Thanks for a great (but scary) story, Cabe! I noticed the Abort terminals are Labeled "+11" and "12 -". Did the contractors mistakenly think that these terminal name assignments were voltages? (+11 - 12 is a spread of 23). Gosh, this sounds like something I would have done. That is why the Engineers were always certain to keep the wires out of the hands of us Scientists. You should have seen them scramble when I approached a drill press...
One thing you have to know about installers is that they are procedural people. Often they don't follow the procedure. Remember that collapse of a walkway, I think it was in Kansas City, in the 1980s. It was a celebrated case. The architects/engineers designed it properly, but the contractors did not follow the drawings.
I worked at one company where we had complex machines that were installed by field engineers. To ensure that this was done correctly without having to send out design engineers we started having the field engineers work with the development team during design and development. This worked really well. They knew why things were specificed the way they were. Of course, some of the devices were in places like Hawaii and the northern coast of Germany. The design engineers were always ready to go there. Of course, one of the systems I worked on was going to Fort Hood in Texas. That was always dangled as potential punishment (sort of like being sent to the Eastern Front in WWII Germany).
Comparatively speaking, I guess its like the Architect overseeing the Construction of a Building --- you wouldn't be needed for the entire construction project, but there must be some involvement beyond just handing over a rolled-up set of Blueprints.
While I don't have experience in Buildings' electrical systems, I do have extensive history in designing electronic products and the associated duties of following the design into the manufacturing stage.
Manufacturing a product always requires my complete supervision during the initial build and implementation. Initially, On-Site (factory floor) Instructions; then supervision; then a little hand-holding; until finally the crew was familiar and comfortable with all the design intents. Without that necessary involvement (usually lasting anywhere from 1-5 weeks), success would always be jeopardized.
Think of it as an investment in the processing of your design. Plus the relationship you build with the people responsible will yield positive results in future design implementations.
You're thinking of the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse in Kansas City MO, 1981. The original engineer's design was workable but marginal, calling for two suspended catwalks to be suspended from the same 40-ft threaded rods. When the builder got to that part of the construction, he balked at threading nuts and washers 20 feet onto each rod, so he made what he thought was a reasonable compromise: he'd use two 20 foot rods instead of one 40 foot rod. The top catwalk would hang from the ceiling, and the bottom catwalk would hang from the top catwalk. He ran this proposed change past the inspectors, the chief project engineer, and a few others, and they all approved the change. I use this example sometimes when talking to validation crews, because you don't have to know anything about civil engineering to realize that if the joints where the top catwalk transfers its load to the rod was workable in the original design, you now have two catwalks hanging from that stress point. Nobody seemed to realize this. And even at twice the weight, the joint held when first constructed. It was only when the catwalk was filled with holiday revelers that the joint finally failed, crashing the lower catwalk to the ground, and the upper one pancaking onto it. The contractor's original bonehead error managed to sneak by several other engineers and get approved. It is not clear that the original architect/engineer was ever consulted on this change -- you'd think that if anyone would have picked up on this gaffe, it would have been him/her.
THE FIRST THING I SUGGEST IS THAT YOU FIND OUT IF THE CONTRACTOR IA LICENSED AND CERTIFIED TO WORK ON FIRE ALARM/RELEASING PANELS. REQUIRED IN MOST STATES. A RANK BEGINNER SHOULD KNOW THAT ANY INPUT "ABORT" IS LOOKING FOR A CONTACT CLOSURE AND OPERATES IN THE MICRO OR MILIAMP REMGE. BY TIEING IT TO THE NOTIFICATION CIRCUIT YOU ARE DUMPING 1 AMP IN TO THE CIRCUIT. SO FAR AS INDICATED YOU HAVE BEEN LUCKY THAT THE ELECTRONICS HAVE NOT BEEN FRIED. FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR LIABILITY ON THIS PROJECT YOU SHOULD COMPLETELY TEST PANEL WHEN THE PROJECT IS DONE.
Interesting comment about Ft. Hood. The last company I worked for got the contract for some expensive custom products (to protect the guilty, I won't say what) that were going onto some buildings that were being decomissioned. I got the job to do the design work and enjoyed it. But I had to demonstrate that it would work before the Army Corps of Engineers would allow us to install. While they were in our prototype lab, I asked what I thought was an innocent question, "Why were they installing this very expensive equipment on buildings that wouldn't be used." They glared at me and said they had budget money to use up.
As an aside about the Army Corps of Engineers, I had found a substantial technical flaw in their standard bid document for our type of products. I wrote a letter to Huntsville, AL (pre-email days) detailing the problem. About a month later, I received a letter back stating that I was correct and they would update their documentation. Eight years later, when I left the company, we were still getting the erroneous bid requests.
My experiences with assorted contract installers have mostly been negative. Some of them got all of the connections correct but wasted huge amounts of wire, others have made errors in labeling wires, so that each end had a different number, one time a panelman skipped one terminal, and so half the wires were one terminal over from where they should have been.
I have been fortunate that when it came to working on live systems I was able to do that myself, since I could move a bit slower and be more careful than the people eager to finish and leave for the next job.
Fire panels are unique in that they are indeed supervised, and that does add a requirement to accomodate the supervisory function. Mostly that calls for careful attention to polarities and diode directions, so it is not hard, but tedious.
RPCY, the original design wasn't even marginal; it was able to hold only 60% of the minimim load required by the city building code. The bad choice for redesign meant the 4th floor structure would hold only 30% of the load required by the city building code.
The original design wasn't strong enough, required rediculous threaded lengths, and was poorly considered because the rods passed through the welded joint of two C-channels (making a rectangular tube).
The deformations of the 4th floor beams is just plain scary.
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From design feasibility, to development, to production, having the right information to make good decisions can ultimately keep a product from failing validation. The key is highly focused information that doesn’t come from conventional, statistics-based tests but from accelerated stress testing.
There’s a good chance that a few of the things mentioned here won't fully come to fruition in 2015 but rather much later down the line. However, as Malcolm X once said, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today."
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