Occupational Health & Safety

This Lightstep Technologies photo shows unsafe routes marked with a red "X" in a demonstration building.

University to Install New Life Safety Technology

Upper Iowa University's Fayette campus will be the first U.S. university to install what is billed as an intelligent evacuation system from Lightstep Technologies of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Upper Iowa University has decided to install a new type of life safety system at buildings on its Fayette, Iowa, campus, UIU President Alan G. Walker announced May 13. The technology from Lightstep Technologies of Belfast, Northern Ireland, will be the first of its kind in the United States and the first installation on a university campus anywhere in the world.

Walker joined Lightstep Executive Chairman Kieran Patterson in Belfast to announce the joint initiative. "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."

Lightstep bills the system as the world's first intelligent evacuation system. It illuminates escape routes automatically and rerouts occupants as necessary, depending on the type of emergency and location of the damage and/or fire. Safe escape routes are illuminated in green, while unsafe ones are crossed out with a red "X" to help occupants avoid mistakes that cause injuries and cost lives. The company says the lights are clearly visible in smoke-filled environments.

Patterson invented the path-finding technology and said he founded Lightstep in response to well-publicized disasters that resulted in major loss of life. "This will be the company’s first installation in the States and a huge opportunity for all involved," he 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," said Walker. "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."

They said the Fayette campus will become a demonstration site for officials from other universities and organizations to see the technology in action.

Three buildings that 6,500-student UIU completed in 2010-11 will be retrofitted with the technology: a new student residence hall, the Liberal Arts Building, and the Student Center.

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