Case Study: Fiber Network Fights Fires Down Under

Since 1915, the Australian Navy has been training at the HMAS Creswell Academy on the eastern shores of the continent-nation. In that time, the complex has grown to include nearly 40 buildings. Unfortunately, the base's fire-safety infrastructure did not grown as elegantly...


Since 1915, the Australian Navy has been training at the HMAS Creswell Academy on the eastern shores of the continent-nation.

In that time, the complex has grown to include nearly 40 buildings. Unfortunately, the base's fire-safety infrastructure did not grown as elegantly as its historic architecture.

The facility used several different fire-alarm panel brands which were problematic for both on- and off-site fire personnel. An LED annunciator—located beside the main control panel—was the only system-wide device in place, and required a permanently stationed individual to ascertain the origin of the alarms.

Furthermore, many of the facility's conventional panels could not provide the base's fire department with any specific information as to a fire's location. And making matters worse, the panels were connected via a circuit of underground copper telephone cables which were vulnerable to lightning damage. This was relevant in that the academy is located on a ridge susceptible to lightning strikes. In fact, a major electrical storm in 1999 destroyed 95% of the site's fire panels.

When the disaster struck the academy was in need of a new fire system, and the challenges were considerable.

The system would have to:

  • Connect panels located over a huge campus, as well as provide detailed, accurate information throughout the circuit.

  • Be non-conducive to lightning.

  • User-programmable.

  • Completed in under three months.

After the storm

A new fire-alarm system—interconnected with a fiber-optic network—was implemented with a panel for each of the 38 buildings.

Specifically, an intelligent network of annunciators in strategic locations were installed around the facility. From these locations, individuals can respond to and monitor critical situations.

As opposed to the previous condition, each of the 38 panels provides consistent, accurate information to the primary network-control station. More so, these panels have the capacity for 792 individually identifiable and controllable detection/control points. Using easy-to-understand pictures, icons and descriptive text—as opposed to the old LED annunciator—the system displays actual building, zone and device-alarm locations. This level of information is available from a number of designated network panel displays, and is also accessible via radio interface.

Another new benefit of the system is that the base's fire-fighting crew can isolate or de-isolate a zone or device from the main fire panel. Actually, remote interrogation of the fire system can be conducted from a service technician's home via a laptop computer.

From a cost and maintenance perspective, the new system is also paying off. The number of service companies required to maintain the previous system—and the amount of ongoing equipment operation training—have been reduced, as have equipment stocking levels. Fiber-optic Foray

The fiber-optic solution, obviously, helped eliminate lightning concerns, but the technology was completely new to HMAS; previously no single-mode fiber network existed in Australia. In fact, this would be the largest fiber-optic fire-network system installation in the southern hemisphere.

Therefore, HMAS exercised great caution. Military specifications required that a system of this size—over 1,500 meters—utilize single-mode fiber, a higher grade than the typically installed multimode fiber. The fiber grade also ensured that information would be transmittable over great distances with almost no losses.

For more information on fire-alarm networks and control panels from Notifier, visit our Reader Service site at rscahners. and enter #102.

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