American Alarms Blog

Why is NICET important?

by Adam Jacobs 9/18/2021

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

| To the top |

Preparing your low-voltage systems for winter

by Adam Jacobs 9/18/2021

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/

 

| To the top |

Iowa Passes Carbon Monoxide Legislation

by Adam Jacobs 9/18/2021

 

Iowa Senate File 2219 was approved by a 37-11 vote on Monday.  This legislation requires all apartment buildings and private homes to have carbon monoxide detectors if constructed after July 1, 2018.  The only exempt buildings are ones without any fuel-fired appliances (heaters, stoves, dryers, etc.) or attached garages.
 
Here are some highlights of the new code.
 
- New apartment buildings (built after July 1, 2018) will need to have some type of CO detection in each unit's sleeping areas.  Exact placement may vary slightly based on manufacturer's installation instructions.  The legislation does not specify that these detectors must be system-type detectors connected to a monitored panel.  They can be AC-powered, battery-powered, or part of a fire alarm system.
 
- Hearing-impaired tenants can request a CO detector with visual notification (strobe light).  The building owner must provide this accommodation within 30 days of the request.
 
- If owner fails to provide a detector, as specified in this new code, after 30 days the tenant has the right to purchase and install one on their own and deduct the cost from their next rent payment.  If they've rented for longer than 30 days, owner can make renter pay for the battery.  (interesting language in Sec. 6)
 
This new legislation appears to be state-wide adoption of language that has been in national codes for a while.  These codes already require CO detection with almost identical language:
 
International Residential Code (since 2009 version) - Section R315 in IRC 2015
International Building Code (since 2009 version) - Section 915 in IBC 2015 
International Fire Code (since 2009) - Section 915 in IFC 2015
ANSI/UL 2034
NFPA 720
 
The enforcement of these requirements will fall on the state and local fire marshals, similar to other fire/life safety codes.
 
Call American Alarms if you have questions about when and where carbon monoxide detectors are required.

| To the top |

Fire Alarm and Fire Sprinkler working together

by Adam Jacobs 9/18/2021

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.

| To the top |

Fire Alarm and Fire Sprinkler working together

by Adam Jacobs 9/18/2021

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.

| To the top |

Severe Weather and Your Fire Alarm

by Adam Jacobs 9/18/2021
Severe weatheiinevitableand so ithneetensure that automatifire alarm systems are restoretfulworkinconditioaquicklapossiblaftethemergency iover. Here are a fetips thelfacility managers anauthoritiehavinjurisdictiodealinwitthiissue.
Prolonged Power Outage
Fire alarm systems havbackupowedesignetkeethe systeworkindurinthloss oprimary powefor a periootimeHowever, a prolongepoweoutagcadraibatterieand other backupower sources. Batteriewhich are drained completely manobabltbe reused. Be sure that albackupower supplieartestetensure theiabilittfunction properlohavthem replaced. 
Exposture to Flood Water
Fire alarm systems and manotheir componentare especially susceptiblto moisture damageAnytime wirinor componentare completely submersed, a thorouginspection, at a minimumis criticalOften componentnodesignefor a weenvironmenwilhavtbe replacedManufacturers of componentanequipment caprovidvaluablinformatioithis caseKeein minddamagfrom corrosioanotheeffectof moisture intrusion manot be seefor some time.
Lightning Strike/Significant Power Surge
properlinstalled, modern fire alarm system mahavbuilt-iprotectioagainst some othe damagthat cabe causeblightninor power surgesBuwhen a fire alarm system iexposetthis sort oenergyiiimportanthaequipment anwirinbinspectefoevidence odamageCircuiboardanwiring cabaffecteawelaother components.
Monitoring Service
Once thfire alarm systeitselhabeeinspectedtesteanibacifull serviceattention shoulturn to monitoringTypicallyphonlineand cellular communications systemare some othfirst systems to come bacafter a majoweather emergencybuthose lineof communicatiobetweethprotectepremiseand monitorinfacilitneetbverifiedThiiespecialltruwitwireless mesh aninternet-based communication systems.
Antime inspectioantestinofire alarm systems ibeindonethe requirementoNFP72®, NationaFire Alarm anSignalinCodappland shoulbfollowed. Jusaimportant awhaibeindone, iwhiperforminthinspectioantesting. A qualifiealartechnician shoulalwaybe consulted. 

| To the top |

Dynamic Domain Name Service (DDNS)

by Adam Jacobs 9/18/2021

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.

 

 

| To the top |

Explosion Proof Fire Alarm Devices

by Adam Jacobs 9/18/2021

Grain elevators, food processing facilities, chemical manufacturing facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturing - these are just some of the applications for explosion-proof detection and notification devices.  There are different classifications and ratings for devices, based on the exact use of the facility or space.  American Alarms has a full range of smoke and heat detection, as well as notification for hazardous and explosion-proof environments.  Call for details today. 

| To the top |

What are you REALLY saving?

by Adam Jacobs 9/18/2021

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?"

| To the top |

Help Wanted - Experienced Technician

by Adam Jacobs 9/18/2021

We are in need of someone with experience in CCTV, Card Access, Fire Alarm, Electrical, Telephone, IP/Data Networks, or other low-voltage systems.  I'm particularly interested in someone with CCTV and/or card access experience.  I will PAY you for this experience, and pay for training to do more.  Certifications (like NICET) preferred, but not required.  Sign-on bonus possible, for the right candidate.  Best pay and benefits in the industry.  Visit our CAREERS page, or call Adam at 515-266-9888 now.

| To the top |

Copyright © 2016 · American Alarms, division of American Electrical Sales Corp. All Rights Reserved.

Powered by Genesis Core 2.3.4.5 | Des Moines Iowa Web Design by Wolf Creek Technology

Click for the BBB Business Review of this Fire & Smoke Alarm Systems in Des Moines IA