system features a high-speed data network called ARCnetTM
over which control and sensor data and audio communication travels. With
ARCnet, each pair of wires can be isolated on a node-to-node basis, facilitating
system survivability during catastrophic events.
Behind the St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center’s E3 Series’ ARCnet data connection
are intelligent SLC (signaling line circuit) controller boards, containing
a 32-bit “reduced instruction set computer” processor. The processors boost
overall reliability during day-to-day use.
Each intelligent interface board provides two SLCs. Each SLC has a potential
capacity of 159 addressable detectors and 159 addressable modules. In
addition, each dual-SLC processor board contains two NACs, a local energy
city box output, auxiliary relay functions and an auxiliary power supply output.
To ensure the system continues operating in a code-compliant manner, the
same intelligent dual-SLC/NAC processor board offers a number of relay outputs,
such as alarm, supervisory and system trouble.
The E3 Series is the first of its kind to offer complete integration using just a
twisted-pair metallic wires or one dual fiber-optic cable. By minimizing the
number of wires installed by ST&A, the new system reduced the overall cost
of on-site labor. Moreover, the installation’s impact on the physical appearance
of buildings throughout the complex was minimal. “There was extensive
work involved with the selection of this system,” said Auwae. “And if we had
to do it all over again, we’d pick the same company and the same system.”