Reporter 435, 26 April 1999

Smoky solution sounds out noisy start to the year 2000

Lifesaving beacons to help people escape from smoke-filled burning buildings could earn the University a place in the Millennium dome.

Dr Deborah Withington's invention has won the second Millennium product award for ULIS company Sound Alert - one of a handful of small companies awarded two awards by the Design Council. Sound Alert's first award was for the Localizer emergency vehicle siren.

Many of the award-winning products will be displayed inside the dome, though the inventor of the 'localizer' beacon believes it should be included anyway.

"Of all the places the beacon should be, the dome is one of the most obvious," said Dr Withington. "People will be unfamiliar with their surroundings and there are likely to be visitors speaking many different languages. Should ever a disaster occur, we can provide the best way of evacuating it."

The unique system instantly pinpoints the nearest emergency exit by emitting a pattern of broadband noise that clearly indicates the route to safety. Special sounds can even indicate whether to go up or down a flight of stairs to safety.

Evacuation times can be reduced by up to two-thirds by people literally 'hearing' which way to go. The system is ideal for municipal buildings - such as the dome - where visitors will be unfamiliar with the location of emergency exits, or where there may be a large number of less mobile people to evacuate.

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