Lighting the Way out to Safety

Attributed to Bernard Lee, Vice President, Smart Digital Building Solutions (Smart Sustainability), ST Engineering

Are your facilities ready to direct your occupants during emergencies?

The fire alarm sounds, prompting the occupants to evacuate the complex. No strangers to the drill, employees quickly head towards the nearest emergency exits in an orderly manner.

But the power trips unexpectedly, plunging the building into darkness. With no natural or artificial lights to illuminate the way to safety, people start to panic as they struggle to find their bearings.

The consequences could be dire if emergency lights and exit signs malfunction in an actual crisis.

Reality bites with 60% non-compliant cases

Fire and emergency preparedness in buildings is essential for the safety of occupants.

Recent media reports have named and shamed buildings that failed to maintain their fire safety and emergency systems. In Singapore, it was revealed that a staggering 60% of non-compliant cases involve lapses in emergency lights maintenance, where tests were not routinely carried out and recorded as they should have been by law.

This not only damages the reputation of the building owner or management, but, more importantly, also puts hundreds or thousands of lives at risk during an actual emergency.

Leverage IoT Fail-proof System to Safeguard lives at stake

In the face of unpredictable situations and complexity, building managers are under pressure to explore fail-proof solution to mitigate risks.

The reality is many are either betting that no crisis will happen to their facilities or simply, not aware of how easy they can harness emerging technologies.

Imagine. An integrated system that can function even when all lighting fails.

Today, the switch from analogue emergency lights to a wireless automatic test system, comprising Internet of Things (IoT), smart sensors and building automation systems, is not as complicated as it may seem.

In our pursuit of enabling safe and cost-efficient solution, our technologists have researched and engineered a proven wireless automated test system, AGIL™ E-WATS, which boasts built-in self-diagnostics, maintenance and real-time monitoring capabilities.

An integrated, fool-proof and scalable system that can be setup within 5 working days for up to 400 exit signs is a reality.

E-WATS has been keeping emergency lights running in numerous buildings in Singapore and around the world since 2019. Proven projects include four JTC buildings at the Bulim Industrial Park in Jurong.

Fully compliant and automated

Our E-WATS system has been rigorously tested and is fully compliant to conduct automatic functionality, safety, and operational efficiency tests that are required under the stringent Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) SS 563 fire code.

With E-WATS’ built-in self-test feature, periodic functional and duration tests can be automatically scheduled to meet the stipulated frequencies and logged digitally, as required by fire safety code.

All these features serve to eliminate the risk of human error or negligence – the top reasons for fire safety breaches. Conventional methods of testing emergency lights typically require pressing a bypass button for at least 30 seconds to ensure that they will be able to activate and remain lit to a minimum level of brightness once power is cut.

Downtime from failing lights is minimised too, as built-in self-diagnostics capabilities will immediately alert building managers to critical component failure, such as a dead battery or faulty LED lights. And whenever a battery replacement is needed, commissioning tests to ensure system readiness can be conducted remotely at the press of a button.

Cost and time savings

Besides helping to save lives, E-WATS can also help building owners save money by shaving up to 50% off maintenance costs. This is because workers will no longer have to undertake the onerous and inefficient task of routinely inspecting, testing and logging emergency light fixtures one by one. Asset owners can also expect longer service life from our system. The built-in battery maintenance routine feature cycles the batteries regularly by discharging and charging – a useful practice to maintain its charge capacity and extend its lifespan. Emergency light units can also be easily repaired at the component level instead of being replaced entirely, as the system will be able to pinpoint the cause of failure.

Better yet, E-WATS is easy to deploy. The system is easily installed and can be readily scaled to fit future building expansion plans. Connected as a daisy chain via built-in wireless mesh connectivity, emergency lights can communicate directly with one another. All systems come pre-configured for fast commissioning, and there is no need to run data cables or install network infrastructure, all of which add to costs and introduce more potential points of failure.

Raising the bar with remote monitoring

As we prepare ourselves for the new normal, beyond a centralised automation system, we have recently received more asks for complete monitoring and maintenance.

To help solve this need, we have developed E-WATS-as-a-service to provide remote monitoring and maintenance – to make compliant easy for building managers.

Complying with building and fire safety regulations is invariably a costly affair. With the need to streamline operations and costs, building managers should step up to propose new yet efficient and safe ways for emergency preparedness. We urge you to explore the options and E-WATS may be the answer to solve your challenge.

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