Piped-Music System Doubles as Interior Alarm
HOW to communicate directly with occupants of a fire building before they stampede has been a big question. It is not enough for a fire officer to shout advice and instructions from outside the building involved to those inside.
One answer is to make use of “piped music” systems, generally referred to as “Muzak.” Its latest application is in the modern high-rise office buildings, some of which at peak periods may have a tenantry running into the thousands. High-rise buildings shooting skyward in suburban as well as metropolitan areas, have brought new problems as well as emphasized old ones, to fire fighters. Of these, mass evacuation in time of emergency is the most critical.
What is believed to be the first adaptation of the piped music system to a modern high-rise skyscraper west of the Rockies, has been completed in San Diego, Calif. It resulted from a joint effort by the management of the imposing new 25-story U. S. National Bank Building, the San Diego Fire Department under the direction of Chief Ray Shukraft, and Music Service Inc.
In the early planning stage, the bank management decided upon a speaker system and considered the advisability of offering its clientele some form of piped music. About that time, also, the fire department was weighing the high-rise situation, then becoming acute in California, from the standpoint of exits and the evacuation and rescue of personnel from these structures.
With the decision to introduce background music throughout the U. S. National Bank Building and awarding of the contract to Muzak for its system, came the answer—make it an emergency announcement facility as well as a background music distribution center.
The task of working out the engineering details was given to the department’s superintendent of communications Battalion Chief F. J. Carmody. By February 15 of this year, plans had been perfected and the fire department’s connections made.
The heart of the system is a low-impedance, dynamic handset microphone with press-to-talk switch and a long Koil-Cord cable. It is housed in a keylocked Gamewell-type fire alarm box located on the exterior of the building, near the main entrance. The box, is painted an inconspicuous blue, and is well concealed behind shrubbery. The location is considered most convenient for fire officers, who will have a key to the box.
It is only necessary for the officer to pick up the handset microphone to dispatch his instructions. His announcement over the microphone is heard over every speaker throughout the building—in elevators, lobbies, corridors, or public areas having background music, as well as speakers in major and smaller individual tenant offices. Presently there are 305 speakers available for use around the clock.
Upon use of the handset, all speaker (music) circuits are immediately seized and area controls by-passed so that announcements can be heard clearly, regardless of the area volume setting. There is no interference such as might be encountered electronically. Management may utilize the system for an emergency announcement such as robbery, with the broadcast emanating from another control located within the bank premises. However, the fire facility will have priority over music, page, office tenant systems, or any other programs that are being transmitted.
The function can be even more failsafe than a regular alarm system, it is claimed by the installers. Whereas a similar system may only be tested monthly or at even longer intervals, the emergency-announcing facility function is, through power amplifiers, constantly supplying the music system. If one or more of them fail for tube or other trouble, the offices having the service need only call the supplier who quickly restores his service.
The overall design of this system utilizes standard components available throughout the country. The priority call feature of the U. S. National Bank Building utilized the IPCIO paging control assembly, manufactured by Webster Electric of Racine, Wis. This assembly supplies other functions of area paging and grouping, as well as “All Call.”