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Northampton College upgrades its existing fire alarm system for its large Booth Lane campus

@NorthamptonCollege has deployed Eaton’s new adaptive escape signage with Matrix technology which directs occupants away from danger towards a safe exit in an emergency, upgrading its existing fire alarm system for its large Booth Lane campus.

The Booth Lane campus is the college’s largest site with almost 4,500 students. It is a complex building of eight blocks, each with up to three floors all of which interconnect into one huge site.

Pat Brennan-Barrett, principal of Northampton College, said:

“The Booth Lane campus is a very complex building that often has thousands of people onsite at once. We have always taken safety very seriously and continue to carefully consider how we would safely evacuate the building if there was an emergency. We’re very pleased with this new system which ensures even greater safety for our students and staff.”

The college’s existing addressable fire safety system was installed more than ten years ago and consisted of a main fire panel which connects to eight local fire panels in each of the different site blocks. These sub fire panels connected to fire alarms, smoke detectors and escape signage using a twisted pair bus cable.

If an alarm was to go off in part of the campus, the fire panel in that area would switch the old signage luminaire leading into that block from an arrow to a red cross to visually warn people against entering the area. All other directional signage would remain the same to direct people to safety.

Unfortunately, the existing signage luminaires were old, and the college could no longer source spare parts for them. They also relied on their emergency batteries for illumination if it switched its signage, something that legislation no longer allows. This meant that the college had to find modern escape signage luminaires that they could retrofit onto the existing system and offer the same or improved functionality. They also had to complete the installation during a three-week holiday when no one was on site.

Mechanical and electrical contractors Thorn Electrical working with wholesalers Midshires Electrical decided to trial Eaton’s new escape sign luminaires with matrix technology. Using a switching contact at the luminaire, the team found that they could change the sign from a directional arrow to a red cross in response to a signal from a fire alarm or smoke detector without any problems.

Following the trial, Thorn Electrical installed 45 of the new Eaton escape sign luminaires throughout the campus in each of the eight zones. Using the existing twisted pair cabling and power mains from the old signage, the company fitted and fully tested all the luminaires in the short time frame available. Each of the luminaires is backlit using LED lighting and has a lithium ion battery with a selectable operating time of one or three hours in the event of a mains power outage, and there is also a simple fault analysis and status display via a bicolor LED.

John Curtis, regional account manager at Eaton commented:

“We’re really pleased to be supporting Northampton College. The signage provides a very high service lifetime with minimal maintenance and very good visibility.”

The signage features a high luminance of its white contrasting color of greater than 1000cd/m2. This is important to clearly highlight escape routes in some of the long corridors and large rooms within the campus, especially if there was smoke in the rooms.

Using LED lighting, the new technology saves the college energy and requires minimal maintenance when compared to the old system that used fluorescent lamps. It can also be further upgraded in the future with the addition of modules and data cabling as part of Eaton’s CGLine+ system. This would allow remote testing of the escape sign luminaires without a walk test and clear status updates via a PC.

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