THE MAGAZINE

Comcast’s 9-11 Lessons

By Teresa Anderson

All of the critical building elements—elevators, stairwells, redundant air supplies, power, fiber, and communications systems—are contained within the core. The core also encompasses standpipes that provide water for both the sprinkler system and for use by firefighters. All of the 4,000 people who work in the building can also safely shelter inside the core.

The stairwells were widened from 44 inches to 54 inches. The goal was to allow enough room for evacuees—even those being carried down in wheelchairs—to descend in the stairwell at the same time that emergency personnel are ascending to carry out search and rescue. Lighting systems in the stairwell have a double redundancy: backup power from an emergency generator and a battery backup.

The air intake, which flows into the core, is located well above street level and, thus, is not easily reached by anyone who might want to use it to contaminate the building’s air supply. A monitoring system runs continually to detect any pathogens.
The building is also equipped with several redundant mass notification systems that can be used for general alarms as well as to communicate specific instructions. The speakers for the system are located through the core and along the exit route to help guide occupants in an evacuation.

Life-safety drills. These features are only part of the safety equation, however. The facility also has a strong emergency response program, and security conducts eight emergency drills a year to test its evacuation procedures. Testing is conducted with local first responders.

Part of the program includes having floor captains who help to ensure that everyone gets out and knows where to muster. Three people per floor serve as floor captains. These three people are trained in all types of emergency response, including active-shooter situations.

If an emergency announcement is made over the mass notification system, the floor captains rally their charges and take them to the stairwells. Once there, the floor captains will ensure that employees are safely moved out of the building or to the appropriate place where they can shelter in the core, depending on the type of emergency. This includes everything from severe weather to active shooters.

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