The Blair House Project
The Blair House is a National Historic Landmark and the official guest house of the President of the United States. Located across from the White House, this 93,000-square-foot facility was built in 1824 for Dr. Joseph Lovell, the first Surgeon General of the United States. It is renowned as a favorite stopover for famous and historic foreign luminaries over the past 100 years, and includes a below-grade basement and four above-grade levels, all appointed in luxurious and stately furnishings.
As comfortable as the Blair House makes 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. Department of State. Traff oversees the department’s fire and life safety programs and systems, which makes him responsible for all of the buildings the department owns and operates within the domestic United States, including the Blair House.
Notifier products were already being used in the Blair House, and when it came time to install additional fire protection systems in the building, Traff chose Notifier again. While the buying decision was easy, a few obstacles made the installation a challenge.
“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 replace the old systems and devices on a one-for-one basis using the existing wiring, conduit and boxes, which 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, the distributor. “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.”
To compound the difficulty, the installation took place during the biggest snow storm 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. Despite the restrictions, deadlines were met and visitor safety was improved.
For the Blair House, Antronnix installed a network using two Notifier NFS-640 fire control panels, and it was augmented with FlashScan photo detectors and addressable initiating devices. The network allows each fire alarm control panel to maintain its own area of protection, while monitoring and interacting with other nodes. 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.
A Network Control Annunciator (NCA) is used to announce network events and provide control of network points using a large screen display and PC-style keypad.
The control panels 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. The new Signaling Line Circuit (SLC) protocol has increased loop capacity of up to 318 devices for faster polling and response time.
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. It is also forward- and backward-compatible for upgrades of existing Notifier systems.
It took two shifts of 16 people each to get the job done, and Antronnix was able to create a safe environment in the Blair House. “In spite of all the challenges, the installation went smoothly and we were able to realize significant time and money savings, which made our decision look even better,” Traff says.