American Alarms Blog

Preparing your low-voltage systems for winter

by Adam Jacobs 2/12/2020

Here are some tips to prepare for winter months regarding fire alarm, intrusion alarms, security cameras, and other low-voltage systems.

- Make sure camera lenses stay clear on any outside cameras.  Icicles, frost, and snow can block your views and can also prevent varifocal lenses and PTZ type cameras from moving.

- Motion detectors can sometimes be activated by heavy snowfall.  Be aware of their position and use masking screen if needed to limit the sensing area.

- Fire alarm pull stations in apartment breezeways are prone to false alarm when it gets this cold.  Ice on top, condensation from behind, and freeze/refreeze can cause false alarms on these devices (especially addressable type).

- Many people think that batteries get weaker in the cold weather, but most battery types do fine in the cold.  Batteries get most of their abuse from excess heat in the Summer.  Watch batteries closely if they older or in a warm room.  If they bulge or leak, replace them immediately, as they can explode.

 

Here is a link to lots more winter tips:

https://www.iccsafe.org/about-icc/safety/consumer-safety/winter-safety-resources/

 

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What does it mean to have your alarms monitored?

by Adam Jacobs 2/12/2020

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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Commercial Wireless Fire Alarm - the pros and cons

by Adam Jacobs 2/12/2020

Wireless fire alarm in a commercial building has had a rocky history.  There were lots of trial and error improvements made, however.  The remaining products are as reliable as wired ones, with all factors considered.

 

Pros of wireless fire alarm devices:

Allows for more flexibility

No wires (except AC power), little wiring labor, no wiremold/conduit

Little chance of ground faults (one of the most common and annoying problems with wired systems)

Little chance of lightning damage (especially if you protect the AC circuit and eliminate the phone lines)

Easily changed (like in multi-tenant buildings where spaces/configurations change often)

Fast installation compared to wired system

Power/battery consumption has improved greatly over the last few years

 

Cons of wireless systems:

Batteries still only last 2-3 years (typically 3V Lithium CR123A type)

Device cost is 2 or more times that of wired devices 

Programming and setup takes longer (but much of this can be done before bringing parts to installation site)

Not every configuration/requirement can be done wireless

Large systems (over 50 devices) become more difficult to do wireless, but are possible

 

After weighing all the factors of your project, be sure you consider wireless fire alarm.  Especially if the project is multi-tenant where the overall system design could change every few months, wireless allows flexibility and lower remodel costs.  

 

*NOTE: Not all local AHJs will approve wireless fire alarms, even though they are acceptable in NFPA.  Be sure you check with your local AHJ before getting too serious about wireless fire alarm.

 

I believe everyone's goal in our industry is to protect as many people as well as we can.  Wireless fire alarm presents some interesting opportunities for challenging design projects.

 

 

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