Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Who you Going to relie on

Monitoring of Fire alarm Systems
As the digital age dawns it’s causing many problems.
And there’s no easy answer

In the old days to get a Fire Alarm monitored it was fairly simple you called your local Ma Bell office and ordered a phone line which had copper pairs which ran from the Telco central office to the protected premise also known as POTS or Plain Old Telephone Service , it was a very reliable service with few interruptions and best of all it worked even when the power was out. But then along came the Internet and telephone service has never been the same. Now telephone service can be delivered by way of . FIOS ,T1, Digital Cable, VoIP and even Internet. And thou these new services save a considerable amount of money they all have one big vulnerability they require power on both ends to work. Where a POTS line is powered up and controlled from the Telco central Office by a large battery bank all of the modern digital and internet based services require a small wall wart transformer or otherwise must be plugged in to keep operating and while some systems like FIOS and Digital Cable have a back up battery to keep customers connection up for several hours the big problem is out along the street because all of the digital services require some type of repeater or amplification to keep working and it only takes one repeater to go down to loose an entire niehborhood or street.
Which when a major natural disaster hits can create chaos. When a 90 mph straight wind hit my community several years ago myself and only 4 other neighbors had phone service and everyone else was out becuse they switched to digital cable and the amplifiers where damaged. No big deal right will just use our cell phones wrong again they were out for 24 hrs too. The other problem digital services create is the digital Hash or noise on the lines can confuse a fire systems dialer and make it think it has communicated its message when it has not. This can be overcome using Contact ID or other modern communication format but even this does not work with certain VOIP phone carriers which use an Internet connection. So now Fire Manufacturers have come out with a IP based communicator which allows signals to go over the internet to a central station and it even monitors itself every 90 minutes compared to the once a day digital dialer but as many central stations have found out Internet services like new modern Digital phone lines have a tendency to go down overnight when maintenance etc is being done causing trouble conditions and headaches every where and any one working on the buildings network could accidentally disconnect the dialer as well if there working on the main switch or router and again all the internet components including router modem and switch need battery back up for at least 24 hrs.. So the IP Communicators as they are known are back up by being tied to a pots line which in realty is still some type of digital service in most business and if the internet is out so is the phone line.
There are a couple of other ways to assure a signal gets out many fire systems use a back up cellular phone connection but these are still not fully 100% supervised so the best way is Via a private 2 way fully supervised radio system like AES which also has its coverage drawbacks and costs
But when the signal must get thru this is the way to do it.
So what is the answer. At this point there is not one Telco’s want to get rid of copper all together but hopefully as the digital age evolves systems will become more reliable.
And there will be less dropped calls as modems ,routers and switches are hardened battery backed up and assured .Till then vigilance in making sure systems are properly maintained and watched are the only available remedy.
So Ok you the AHJ are sitting there saying to your self wait a minute doesn’t the NFPA 72 in essence
Require copper POTS lines to a fire system. Well the short answer is no.
The code requires being connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network.
Which is guess what ,FIOS ,Digital cable phone ,T1 etc there all recognized by the FCC as Phone Carriers .
So would it be wise to require a protected premise to pay the cost of putting in and maintaining copper wires for a fire system I think so knowing what goes wrong in the digital age but unless your a trained Telco person like I am how would you ever be able to tell it was done that way .Also you could well expect the back lash coming from the people who have to pay for those lines as well .Of course these all digital business find out the hard way when utilities go down and they can not call for help or tech support. There are no easy answers and probably will not be for at least another 10 years or so before we have a viable option. That’s the way I see what doyou think.

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