American Alarms Blog

Central Station jargon

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

Occasionally we find ourselves talking to a customer about their alarm monitoring and using the jargon that only we understand in the industry.  I have to catch myself sometimes.  "What's an RP list," a customer asks.  Oh, I'm sorry, I mean an emergency contact list.  What's an E301 and E608?  Well, that's the central station's way of telling you that your panel had a power outage and now it's sending an abnormal test signal.  Here are answers to some of our customers' most frequent questions.

Q: I just received a call for a phone line trouble, in the middle of the night.  Do I have to take those? 

A: No.  We can tell the central station to only call on trouble signals between 8AM and 5PM.

Q: What are some of the most important signals that require my response?

A: Any ALARM, of course.  In the winter time in Iowa and other cold areas, it's also important to listen for "Low Air" supervisory signals.  If this goes unattended, it could mean frozen pipes and thousands of dollars of water damage.

Q: Do I have to sign a long-term contract for alarm monitoring?

A: Not with us.  Most other monitoring services require at least a 2-year commitment.


If you have any other monitoring or central station questions, please call us and ask.

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PotterNet wins Campus Safety BEST Award 2019!

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

Campus Safety Magazine has awarded Potter with a Campus Safety BEST Award in the category of Fire/Life Safety Systems for the PotterNet Graphical Monitoring Control Software.


American Alarms is proud to provide Potter fire alarm systems, made in St. Louis, Missouri.  For more information on PotterNet and the award click the link below:


For more information on Potter for your next project, call American Alarms.


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Saving Copper with Wireless Fire Alarm

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

When comparing fire alarm systems, we consider lots of different aspects.  But have you ever considered what just the copper wire of the SLC (data) circuit costs?  In a system with 1000 initiating devices, at an average of 20 feet per device, the 18/2 FPL cable total is 20,000 feet.  The cost of that cable is approximately $85.00/thousand feet, at a wholesale level.  So just in the SLC wiring, a wireless system could save $1700.  Not to mention the countless hours it takes to pull in all that cable.  On the sustainability front, we would also save over 100 pounds of wire that will eventually be replaced with wireless anyway!

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Fire Alarm Integrations and Special Applications

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

Do you have a special application fire alarm project?  Most alarm companies can handle the simple system designs - retail store, small apartment building, small office building, etc.  But how about these integrations/applications:

Elevator primary/secondary recall

Smoke dampers

Elevator shaft smoke hatch with manual release

Explosion-proof devices

Hazardous area devices

Mass notification requirements

High-candela visual notification (hearing impaired)

Text/email secondary notification

HVAC control integration

Exhaust fan startup

Temp/water sensor integration (sprinkler monitoring)

Fire pump function monitoring

High-rise notification zoning

Smoke control panel integration

Large area/outdoor notification

Multi-building campus fiber-optic network

Access control integrations

Special hazard/agent releasing integrations


Now some of those sound like CIA mission names, but they are all part of fire alarm system design that we've encountered and designed over the years (almost 36).


When you need help with a special application, give us a call and make sure it gets designed correctly.

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Emerging Leaders Training

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

Associated Builders and Contractors of Iowa recently started a great training for current and future leaders of their members companies.  Our office manager and HR director Jackie Manning participated in the first series of training classes and found it to be very valuable.  Mark Shearman is currently going through the sessions, as our technical manager and supervisor for field technicians.  There is one session each quarter, so the participants can apply what they learn before adding more skills at the next session.  Thanks, ABC of Iowa, for this incredible opportunity to learn leadership with others that truly care about the industry!


See Jackie's leader group here: 

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Lightning and Fire Alarm Systems

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

Thunderstorms, like we had today in central Iowa, wreak havoc on fire alarm systems and other electronics.  What makes fire alarm systems more susceptible than other electronics?  The biggest reason is that it has a HUGE antenna - the Initiating and Notification circuit cables - that attract lightning.  Sometimes these two types of circuits can be over 1000 feet of cable in larger buildings.  The weakest point on the system is the circuit boards in the control panel.  So when a surge is introduced into the system, it can even JUMP right through the circuit board and pop components off when it exits.  Thanks to our great technicians - Mark, Dan, Eric, and David - for handling the slew of service requests that came in today from the storms.  If you have questions about surge protection for your system, one of our partners Ditek has answers.  Below is a link to their Total Surge Solutions website, with lots of great info.  If you need pricing on a solution for your needs, just give us a call.



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Work that doesn't feel like work.

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

The fire alarm industry is growing.  How is it growing?

- New technology to improve response time for fire departments

- Improved fire codes being implemented

- Better understanding of codes and systems by local officials and inspectors

- Improved monitoring technology and policies

- Stricter requirements for system designers, installers, programmers, and inspectors


We get to solve challenges every day.  Every day is different.  We're never bored.


Join us.  Go to the CAREERS page.

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Thank you veterans!

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

Here at American Alarms we don't take Veterans Day lightly.  Our founder (my father), Bill Jacobs, is a Vietnam War veteran.  The name he chose for the company was partly because of the great honor and respect he has for this country.  My mother's father served in the Navy in the Korean War.  My mom used to say he spoke fluent Japanese in his sleep sometimes.  My father's father served in the Army in WWII and received multiple purple hearts for battles in Europe.  The rest of our staff has a number of friends and relatives that served in the military, too.  We are thankful for all of them that served and returned to us, and especially those that made the ultimate sacrifice.  Thank you for contributing to the freedoms we enjoy every day (and usually take for granted).  Thank you for your strength and courage.

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American Alarms has the BEST employees!

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

Recently our employees donated almost two full weeks of vacation hours to a fellow employee who needed time off for family health issues.  This just reinforces my belief that we have THE BEST people in our organization.  When you have 50 or 100 employees, that's a nice gesture.  When you have only 11 employees, it's AMAZING!  Thank you all for opening your hearts to help someone in need.

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Do wireless fire alarm systems really work?

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

Wireless alarm systems have been around for over 30 years.  CWSI is the leader in commercial wireless fire alarm systems, for a number of reasons - wider acceptance, reliability, and experience.  They have been developing their low-frequency wide spectrum RF technology for over 30 years.  In some projects, wireless makes the most sense because it saves labor and can go where wires can't.  Attached is an article from fire protection engineer Lynn Nielson, PE.  This article demystifies many of the confusing aspects of wireless fire alarms.

cp-engineer-article.pdf (617.17 kb)

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