In recent years, shocking incidents such as the Grenfell Tower fire and the Bolton Cube fire have exposed serious flaws in both building safety and evacuation procedures. Thankfully, rapid advances in technology continue to facilitate more efficient systems for emergency response. One such system is that of voice evacuation, the subject of today’s post.
Voice evacuation systems have been met with an overwhelmingly positive reception by the industry, and are now even required practice in various parts of the world. But what are they and how do they work?
Today, the expert team at Sovereign Fire & Security are here to answer those questions – as well as how voice evacuation differs from traditional fire alarm systems.
What are Voice Evacuation Systems?
In short, voice evacuation systems are exactly what they sound like: verbal alerts of an emergency with instructions for how a building’s occupants should respond, delivered via speakers. These can either be pre-recorded messages, or live notifications if the site has 24/7 fire safety personnel (such as a waking watch).
Research indicates that people are less likely to panic when given a spoken warning accompanied by coherent instructions, as opposed to traditional fire alarms. This makes sense, as the bells, strobes, and klaxon sounders of traditional alarms do not convey the extent, or nature, of the emergency. A human voice – whether live or pre-recorded – has been shown to have a much more reassuring effect on a building’s occupants.
During an emergency situation, it is important for people to remain as rational as possible. Voice evacuation systems allow occupants to react intelligently to an emergency, telling them exactly where to go and what to do.
During any emergency – and especially fires – a few seconds can make all the difference. Voice evacuation systems save people those seconds by giving them specific instructions, as each system is designed for the unique needs of its building. This is especially important for large buildings that might be confusing for its occupants to navigate.
How Do Voice Evacuation Systems Function?
Much like traditional fire alarms, voice evacuation systems work in conjunction with smoke detectors, heat detectors, and manual hand pulls. The difference is in how the alarm is conveyed to the building’s occupants.
Once triggered, the system will emit an alarm tone that is followed up by a human voice that informs the listeners of the nature of the emergency before giving them instructions on how to evacuate safely. This way, people are better apprised of the seriousness of the emergency and understand how to evacuate themselves as intelligently as possible.
Perhaps the best feature of voice evacuation systems is their ability to carry out phased evacuations. Typically, a site will be divided into zones, allowing the voice alarm to be broadcast to individual zones, select zones, or all zones at once. This can help ensure that those most at risk are evacuated first, or that too many people don’t rush through a congested space at once. In short, voice evacuation systems adapt to both the specifics of the site and the specifics of the situation. This is essential for high-rise buildings and commercial sites.
How Do Voice Evacuation Systems Differ from Traditional Fire Alarms?
Once a fire is detected with a traditional fire alarm system, the occupants of the site will be alerted by blaring strobes, horns, and klaxon sounders throughout the building. These alarms have kept people safe for years and when designed well, do an excellent job of getting people’s attention. However, they don’t convey any information to a building’s occupants other than that there is an emergency somewhere on site. People don’t know where on the site the fire might be, or what course of action to take. For example, if a fire occurs in a central hub area such as a building lobby or reception, then people might naturally head there first. Without any guidance, this can put people in more danger than if they simply stayed put – especially if, for example, the entire building’s occupants are rushing into the area at once.
The disadvantages of traditional fire alarms include:
- People assuming the alarm is a test and ignoring it.
- People gathering belongings or searching for others instead of getting to safety.
- People waiting for instructions, typically from a natural ‘leader’ figure.
- People not wanting to be interrupted from their ongoing activity.
The Advantages of Voice Evacuation Systems
- Allows for phased evacuation of a site.
- Causes less panic and confusion than the bells and sounders of traditional fire alarms.
- Evacuation is tailored to the site, making it more effective and better organised.
- Can be utilised for a variety of purposes, be it alternative emergencies (extreme weather, quarantines, bomb threats, etc) or non-emergency notifications (background music, advertisements, regular announcements, etc).
- Works automatically, but can be overridden at any time by fire service personnel to give live updates and instructions.
- Ideal for big sites such as convention centres, high-rise flats, hotels, and commercial buildings.
Keep Safe with Sovereign Fire & Security
At Sovereign Fire & Safety, our business runs on innovation. From fire alarm systems to CCTV, and temperature screening to access control, we use the latest technology to install and maintain robust safety measures that ensure our clients’ peace of mind. Based in Bristol, our award-winning services cater to properties across the United Kingdom and beyond – be they commercial, residential, construction, or private in nature.
For more information on our industry-leading fire safety services, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly staff today.
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