Life safety in overdrive

Instead of specifying individual systems for fire alarm systems, engine test cell fire suppression, hazardous gas detection, medical emergencies, digital voice command, and emergency weather monitoring, the decision was made to tie everything together into one central network.


Safety is an overriding priority for General Motors (GM), especially at its 45,000-sq-ft engine testing facility in Indianapolis. Instead of specifying individual systems for fire alarm systems, engine test cell fire suppression, hazardous gas detection, medical emergencies, digital voice command (DVC), and emergency weather monitoring, the decision was made to tie everything together into one central network designed by 3S Incorporated.

Numerous notifications

ONYX Series of fire alarm and digital voice command control panels from NOTIFIER feature a modular design and high-level programming capabilities, enabling these systems to be customized to the fire protection and emergency communications requirements of virtually any facility. Courtesy: Honeywell

A NOTIFIER by Honeywell NFS-3030 fire alarm panel serves as the central control unit of the facility’s fire and emergency notification network. This master control is housed inside a sealed, NEMA Type 12 enclosure measuring 7 ft tall and 6 ft wide.

Throughout the building, blue, wall-mounted LEDs indicate the location of medical emergency pushbuttons. When a button is depressed, blue strobe lights actuate throughout the building, and a preprogrammed voice announcement is heard over the network’s speakers, indicating a medical emergency and its location. The system automatically summons an ambulance via a telephone call to a third-party central monitoring station.

The 3S team ensured the design and commissioning of this system met the requirements of NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. Given the facility’s open spaces, particularly around the engine test cells, synchronization of strobes for fire, weather, or medical emergency alerts was a huge challenge to comply with both National Fire Protection Assn. (NFPA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

Using fiber optic cables, which are almost impervious to damage caused by power surges, lightning strikes, and other weather-related events, 3S was able to extend the network’s DVC, weather system, and emergency medical stations to two other buildings on the GM campus. To make use of the fire alarm network’s array of speakers throughout the plant, authorized users can utilize the DVC for general, day-to-day public address announcements.

Detection and suppression

In accordance with NFPA 750: Standard on Water Mist Fire Protection Systems, the test cells are equipped with a water mist system, which can be discharged immediately when activated by flame or heat detectors. The system discharges a homogenous suspension of water in nitrogen into the room, but the actual water is dispensed at a rate of ¾ gal/min for 4 min. This is a significant benefit in terms of reducing damage to both the test cell equipment and the product in test.

The water mist system is a twin-fluid system, meaning the nitrogen and water are piped separately to the emitters in the hazard area. It uses a captured water supply housed in a lined tank built for the project.

Test cells are also equipped with an automatic sprinkler system. Its flow and tamper switches are monitored by the NFS-3030 fire alarm control panel.

Gasoline and diesel engines are operated within some of the test cells. To protect operators from abnormal emissions, hazardous gas detection systems from Honeywell Analytics are used to sense carbon monoxide (CO), gaseous hydrocarbons, and refrigerants. The fire protection system also monitors critical exhaust ventilation systems to ensure they remain in operation.

Monitoring configuration

The Indianapolis plant has three NOTIFIER by Honeywell ONYXWorks graphic displays that report the entire network’s status and all events. The ONYXWorks workstations include monitored point-of-use bypass switches to be used when a system requires maintenance, such as when welding needs to be done in one of the test cells.

Information provided by General Motors and Honeywell.

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