A Comparison of Paging Systems in Corporate Environments Part 1

Audible mass notification can take on many flavors.

Sometimes it’s an emergency like a fire alarm. Sometimes it’s not – such as an announcement for a library closing time. In a corporate environment the needs vary greatly. In fact, just defining a specific “environment” can get more difficult the deeper you look. On the surface we would think about an office with cubicles or individual rooms. But corporate environment could mean a warehouse, an assembly line, or specialized clean rooms in an industrial setting. If someone from the front office needed to make an announcement in any of these, the type of system could be completely different.

General Announcements

First, let’s look at making general announcements. It’s quite possible that an open office setting wouldn’t really need any paging if it’s small enough or you could send text messages or emails to do the job. Once an office gets large enough, however, this becomes impractical. Say you need to call a corporate meeting; it certainly works better to pick up a phone or microphone and page this over a distributed public address system. This becomes more critical if there is an emergency involved such as weather warnings as time may be of the essence.

Emergency Announcements

Now let’s consider those emergency announcements. Usually, the first thing we think of when we think emergency alerts in a building is the fire alarm system. They certainly do the job well when it comes to loud sirens making sure everybody knows there is smoke somewhere and they should take action. If the system has speakers, they can even be used to make other emergency announcements. The positive side of this is that they are already distributed throughout the building. The downside is that the quality of the audio for speech is usually lacking. This is where a dedicated paging system can be a true benefit. The quality of speakers, microphones, and signal processing are magnitudes better than a fire alarm mostly designed to make a loud siren. In this case, intelligibility is of utmost importance. If the message is telling people they need to leave the area and assemble in a designated location, understanding where that location is can be significant.

Often is the case where there is a desire to combine an intelligible paging system with the fire alarm. It’s a common request in convention centers and airports, for example. This is certainly possible, but there are some things to consider. First and foremost is local code. Fire alarm code dictates certain quality standards for the audio of a system. In most cases, paging system equipment far exceeds these parameters. The local authority having jurisdiction, however, has the final say on what is allowed or not allowed when it comes to converging the systems. Coordination is the name of the game when implementing such a design. Additionally, requirements for how robust the system is will need to be strictly followed. This can involve redundancy of amplifiers and processors, power backup, and special speaker wiring configurations. To be sure, the benefits can outweigh the cost. Especially on more complex systems.

In this installment we have looked at some paging needs in office and public spaces. For the next installment we will get to know some uses in more industrial settings.