Upper Iowa University asks Northern Ireland firm to install ‘intelligent evacuation system’
Upper Iowa University (UIU) President Alan Walker has announced that UIU will be working with a Belfast, Northern Ireland-based firm, Lightstep Technologies, on the installation of an “intelligent evacuation system” that will be the first of its kind in the U.S. and the first installation on any university campus around the world.
Walker joined Lightstep Executive Chairman Kieran Patterson, founder and executive chairman of Lightstep Technologies, to announce the joint initiative in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on May 13.
Lightstep Technologies is the creator of the evacuation system. In a building equipped with Lightstep, escape routes are automatically illuminated and automatically re-routed, as necessary, depending on the type of emergency and location of the damage or fire.
Not only is the safe escape route illuminated clearly in green, the unsafe routes are clearly crossed out with a red “X,” so that occupants of the building can be evacuated more quickly without mistakes that could cause injuries and cost lives. The lights remain clearly visible in smoke-filled environments.
“My background is in fire safety, and I knew immediately that UIU had to explore acquiring this technology,” Walker said. “In any fire, the key issue is always time. How quickly can you completely evacuate the building safely? The same is true for a building affected by any natural disaster. “
Patterson, who invented the path-finding technology, said he founded Lightstep in response to well-publicized disasters that resulted in major losses of life. “This will be the company’s first installation in the States and a huge opportunity for all involved,” Patterson said. “Upper Iowa University will become a showcase for Lightstep in the United States, and the system will elevate the UIU student facilities to the safest available worldwide.”
“This technology addresses the needs of rural, residential campuses like UIU just as effectively as it addresses evacuation in an urban office high-rise,” Walker added. “Universities like ours not only need to deal with potential daytime evacuation, but how to safely guide our students out of residence halls in the middle of the night as well. We believe all residential campuses should be exploring the Lightstep options to enhance campus safety, and we are proud to be the first university in the world to begin this work.”
Walker and Patterson said the UIU campus in Fayette will become a demonstration site that officials for other universities and organizations can visit to see Lightstep Technology in action.
“We look forward to seeing this exciting order progress over the coming months -- this is a huge opportunity for Lightstep to bring the highest standards in evacuation systems to this vast marketplace,” Patterson said. “It’s an exciting time for Lightstep, with the team also due to attend the Fire Excellence Awards 2011 on May 17. The awards celebrate the best products, services and individuals in the fire safety industry, and Lightstep is shortlisted for the ‘Best Means of Escape’ product.”
Walker noted that the three newest UIU buildings, which were completed in 2010-11, will be retrofitted with the technology -- the new student residence hall, the liberal arts building, and the student center. Installation is scheduled for this fall.
“Working as partners with Lightstep to launch this technology in the United States has helped us defray costs and make the technology more affordable for UIU,” Walker added.
Although Lightstep technology has not been introduced previously in the U.S., Patterson said the technology is also being installed in non-academic facilities in India and the Middle East.
“Lightstep is an unprecedented safety technology, and we believe Upper Iowa University is taking the right step toward ensuring student safety,” Walker added. “UIU is setting the standard for what safety should look like in colleges and universities around the world.”