American Alarms Blog

Cold weather creates challenges for fire fighters.

by Adam Jacobs 7/16/2020

In recent Des Moines area fires, first responders have some extra challenges because of the sub-zero temperatures.  Here are links to some new stories recently:

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2017/12/18/two-transported-hospital-following-river-bend-neighborhood-fire/960355001/

 

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2018/01/02/cause-urbandale-condo-fire-may-always-unknown-says-fire-chief/996721001/

 

http://whotv.com/2018/01/05/mother-three-kids-safe-after-fire-at-west-des-moines-hotel/

 

Be sure your fire alarm and other life safety systems are working properly, so fire departments and paramedics have as much time as possible to help occupants in the building.

 

 

 

 

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Hotel Fire Alarm Upgrade with Zero Downtime

by Adam Jacobs 7/16/2020

I just finished estimating a new wireless fire alarm system for a 66 room hotel, when it hit me.  We'll be able to make this system change with ZERO downtime on the fire alarm system.  In an existing building, with an existing system, the downtime is always a big concern.  Changing over from a hard-wired system, there is no way to do this with a new hard-wired system.  But with our wireless system from CWSI, we can do just that.  If you want an upgrade with no lost room rents, check out the CWSI wireless fire alarm systems.

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FireLite 9200UDLS and Notifier NFW2-100

by Adam Jacobs 7/16/2020

There a TON of these panels in use in central Iowa.  Recently a few we service were damaged beyond repair by storms with lightning.  We found out that FireLite's new ES-200X panel can be installed and connect to the same detectors, modules, etc.  However, the boards are a different footprint (doesn't mount in 9200UDLS cabinet) and the program would have to be rebuilt.  So then we have to decide - do we scour the planet for old stock 9200UDLS/NFW2-100 boards and panels, or just buy the current model and take extra time to install and program?  Fortunately we have an extensive network of distributors that we talk to regularly and we were able to find some old stock panels as exact replacements.  

This kind of thing happens once in a while with fire alarm (and other products).  When products become obsolete you have to make a decision and consider the customer's budget as well.  In a world of unlimited funds, the choice is easy.  So for most of our customers, they have to weigh their options carefully and make a wise choice (quickly).

Call us if you have trouble finding obsolete parts.  We have a better stock than anyone in central Iowa of many different brands.

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Fire protection in restaurants

by Adam Jacobs 7/16/2020

Here's some good information from our insurance friends at Markel for restaurant owners and managers:

 

https://www.markelinsurance.com/resources/fire-protection-systems-in-restaurants

 

Restaurants have some special requirements for fire protection.  Be sure you know what they are for your area, and have your systems inspected regularly so they work when you need them!

Most insurance companies offer discounts for properly maintained fire protection systems - range hoods with fire suppression, portable fire extinguishers, fire alarm, wet fire sprinklers, etc.

 

 

 

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Why is NICET important?

by Adam Jacobs 7/16/2020

NICET is the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies.  There have been other certifications in alarm technologies, but none as complete and rigorous as the NICET certification programs.  The programs are self-study, so they are a challenge to complete.  We all know how hard it is to come home after a long day and spend your evening studying.  We are designing, installing, and testing life safety systems so consistency is important.  That's why NICET certification is important.  Requiring certification like NICET is the only way to ensure a level of consistency in the systems that are installed and operating.  American Alarms promotes and requires NICET certification in all technicians and designers.  We also encourage office staff to pass the NICET tests, because the information is just that important.  For more information on the NICET certifications, see their website: nicet.org

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Fire Alarm and Fire Sprinkler working together

by Adam Jacobs 7/16/2020

I always get a good laugh when I'm watching a movie and they show all the sprinkler heads in a building spraying water all at once.  Even better is when they show someone pull a fire alarm pull station and all the sprinklers start spraying.  I'll do my best to give the Hollywood writers some basic education on how these two systems work, so they can make it more realistic the next time they include these in a movie. 

 

Fire Sprinklers - most people immediately think of a wet (water) system, which are the most common.  These are designed to apply an engineered amount of water on the spot of a fire once enough heat is applied to one sprinkler head.  Each head has a small disk of soft metal holding back the water, which melts once it reaches approximately 160 degrees.  Once that soft metal melts, the water is released onto an area only covered by that one head.  No other heads will release water unless the fire spreads and their metal disk also melts to release water.  In the case of a very large fire, the fire department can connect to the fire department connection (FDC) and add pressure/water to the sprinkler system from their pumper trucks.  The only real connection that the fire sprinkler system has with fire alarm is the strobe light, horn/strobe, or (on older systems) bell above the FDC that indicates water flowing in the sprinkler system.  Fire sprinklers are designed to slow or stop the SPREAD of a fire that's already burning.

 

Fire Alarm - automatic fire alarm systems are designed to sense smoke, heat, or flame before fires get large enough to need the fire sprinklers.  In the case of smoke detection, this could happen even before there are flames.  Smoldering fires produce a lot of smoke, but may not produce a flame for quite some time later.  Fire alarm systems are designed to get the people out of the building as soon as possible before a fire gets to a dangerous size.  Fire alarms that are monitored by a 24-hour central station also have the ability to automatically call the central station and report their condition.  Fire alarms today supervise many other devices in a building, including the water flow and tamper switches of the fire sprinkler system.  Systems can supervise and send signals for CO detectors, temperature sensors in pipe rooms or boiler rooms, elevators, fire pumps, fire fighter phone systems, HVAC controls, and many more.  

 

The biggest difference between the two systems:

Fire sprinklers are designed to limit the spread of fire and protect property (ask your insurance agent).

Fire alarms are designed for early detection and getting people out of a fire situation with those annoying horns and strobe lights.

 

BOTH systems help save thousands of live every year.  

BOTH systems are required in new construction of commercial buildings (with local AHJ approval).  

 

Understanding these systems and how they can help you and your residents/occupants is the key to getting the most protection from both systems.

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Fire Alarm and Fire Sprinkler working together

by Adam Jacobs 7/16/2020

I always get a good laugh when I'm watching a movie and they show all the sprinkler heads in a building spraying water all at once.  Even better is when they show someone pull a fire alarm pull station and all the sprinklers start spraying.  The only exception is in Bruce Almighty when he had the powers of God - then all the heads can be turned on at once.  I'll do my best to give the Hollywood writers some basic education on how these two systems work, so they can make it more realistic the next time they include these in a movie.  If the actor DOESN'T have the powers of God, here's how it works.

 

Fire Sprinklers - most people immediately think of a wet (water) system, which are the most common.  These are designed to apply an engineered amount of water on the spot of a fire once enough heat is applied to one sprinkler head.  Each head has a small disk of soft metal holding back the water, which melts once it reaches approximately 160 degrees.  Once that soft metal melts, the water is released onto an area only covered by that one head.  No other heads will release water unless the fire spreads and their metal disk also melts to release water.  In the case of a very large fire, the fire department can connect to the fire department connection (FDC) and add pressure/water to the sprinkler system from their pumper trucks.  The only real connection that the fire sprinkler system has with fire alarm is the strobe light, horn/strobe, or (on older systems) bell above the FDC that indicates water flowing in the sprinkler system.  Fire sprinklers are designed to slow or stop the SPREAD of a fire that's already burning.

 

Fire Alarm - automatic fire alarm systems are designed to sense smoke, heat, or flame before fires get large enough to need the fire sprinklers.  In the case of smoke detection, this could happen even before there are flames.  Smoldering fires produce a lot of smoke, but may not produce a flame for quite some time later.  Fire alarm systems are designed to get the people out of the building as soon as possible before a fire gets to a dangerous size.  Fire alarms that are monitored by a 24-hour central station also have the ability to automatically call the central station and report their condition.  Fire alarms today supervise many other devices in a building, including the water flow and tamper switches of the fire sprinkler system.  Systems can supervise and send signals for CO detectors, temperature sensors in pipe rooms or boiler rooms, elevators, fire pumps, fire fighter phone systems, HVAC controls, and many more.  

 

The biggest difference between the two systems:

Fire sprinklers are designed to limit the spread of fire and protect property (ask your insurance agent).

Fire alarms are designed for early detection and getting people out of a fire situation with those annoying horns and strobe lights.

 

BOTH systems help save thousands of live every year.  

BOTH systems are required in new construction of commercial buildings (with local AHJ approval).  

 

Understanding these systems and how they can help you and your residents/occupants is the key to getting the most protection from both systems.

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Severe Weather and Your Fire Alarm

by Adam Jacobs 7/16/2020
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What are you REALLY saving?

by Adam Jacobs 7/16/2020

I just had a discussion yesterday with our sales director, about a customer who decided to use another fire alarm contractor for a new senior apartment building he built.  We went out to do an annual inspection, since the system is just over a year old.  Our techs found MANY troubles on the panel, and asked the owner if he wanted us to track down some of the many issues.  Most of the issues were simply due to the installers not knowing how to install fire alarm cable.  It's different than data cable.  It's different than electrical wiring.  It's even different than coax, as far as running the cable.  Any little nick or tight bend in the cable jacket can result in HOURS of searching for the problem.  Many other alarm companies use their own labor to install complicated electronic systems.  This works well, as far as managing the project, as long as you have someone experienced at fire alarm installation watching the details.  We normally partner with experienced electricians to do the wiring of the system.  This works well for us, because the electricians are already on the job most days and can work in the fire alarm cabling part easier than we could.  For smaller installation projects we do use our own technicians, but we use NICET-certified people that have experience in how these system go in.  This building owner, unfortunately, will now be paying a LOT more to get a properly working system in the building.  He later found out that the "FIRE ALARM" company that he hired had only installed one other system EVER.  So if you have project that includes fire alarm, ask yourself, "What am I REALLY saving by hiring this less expensive installer?"  Then go ask your contractor, "How many fire alarm systems have you installed?"

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Wireless communicators - GSM and CDMA

by Adam Jacobs 7/16/2020

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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