PA/VA is absolutely critical to public safety, but the huge differences in regulations and standards across EMEA has caused huge amounts of confusion. Steve Montgomery looks at what can be done to meet the law.In a world in which safety is of paramount importance, the ability to evacuate a building in the event of a fire or other security concern is essential.  One of the most effective methods is through the use of voice alarm systems to guide inhabitants.  However there is such a wide range of rules, regulations, standards and codes covering the building industry procedures and the equipment used, that the selection, design and installation of voice alarm systems in buildings can be extremely complicated.  Variation in regulation and standards vary from country to country within the EU can cause additional confusion.  Under EU rules, equipment cannot be invalid in different member states, although sometimes this does happen.  

Because of that confusion, some installed systems may not necessarily be up to the task of providing evacuation instructions that are reliable, loud enough and intelligible, either because the regulations are not relevant for a particular building or complex, or because the equipment used is inappropriate or badly installed.

“People who make a living from installing voice alarm systems, and charge high prices in doing so, are relied upon by clients to advise on and deliver systems that meet pertaining legislation and are fit for purpose: that of providing adequate evacuation instructions in an emergency,” says Roland Hemming, consultant at RH Consulting. However he believes that there is a general lack of knowledge that is endemic across the industry and includes manufacturers, consultants and installers.  “They either don’t understand the subject or they use standards as a way of spreading fear to help sell their products or just cite many standards as if that makes things safer.  There are countless examples of manufacturers using ‘compliance’ and certificates to make it feel like their product is safer but they are not aware if their products are being deployed in a compliant manner.  In the EU they are still liable.  Furthermore manufacturers may announce details of product testing standards without understanding the relationship these standards have with national and international codes of practice.”