When the decision was made to install additional fire protection systems in the landmark Blair House, NOTIFIER, a leading manufacturer of engineered fire alarm systems, came up with the solution.

The landmark Blair House in Washington, DC.
The Blair House, a National Historic Landmark and the official guesthouse of the President of the United States, is located across from the White House in Washington, DC. This 93,000-square-foot facility was built in 1824 for Dr. Joseph Lovell, the first Surgeon General of the U.S. It is renowned as a favorite stopover for famous and historic foreign luminaries over the past 100 years, a place where they could rest and relax while on American soil. With its below-grade basement and four above-grade levels, the Blair House, appointed in luxurious and stately furnishings, provides these leaders with unparalleled service, security and privacy.

Interestingly, the house even doubled as the residence of Harry Truman for much of his presidency while the interior of the White House, which had been found to have serious structural faults, was completely gutted and rebuilt.

As comfortable as the Blair House makes these dignitaries feel, it is their safety that is the primary concern of Donald Traff, team leader of the Domestic Environmental and Safety Division for the U.S. Dept. of State. Traff serves as the department's AHJ regarding fire life safety programs and systems. This makes him responsible for all of the buildings that the department owns and operates within the domestic U.S., including the Blair House. So when the decision was made to install additional fire protection systems in the Blair House to make it even safer, it was up to Traff to find the equipment.

Due to the long-standing relationship between NOTIFIER, a leading manufacturer of engineered fire alarm systems, and the Blair House (NOTIFIER products were already being utilized there), and because Traff had already been impressed with the ease of programming and installation of the company's fire detection products, he voted to again go with NOTIFIER.

There were, however, a few obstacles that made the installation a bit more challenging.

"The historical nature of the building limited us as to what we could do in terms of design," Traff said. "Consequently, it was a relief that the NOTIFIER products allowed us to completely replace all of the old systems and devices on a one-for-one basis, utilizing the existing wiring, conduit and boxes, which drastically reduced the amount of time, effort and money required to retrofit the building. Ultimately, the ability of NOTIFIER systems to blend in seamlessly with existing infrastructure was a significant plus."

There were other considerations, particularly in terms of scheduling, that had to be addressed as well.

"There were several unusual aspects to this job," said Ed Graves, president of Antronnix, a NOTIFIER Engineered Systems Distributor (ESD). "To begin with, the entire job had to be completed within three days--start to finish. This was a job that would typically take anywhere from three to five weeks."

But that was only the beginning. To compound the difficulty, the installation took place during the biggest snowstorm of the decade. Also, because it is a secured building, every technician allowed into the Blair House required an official escort 24 hours a day. Yet in spite of all these restrictions, deadlines were met and increased visitor safety was achieved.

The Onyx Series of fire protection products from NOTIFIER.
For the Blair House, Antronnix installed a NOTI·FIRE·NET(TM) network utilizing two NOTIFIER NFS-640 fire control panels, part of the ONYX(TM) Series of Fire Alarm Controls. This installation was augmented with the newly released FSP-851 FlashScan(TM) photo detectors, combined with other FlashScan addressable initiating devices.

The NOTI-FIRE-NET Fire System Network allows each fire alarm control panel to maintain its own area of protection
A peer-to-peer fire alarm network, the NOTI·FIRE·NET Fire System Network allows each fire alarm control panel to maintain its own area of protection, while monitoring and interacting with other nodes. Fire Alarm Control Panel nodes react to network events with coordinated programmed responses. In designated fire command centers, the Network Control Station (NCS) provides operators with text and graphic annunciation of network activity, as well as network control and panel programming.

The NOTIFIER Network Control Annunciator (NCA) is used to annunciate network events and provide control of network points using an intuitive large screen display and PC style keypad.

The modular design of the NFS-640 makes it extremely flexible.
The modular design of the NFS-640 makes it extremely flexible; it can be configured--from the face of the panel without special tools--for small building applications, as well as large campus and high-rise applications. Using NOTIFIER'S FlashScan technology, the new Signaling Line Circuit (SLC) protocol with increased loop capacity of up to 318 devices, the NFS-640 offers faster polling and response time, actually exceeding worldwide code requirements.

The NFS-640 comes standard as one loop and is expandable to two, allowing up to 636 points per control panel. It is also designed to accommodate future expansion. The panels function separately or communicate as a network using an NCS or an NCA. What's more, it is forward and backward compatible for seamless upgrades of existing NOTIFIER systems, meaning that future fire detection needs in the Blair House can be easily met.

The FlashScan FSP-851 photo detectors, like all of NOTIFIER's FlashScan products, can poll devices up to five times faster than before, reducing response time. In fact, they are capable of polling 318 devices and can activate up to 159 outputs in less than two seconds. As with the NFS-640, FlashScan devices and detectors offer forward and backward compatibility with other NOTIFIER products. FlashScan systems are also built with the capability to utilize a voice option to create emergency announcements as necessary.

It took two shifts of 16 people each to get the job done, but Antronnix accomplished its goal. And it has been able to create an even safer environment in the Blair House that will make visitors from all over the world feel as secure as humanly possible.

"In spite of all the challenges, the installation went smoothly and we were able to realize significant time and money savings," Traff said.

For more information on NOTIFIER fire alarm and detection products, please visit www.notifier.com.