Monday, June 2, 2014

Fire Alarms and Smoke Detectors: Problems Being Fixed

After a series of fire alarms shut down construction work within the building all last week, project managers, the construction contractor, and an team of electricians worked to identify the source of the alarm problem, which was found to be a technical issue related to the building's smoke detection system rather than simple construction worker error. Then a plan was developed to allow the work on the 4th floor to resume today and for the planned early phasing of the 3rd floor fire suppression sprinkler system installation to proceed this month, although with a delay of a couple of weeks expected.

The fire alarms caused evacuations of the library building three days in a row between May 21 and 23. To get the interior construction work back on track, technicians from the security/fire alarm system company Simplex were be brought in last Friday to upgrade smoke detection devices and their main panel connections in work zones 4 and 3 where crews from several subcontractors had been working until the fire alarms were triggered. Basically, Simplex will be bringing the detection system up to code and project managers say upgrading the smoke detection system will avoid a repeat of those false fire alarms.

The current plan is for Simplex to then proceed in advance of the sprinkler system subcontractor to the 3rd floor using the same zone sequence as planned for the sprinkler work. Simplex will need to coordinate its work with the contractor’s sprinkler system installation operation. Details for this still need to be worked out so that a phased schedule for the sprinkler work on the 3rd floor that was to start on June 2 will be pushed back. A new start date of June 16 will likely be confirmed later this week.

Prior to the decision to upgrade the smoke detection system, Simplex’s and the construction contractor’s electricians first conducted tests of the system, checking lines back to the panel. Many of the system's devices were old and and their wiring lacked a required hanging support structure above the ceiling. Not all the device locations matched their locations identified on the schematic diagram for the system. Overall, problems with the system had made setting off alarms during the construction work unavoidable, but enough of the devices were found to work correctly so that the system is considered functionally safe for the operation of the building. The primary problem for now is that the system needs to be brought up to code in all the areas where the construction (ceiling work) will take place, which means that Simplex’s advance work will need to be incorporated into all the ceiling work to be done throughout the building. Eventually, Simplex will also need to go back into the 4th floor work zones 1 and 2 to also fix the smoke detectors there.

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