American Alarms Blog

Understanding CCTV and all its parts

by Adam Jacobs 1/19/2022

CCTV, first of all, stands for "Closed Circuit Television".  Although the acronym is a bit antiquated, the systems and their purpose are as relevant as ever.  Our customers are looking for ways to SEE what's going on.  Whether it's for security at night, to cut down customer (or even employee) theft, or for peace of mind when your gone on vacation, video security is a solution we go to for answers.  With all of the options out there now - high-end IP systems, DIY systems, internet kits, etc. - you have to know WHY you are buying the system.  These are the questions you need to ask yourself when looking at CCTV option:

What do I want to see?  This will help you decide how many cameras, what angles, how much light, etc.

What detail (resolution) do I need? This will help you set your budget, because a camera's price is based largely on resolution (pixels).

*** This answer may also determine whether you can do wireless cameras, or you need wired cameras for higher resolution.

How do I want to see it?  PC monitor in my home/office, smart phone app, website app, etc.

Do I want any video stored?  If so, you'll need a DVR on site, or a subscription to an off-site storage service.


Once you know these answers, you'll be ready to start comparing systems to find the one that fits your needs.

Call us, if you have more questions.


| To the top |

What is "intelligibility"?

by Adam Jacobs 1/19/2022

Intelligibility is a word that most people have never used.  Until a few years ago, I'd never heard the word either.  This is a measurement of how "understandable" a fire alarm voice evacuation signal is to the human ear.  To perform a test of intelligibility, we play a special recording into the voice microphone and then measure the output of the speakers on the system.  Unlike a decibel test, we are not measuring the sound level.  We are measuring how well that message can be heard by the test meter.  We test and record our readings at multiple locations in the building to ensure our recorded message can be understood throughout the space.  After we've done all this, and received acceptable readings throughout, we can feel confident that the fire department will be able to use that system to get people out of the building if needed.  This type of system is normally required in high-rise buildings over 7 stories and in places of assembly.  Just another part of the science of life safety.  For more info, see the Society of Fire Protection Engineers website

| To the top |

Why NICET certification?

by Adam Jacobs 1/19/2022

After a palm scan, photo ID check, receipt verification, and new photo, I was ready to take my test.  "Wow, they are serious about these tests!" I thought, as I locked my belongings in a locker.  For the next 3 hours I answered questions about everything from smoke detector placement, to strobe light coverage, to occupancy classes of new buildings.  I had to simulate trouble-shooting a wiring problem, calculate voltage drop on a circuit, and decide how to settle an employee dispute.  It was the widest variety of questions I have seen on any of the NICET certification tests.  Since this is my level IV Fire Alarm Systems test, it may be the last NICET test I take.  But as I finished the test and got my passing grade, I was reminded of how much I've learned since I started taking these tests.  I will always be a big supporter of the NICET certification.  I think it separates the people that are serious about life safety and the ones who are just out to make money in the business.  American Alarms pays for NICET testing for all employees that want it (or require it).  We also offer a pay bonus when employees graduate to a new NICET certification level.  It's that important.

| To the top |

How do you hide the fire alarm and still meet the codes?

by Adam Jacobs 1/19/2022

Where do you go when the owner and architect want one thing, but the fire codes require something else?  Well, Concealite has built a business around just that!  American Alarms is your local distributor for Concealite products that have helped architects and code officials find a reasonable compromise for years.  Imagine walking into a room where NONE of the fire alarm notification devices, emergency lighting, electrical wall outlets, security motion detectors, and even occupancy sensors are concealed in the wall.  Never before has it been this easy to design a space with a clean seamless look, but still meet all the electrical and life safety code requirements.  See the GIF and link below for more info on these incredible products.


| To the top |

Cloud storage and management for video security

by Adam Jacobs 1/19/2022

What does it mean to have video in the "cloud"?  Well, it means you don't have to worry about an on-site DVR failing when you need it most.  It means a professional systems company can remotely trouble-shoot most of your issues without needing to come on site.  It means you are constantly updated with cybersecurity software and patches to make sure your video is secure and accessible.  It means you have one-click camera firmware updates.  It means you have lots of viewing and replay options - devices that use Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android all work.  


- Quick, easy installation

- Tier 4 data center

- End-to-end video encryption

- Unlimited cameras, multiple locations

- Unlimited resolution (only limited by cameras)

- Unlimited users (with limited permissions, if needed)


Call for more info.

| To the top |

Help Wanted !!! (again)

by Adam Jacobs 1/19/2022

Well, here I am again.


It's 9:33AM on Wednesday. My alarm clock was set for 5:30AM but I woke up at 4:45 and couldn't get back to sleep. I enjoy my work, but it's hard when you have lots of customers and not enough help to get the work done. We've been helping these same customers for over 30 years, and we've grown by 20% each of the last 3 years.




I just sent my 72-year old father out to finish work that he shouldn't have to do. But he knows it must get done, because this is a customer he's helped since 1985.


If you are looking for a change, and you're able to work independently, I want to talk to you. Our less experienced field technicians make $35K-$40K/year, and experienced ones make $60K-$70K/year. This is NOT sweaty, crawling through attics, grease and grime type work. We mostly do trouble-shooting of electronic systems, software-based programming of control panels, and occasionally pull some cable (mostly in finished, air-conditioned buildings). Overnight stays are very rare.


We don't do residential work, so NO crabby old farts and picky house-wives to answer to. Most of our customers are business owners, established general contractors, and property managers. At least 2-years technical experience in fire alarm, security alarm, card access, telephone, data systems, video security, or health care systems is preferred. Applicants with fire alarm experience or NICET certification, will start higher and progress through the pay scale faster.


Full-time techs also get benefits … company-match 401k, health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, overtime (1.5X and 2X) pay, food and drinks, company-paid trainings, company apparel, company vehicle, and company tools.



Adam Jacobs


American Alarms

515-266-9888 office

| To the top |

2018 I-codes focus on CO, integrated testing, and mass notification

by Adam Jacobs 1/19/2022

Today Honeywell's industry affairs expert Richard Roberts presented a summary of the relevant changes in the new 2018 i-codes (IBC, IFC, IMC, IPMC, IEBC, and IRC).  Some of the focus areas are carbon monoxide detection, integrated systems testing, and mass notification systems.  Some quick notes of importance for fire alarm design:

Section 901

Integrated testing of fire protection systems tied to other life safety systems.  Fire alarm and HVAC, sprinkler and fire alarm, suppression systems and fire alarm, fire doors/smoke dampers and fire alarm, and other integrated systems gain clearer direction for testing.

Section 907

- Group A occupancy (assembly) requires a manual system when 100 or more people occupy levels above the discharge level.

- Multiple-channel voice evacuation is required for high-rises over 120' above fire department access level.

- Strobes are required in all habitable spaces (like LR with pull-out couch) in hotels and apartments designated hearing-impaired/ADA.

- Manufacturer's maintenance recommendations will be enforced on smoke alarms, with a max life of 10 years.

Section 915

Some of the ambiguous language on placement of CO detectors has been replaced with clearer language.  CO detector required on ceiling above fuel-burning appliances.  More thought and direction is given to existing buildings and CO detection. 

NFPA 101 and NFPA 1 also added some new language and sections regarding CO detection for almost every type of public occupancy class.

New language like "...spaces served by the first supply air register from a fuel-burning HVAC system..." has been added to clarify placement of CO detectors.

Section 917 

Requirements for mass notifications systems, particularly those defined by an NFPA 72 Risk Analysis.



Changes_to_2018_Model_Codes.pdf (795.13 kb)

| To the top |

Sleep Safe - a little planning goes a long way

by Adam Jacobs 1/19/2022

Tuck has some great information on everything to do with sleep, including fire safety in the bedroom.  Here are a few tips for better safety:


| To the top |

Recycle all of it (almost)

by Adam Jacobs 1/19/2022

At American Alarms, we do our part to reduce the amount of waste we put out into the world.  Here are just a few of the items we re-purpose or recycle:

- Batteries

- Wire and cable

- Circuit boards

- Old CCTV monitors (even CRT)

- Obsolete alarm parts (when a customer upgrades)

- Obsolete CCTV cameras (when a customer upgrades)

- Miscellaneous electronic components

- Office computers

- Office paper and plastics


Do YOUR part by making sure the companies you hire are doing their part!




| To the top |

Give your batteries some love, once in a while.

by Adam Jacobs 1/19/2022

Electronic systems usually have backup batteries that take over powering the system when your primary (120VAC) power fails.  This time of year we see it regularly.  When big thunderstorms come through Iowa, the wind and lightning can take out lines, power transformers or even entire substations.  Fire alarm panels are required by code to have enough battery power to run the system in standby for 24 hours and then provide 5 minutes of alarm after that.  If you are having your fire alarm system tested every year, your fire alarm company should be testing the batteries and checking their dates every year.  Most rechargeable sealed lead acid batteries (the kind used for alarm systems) will last 3-5 years.  One of the things that can shorten the life of these batteries is HEAT.  If the panel is in a room that is not air conditioned, the batteries may only last a year or less.  See the picture attached for an example of batteries that got over-heated.  Now these happened to be over-charged by a charger that had been damaged by lightning.  But when batteries are overheated, either by their charger or by the environment, they will gradually bulge and may even burst.  This is because the gel inside the batteries produces gases when overheated that can't get out fast enough.  

Since it's fire prevention month, it's a great time check your fire alarm batteries or have a qualified fire alarm company do it for you.


| To the top |

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

Powered by Genesis Core | 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