American Alarms Blog

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

by Adam Jacobs 4/17/2019

When we think of safety, it's easy to think of the firefighters, police officers, and EMS personnel that respond to emergencies every day.  But don't forget about all the other people that work to get those first-responders to the scene of an emergency quickly and safely.

Please take the time to thank 9-1-1 telecommunicators, communications staff trainers, supervisors and managers of communications centers, those that that maintain radio and emergency phone systems, and other public safety telecommunications staff across the country who work hard every day serving the public.

 

Thank you all!

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What does it mean to have your alarms monitored?

by Adam Jacobs 3/18/2019

There are literally hundreds of central stations that receive alarm signals in our country.  So what sets them apart?  How do you know yours has what it takes when it really matters?  The Monitoring Association (TMA) is the oldest and most reputable gauge of central station overall performance and customer satisfaction in the industry.

How many times has your central station won TMA's Central Station of the Year?  Ours won last year.

Does your central station have multiple locations hundreds of miles apart, so that weather cannot affect BOTH stations at once?  Ours does.

Does your central station have dual backup servers, generators, and an emergency recovery plan?  Ours does.

If you have fire alarms, does your central station truly understand the difference between fire and burglar alarms?  Many don't, but ours does.

Do you wait for 10, 15, 20 minutes or more just to talk with an operator?  You'll never wait more than a minute or two when calling ours.

Does your station have customer web applications and smart phone apps if that's what you choose?  Ours does.

Do you have the option to NOT get awakened in the middle of the night for trouble and supervisory signals?  Ours does.

 

We spent over a year to figure out exactly what we would want in a central station.  We are confident that our central station does the best job of any in the industry.

Come experience what REAL customer service and professional alarm monitoring feels like!

 

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Urbandale Requires Fire Alarm in Apartments

by Adam Jacobs 2/27/2019

If you own or manage an apartment building with 16 or more units, you've probably received the letter.  It was actually sent back on June 9, 2015.  It gives owners/managers 5 years to bring their buildings up to compliance with this letter.  These are only a portion of the requirements in a similar building constructed today, but it still could be a significant cost.  Installing anything AFTER construction is complete is more expensive.  But there are options to get a building into compliance, with minimal impact on residents and your budget.  This letter is really a "step in the right direction" rather than a full-blown all-in fire alarm system.  A pull station here, a horn/strobe there, not much really.  But better than having NO building notification in the event of fire.  These systems are also required to be remotely monitored at a UL-listed central station that will relay a dispatch call to Urbandale Fire Department when a general alarm is activated.  We are getting a lot more calls now, because it's nearing the first deadline - June 9, 2019 - when all letter recipients need to have a formal system plan in to Urbandale for review.  The system, if approved, will need to be installed and inspected by Urbandale FD by June 9, 2020.  There are a few other requirements not related to fire alarm in the letter, so if your didn't get one and you think you may fall under these new requirements, contact Urbandale Fire Department and talk to them.  Call American Alarms for a site survey and estimate on fire alarm to meet the new requirements.  Don't wait until June 8th to call.

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Did the low bid really save you money?

by Adam Jacobs 11/7/2018

I can't even count how many times I've heard customers complain (after the fact) about all the costs that come from NOT having a fire alarm system installed correctly and professionally.  Here are some of those ADDED costs that show up down the road, long after the final punch-list is complete:

- Programming changes - $130 to $180/hour X 2 hours min = avg $300 per trip

- Service calls for issues that show up and none of the sub-contractors will claim = $300 min. per call

- False alarms caused by short circuits, incorrect programming, or other mistakes = second trip $200, increases from there

- Cost of being on the fire department's sh-- list = ?

- Upset tenants/residents from false alarms and service calls/testing = ?

- Extra work (maybe overtime) for maintenance workers/property managers = $50-$100/month avg.

- Parts that fail because they were not properly installed or properly surge-protected = easily 10% of total initial system cost/year

 

Now, you may think...most of this would be covered under my warranty.  Well, maybe you should read your fire alarm warranty.  We provide our warranty to any customer that asks, but not many ask.  Here are some things that aren't usually covered under a fire alarm warranty:

- Surge damage (including lightning)

- Other natural hazards

- Damage from people, animals, insects, etc.

- Water/ice/snow on outside horn/strobes or pull stations that eventually gets inside the device (very common in Iowa)

- Issue related to phone lines or internet connections (also very common)

 

Please make sure you work with a fire alarm contractor that know what they are doing.  From the site survey, to the estimate, to the installation, to the programming, to the monitoring, to the service after the sale, it ALL matters.  There's also a COST to all of these pieces.

Be safe.

  

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Dynamic Domain Name Service (DDNS)

by Adam Jacobs 9/19/2017

What is Dynamic DNS you might be asking? Basically, dynamic DNS is a service provided by third-party providers whereby a constantly changing IP address given by an ISP is updated regularly and associated with a host name given by the company. If you have a broadband Internet connection at home, you more than likely have a dynamic IP address.

A dynamic IP address changes every so often, as compared to a static IP address, which never changes. Normally, a changing IP address does not cause any problem until you try to connect to a local device from outside of your home network. With a constantly changing IP address, you may be able to connect a few times, but not after the IP address updates.

So why would you want to find your computer on the Internet in the first place? Well there are several reasons why you may want to know your dynamic IP address:

1. Connect to your computer via Remote Desktop Connection and access your files

2. Stream audio and video from your home media server to any location in the world

3. View and control an IP cam from anywhere

There are many more reasons why it could be useful to know your IP address. So why doesn’t everyone have a static IP address? Well, it’s basically a lot cheaper for ISPs to keep rotating IP addresses to their clients. If you want a static IP address, you will have to pay an extra monthly charge and most ISPs won’t even offer them to residential customers.

Dynamic DNS

That’s where dynamic DNS comes into play. Using this service, you can theoretically create a static IP address for your home computer. Here’s how it works. When you visit any web site on the Internet, you can either type in the IP address or you can enter in the domain name. There are DNS servers all over the world that keep track of which names correspond to which numeric IP addresses.

When you visit a website, your computer first looks up the IP address from a DNS server and then requests the site. This is great for servers that have static IP addresses that never change, but it’s not well suited for servers that are on home broadband connections. This means that your server is constantly “moving” on the Internet and it messes up the one-to-one relationship between domain names and IP addresses.

The solution to setup dynamic DNS, whereby a third party server keeps track of what its current IP address is and gives out this information when you type in your unique domain name. In this way, you can give your dynamic IP address a virtual static IP address. When connecting to your computer, you would either type in the domain name or you would ping the domain name to find the current IP address.

The domain names are always sub-domains of the company you are setting up an account with. For example, one provider of dynamic DNS services is no-ip.com. So when you register and create a host name, it would end up looking something like aseemkishore.no-ip.com. The first part is whatever you want as long as someone else already hasn’t taken it.

 

In order to determine your current IP address, all of these services work in one of two ways: either you install a piece of software on your computer that constantly updates their servers or you configure the service on your router, if it is supported. A lot of newer routers have dynamic DNS providers like DynDNS built-in, so you can have the router automatically update the IP address to the dynamic DNS provider when it changes.

If you need help with a connection like this, call American Alarms.  We offer an inexpensive service that keeps you connected to your server, DVR, card access system, or any type of control equipment that is connected to internet.

 

 

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Wireless communicators - GSM and CDMA

by Adam Jacobs 8/20/2016

Wireless communicators have been popular in the security market for many years.  In the last few years, with code changes and wider acceptance by AHJs, they have become much more popular with fire alarm customers also.  With more and more of these alarm communicators in the marketplace, it's important to understand what they do and what they don't.  The two formats for digital wireless communicators on the market are GSM and CDMA.

GSM = Global System for Mobile (communications)

CDMA = Code Division Multiple Access

Globally, GSM is the more widely-used standard with about 75% of the market share.  In the US, however, CDMA is the more dominant standard.  Some of the major carriers that use these standards:

GSM - Sprint, AT&T

CDMA - Verizon, US Cellular

We have tested and installed a number of both types of communicators.  We've found that CDMA communicators are the strongest signal with least number of communication failures.  Both technologies are getting better all the time, because of competition in the market and advancements in R&D.  

Some of the attraction for customers are the cost savings and flexibility of installation.  Instead of having two phone line charges and one alarm monitoring fee every month, the customer has just one alarm monitoring fee.  All network charges are handled through the monitoring company.

***NOTE: Not all jursidictions have approved the use of "sole path" wireless communicators.  Some areas may still require some form of backup path - POTS line, internet, or radio communicator.

These communicators are here to stay, and they're a good option for many customers.  Call us to find out more about the wireless options for alarm monitoring.

 

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