Fiber Optics Drive High-Tech Fire-Protection System

New Jersey's Ramapo College prides itself on excellence. The college was ranked number two in a recent survey of comprehensive colleges in the North by U.S. New & World Report. Its faculty of 149 and student body of 5,000 teach, live and learn in 500,000 sq. ft. of academic space and 500,000 sq.


New Jersey's Ramapo College prides itself on excellence. The college was ranked number two in a recent survey of comprehensive colleges in the North by U.S. New & World Report .

Its faculty of 149 and student body of 5,000 teach, live and learn in 500,000 sq. ft. of academic space and 500,000 sq. ft. of dormitory space, as well as in the campus' newly constructed buildings. As a result, the school wanted a fire-protection system, including a campus-wide life-safety monitoring system, that could live up to its high standards.

Specifically, school officials wanted one that would network a variety of systems by different manufacturers installed in existing buildings, accommodate continuous expansion, and meet both NFPA and UL standards, while avoiding compatibility and service issues.

A Lonworks-based network integrating fire, security, access control and CCTV—all from a Windows-based color graphics work station in the school's main security office—was selected. According to William Alagna, Ramapo's director of facilities, one of the reasons the college went with the system was because it allowed Ramapo to keep existing equipment in place.

"This meant tremendous cost savings," notes Robert Farm, vice president of Armor Group Integrated Systems, the system's distributor. "We were able to utilize a small number of spare fiber optics to put the network together all in a manner compliant with NFPA standards and local code."

Farm estimates the college saved close to $100,000 on the wiring and installation alone.

The monitoring system itself networks over existing fiber-optic infrastructures as well as conventional wiring. Fiber optics are well-suited to carrying data over long distances and aren't affected by ground faults and noise pickup, which can be troublesome to conventional wiring.

For example, at remote locations where neither fiber nor direct wiring was available, the system was able to interface with a UL-listed digital alarm communicator receiver (DACR) via an RS232 connection. The ability to receive alarm, trouble and supervisory signals from listed digital alarm communicator transmitters via the public telephone system allowed expansion of the network where conventional direct signal paths were not feasible or cost effective.

The system also employs various network input/output modules (NIONs), which provide an interface between existing local control panels and the network. NIONs are utilized in several configurations from dry contact monitoring to intelligent data conversion. UL-listed power sources, battery-backed power supplies and UPS provide the operational power.

Individual smoke detectors, heat detectors and signaling devices are located in each bedroom suite in the dormitories. Additionally, manual pull stations, sprinkler supervisory devices and ADA-compliant horn strobes are installed in commons areas. All detectors are linked to intelligent control panels within each building, and each control panel is connected to the monitoring system's network. When a detector senses smoke or heat, it activates the building evacuation signals and alerts security personnel, as well as provides them with the exact location of the detector, graphic floor plans and digital images of the location.

"Everyone at the college has been impressed with the system," says Robert O'Brien, director of security. "While Ramapo College has always put a premium on student and faculty safety, we now have a system that allows us to fulfill this objective more effectively than ever before."

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