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Waking Watch Replacement: London Borough Council

In Autumn 2020 Hochiki launched Ekho, a new generation of hybrid wireless fire detection and alarm equipment. EN54-25 approved and RED compliant, Ekho takes hybrid wireless fire detection to new levels of reliability, flexibility and performance and has been crucial to helping a North London Borough to improve life safety in six blocks of apartment buildings.

Using the latest in radio networking technology, Ekho provides a robust ‘always on’ network of devices which automatically adapt to changing environmental conditions. It was this innovative design element that led Fire Alarms Fabrication Services (FAFS) to choose Hochiki for their latest project in a north London borough where they were installing a new life safety system in place of the Waking Watch scheme operated in several high-rise multiple dwellings. The Ekho range they say was “crucial” and offered them “an unparalleled level of reliability.”

Following the Grenfell Tower disaster, Waking Watch schemes are used in buildings identified as fire risks, until dangerous cladding is removed. Due to high operational costs, building owners and local authorities are looking to life safety manufacturers and installers to help with more reliable and cost-effective alternatives.

Ekho is used in these high-risk buildings, with customers such as FAFS, saying that this technology helps residents feel safer compared to relying on a team of people prone to human error, and building owners are reassured due to the self-configuring mesh network which keeps the devices connected and communicating with the fire panel 24/7.

The Ekho devices were installed to provide round-the-clock monitoring in place of manual inspections, with devices installed adjacent to all windows, communal areas, corridors, stairwells, and living spaces. The devices were connected to an existing control panel via a hard-wired Translator, and with the rest of the system being completely wireless, the project was carried out with minimal disruption to residents.

If needed, the Ekho system can also be easily removed after the remedial cladding work has been carried out, without damaging the building. Alternatively, the system can be permanently incorporated into the existing life safety systems. It is this flexibility that customers say is the major benefit.

A key Ekho USP is that there is no need to install cables, vital in reducing disturbance during installation. This innovative feature was crucial for the team at Fire Alarms Fabrication Services, Kevin Dodge, sales Account Manager at FAFS told us

“This was an incredibly complex and highly involved project, we worked closely with the team at Hochiki, they consulted on best devices for this complex project”

This was a huge site, with six buildings each with 16 floors. A Waking Watch team of six patrolled the stairs, corridors, and communal areas at a cost of £10,000 per week. However, because the teams could not be in all places, at all times they might not be able to detect a fire escalating up the outside on the cladding. To add to this Waking Watch teams are not permitted to enter private apartments meaning early detection could be missed here too.

Commenting on this issue, Dodge said

“The Ekho range offered a wireless solution which allowed us to work around issues such as cabling inside private spaces. Ekho being wireless still allowed for early detection and most importantly detection outside of the building on cladding by installing heat sensor devices adjacent to every single window, including the windows for individual dwellings. This meant there was an early detection system in place. We also installed devices on all corridors, stair wells and communal areas and exits. Using the Hochiki technology in this way gave the residents peace of mind that the new system was ‘always on.’

The Ekho range is ultra-dependable, and much more cost effective than the existing Waking Watch scheme.”

Following the successful completion of the project Regional Sales Manager, Tony Obadipe said

“Hochiki are passionate about protecting people, buildings, and assets. Our 100 years plus experience has given us a unique insight allowing us to not only provide what is needed now, but also predict future trends, keeping us at the forefront of cutting-edge life safety technology.

We are pleased that our Ekho product range is making such an enormous difference in keeping people safe. The fact that our technology is also helping to drive huge cost efficiencies for our partners and their end users is a bonus. In the current economic climate this cost saving is essential, especially for local authorities. We are also incredibly proud of our teams that have been involved in the design, manufacturing and selling of this product, it really is protecting people’s lives".