Major league fire protection

Citi Field’s highly advanced fire protection and evacuation systems make use of both centralized and distributed intelligence.

By Information provided by NOTIFIER July 12, 2011

When the New York Mets National League ballpark in Flushing, N.Y., was built in 2009, countless hours were spent on the planning, installation, and testing of the 1.2 million-sq-ft facility’s fire protection system. Citi Field, named after corporate sponsor Citigroup, comprises a contoured seating design for optimal views from all seats with a 360-deg walking path around the entire park. The system needed to meet fire codes from several different governing bodies, including NFPA 72 2007, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), New York Fire Dept., and the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).

For the system’s head-end, Citi Field management chose the ONYX Series NFS2-3030 fire alarm control panel with integrated digital voice command, manufactured by NOTIFIER. Local fire and life safety systems specialists Cross-Fire and Security Co. Inc. worked with the job’s electrical contractor to manage system design, installation, and programming. M.E. Engineers Inc., a group that has worked on several other major sports stadium projects, was the consulting engineer on record.

“We originally installed a 26-node voice evacuation system and just added another NFS2-3030 to the network to accommodate a new bar/restaurant in the administrative building,” Cross-Fire vice president Brendan Doorly said. “We visit the site twice a month to perform regular testing and maintenance.”

More than 2,000 initiating devices were installed throughout Citi Field, most of which are duct- and spot-type smoke detectors. To accommodate Citi Field specs and an AHJ request, relatively few manual fire pull boxes were installed to deter bogus alarms.

A fire alarm system with a large number of field devices must react to events just as rapidly as a small system. ONYX Series panels use the FlashScan protocol, which can poll 318 devices in 2 sec and initiate a full-system response in less than 5 sec.

The ballpark is equipped with a centralized method for monitoring and control of the entire fire protection network. The ONYX network control station (NCS) is a computer with graphic user interface and detailed facility floor plans that allow users to check system status and search event history. During an event, the screen automatically zeroes in on the activated device and displays related information labels, such as nearby hazardous material storage and special occupancy areas.

“Any time we’re on-site, we use the NCS to perform walk tests or to temporarily disable devices for maintenance,” Cross-Fire senior systems engineer manager John Beers said. “The park’s facilities and security people use it all the time to keep an eye out for potential issues.”

From the time of installation to the present, most of New York has followed the 2002 version of NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm Code. The ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities also covers the required flash rate, duration, and color of fire alarm strobes. The flash rate of a typical listed visual notification appliance must be no less than 1/sec and no more than 2/sec.

Also, when two or more strobes can be seen at the same time, they must be synchronized to flash in unison. Each strobe panel receives a sync pulse from the NFS2-3030 fire alarm control panel. This enables the system to coordinate each and every flash from one side of the facility to the other.

“You can see one side of the ballpark to the other, so we had to put in strobe panels in order to achieve synchronization throughout the park. When the fire alarm system goes off, it looks like one giant flash bulb,” Beers said.

The system protecting Citi Field is divided into four quadrants with a data gathering panel (DGP) node positioned in each section. The four panels report to the main NFS2-3030 fire alarm control panel, which issues commands as needed. Interconnection of panels, annunciators, DGPs, and other command/control devices is accomplished via NOTI-FIRE-NET, a token-style network.

Due to the system’s distributed intelligence, if connection is lost with the head-end panel, each DGP will continue to operate independently until connection is restored. Once the interruption is corrected, system operation returns to normal and data (event information, programming changes) can continue to be exchanged between each DGP and fire alarm control panel node.

“We ran the data bus to the DGP node in each quad and we placed addressable signaling line circuits (SLCs) and output cards in them as needed,” Beers said. “One of the added benefits of the ONYX Series is that there are very few wires that run between each node and the main fire alarm control head-end. Unlike many other systems, we didn’t have to install a ton of cables to accommodate the 2,000-plus initiating devices, warden phones, graphic command stations, and other command and control equipment.”

The ONYX Series system in Citi Field uses UTP (unshielded, twisted-pair) wire in accordance with New York City requirements, though it is also capable of using several networking options, including copper, fiber optic cable, or Internet protocol.

“There was a lot of integration on this job. We had to integrate with the building management system on site as well as the public address system in the bowl,” Beers said. “We received the final approval from the New York Fire Dept. to use the PA system as a method of broadcasting alarm signals throughout the ballpark.”

If necessary, the fire alarm’s DVC can override the bowl’s PA system to broadcast live emergency communications throughout the ballpark. The DVC can provide up to eight channels of audio with five channels of firefighters’ telephone, plus control and supervision for up to 32 digital audio amplifier units. Additional integration to Citi Field’s fire protection system includes controls of fans, dampers, elevators, and escalators for smoke control functions.

Fire alarm control panel specifications

The NFS2-3030 fire alarm control panel is part of a scalable, component-based system. The panel can support up to 10 SLCs, each with a capacity of 159 addressable detectors and 159 modules, totaling 318 devices per loop, or 3,180 per panel. While commonly used for mid- to large-size applications with higher point capacities like Citi Field, the NFS2-3030 can be specified for smaller projects requiring more sophisticated programming options for functions such as smoke control.

An ONYXWorks system from NOTIFIER enables users to monitor and control systems for fire alarms, emergency communications, security, and closed circuit TV. The customized graphic interface can be programmed to show detailed layouts of multiple facilities, along with the status and event histories of all systems’ components. The system allows for program changes, temporary device shut-offs for maintenance, system tests, and the initiation of pre-recorded voice evacuation messages.