PA, VA & Emergency Sound Systems – what is the difference?

Public address is often a careful consideration of businesses in a number of sectors. Those who need to make announcements or play background music will always ensure a PA system fit for purpose is installed in the venue, but confusion is often created where voice alarm and emergency sound systems are concerned. The differences between these systems may look slight but could mean the difference between life and death.

A voice alarm is predominantly a safety device, with the added benefit of everyday entertainment and informative uses synonymous with those of a standard PA system. It is always worth highlighting that no other sound system will uphold its integrity in a fire or similar emergency in the same manner as a voice alarm is designed to do. A voice alarm is often recommended by a fire risk assessor but will generally always be required in a building subject to a predetermined evacuation plan; it is designed to work for some time without power and is integrated with the fire alarm. Due to the life-preserving benefits of a working voice alarm system, the maintenance requirements are regular and detailed within BS 5839-8.

Emergency sound systems have become increasingly popular in recent years as the terror threat in the UK has been heightened. Their purpose is to broadcast information for the protection of lives in an emergency. An emergency sound system is not required under any guidelines but is often installed in places where a risk is acknowledged and public safety is considered a concern. These systems are designed to work for some time without power and are expected to work in an emergency situation, but are not fire integrated and protected in the same manner as a voice alarm.

A general public address system is solely designed to broadcast music and messaging to an audience. There is no requirement for any building to install a PA system and as such, there is no requirement for a PA system to work in an emergency or without mains power. PA systems are not maintained in the same manner as a voice alarm and are not integrated with the fire alarm for alerts.

The differences in regulation, purpose and basic functioning of all 3 systems are detailed below in a comparable table but it goes without saying that a voice alarm is the best choice for a building with large public occupancy, a need for public announcement and where public safety is important. MSI provide clients with the best solution for their needs and always ensure system integrity & quality.

If you have a sound system requirement or query please give us a call on 0191 2762076 or email, we would be happy to help.