American Alarms Blog

Commercial Wireless Fire Alarm - the pros and cons

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

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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Give your batteries some love, once in a while.

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

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.


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Fire Alarm in Building Wasn't Working When Firefighters Arrived

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

I just read a story of a fire in a Denton, TX apartment building.  The residents were evacuated in the middle of the night, taking what few belongings they could carry.  The firefighters were still cutting into walls to make sure the fire was completely out.  The apartment management company did not do much to help the residents, but local schools and the Red Cross help many families.  The thing that really stuck out, though, was they mentioned the building has a fire alarm system.  It didn't alarm.  It had been (supposedly) inspected, tested, and tagged less than a year earlier.  So what happened?  Did the fire alarm contractor actually do a functional test of all the devices?  Or did they just do a "drive-by" inspection and stick a tag on the panel?  Now the residents and the building owner are in a big predicament.

Are you just paying for a tag so you don't get harassed by the city, or is your system REALLY tested every year?

Does your insurance company pay for fire damage when the fire alarm doesn't work the way it should?

Is it worth saving a few bucks on the inspections each year to put lives in danger and risk a denied insurance claim?


Make sure your alarm contractor does a full functional test of your system.  Watch them do it some time.  

Or you can call us.  We will never skimp on safety.


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HUGE cost savings when you consider wireless.

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

Most of our customers have never considered a wireless fire alarm system.  And until a few months ago, they didn't really have a choice.  But last April, American Alarms became the sole designer/dealer of CWSI systems in Iowa.  We are EXTREMELY excited to partner with CWSI for these reasons...

- CWSI products are 100% made in the USA

- Their products have been put through the RINGER by UL, much more than wired systems.

- They have been perfecting wireless fire alarm systems since 1979.

- They ONLY make wireless fire alarm systems, so they're GOOD at it.


Attached is a cost analysis of a typical apartment complex (or any other multiple-building project).  A wired fire alarm system in a 36-plex apartment building with sounder bases and interior corridors can cost $50,000 or more with labor.  The CWSI system may only be HALF that, depending on total number of devices.  WHY?  Because it takes a LOT of time to plan all the cable routes, pull cable to every room, to wire bases, to wire the panel, etc.


BUT, on top of that, there's ALSO a huge recurring savings on telephone lines, monitoring accounts, service to wiring and ground faults, lightning problems, and on and on.  Download the PDF attached here, to get an idea of how much you can save on a multi-building project.  Then call us!


Savings on Monitoring with CWSI.pdf (119.28 kb)

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National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

When we think of safety, it's easy to think of the firefighters, police officers, and EMS personnel that respond to emergencies every day.  But don't forget about all the other people that work to get those first-responders to the scene of an emergency quickly and safely.

Please take the time to thank 9-1-1 telecommunicators, communications staff trainers, supervisors and managers of communications centers, those that that maintain radio and emergency phone systems, and other public safety telecommunications staff across the country who work hard every day serving the public.


Thank you all!

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Amazon asked to stop selling smoke detectors

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

Washington fire service organizations are asking Amazon to stop selling smoke alarms that are not properly tested. The Washington State Association of Fire Marshals says Amazon has been made aware of concerns with the unlisted smoke alarms but is still selling them.

Read the full article here:


Smoke and heat detection has had extensive testing in the United States for decades.  Some of the alarm products discussed here are coming from outside the US, and are not properly tested to US standards before being sold with online retailers.

BEWARE!  Before you buy that smoke detector online and save a few bucks, think about what the lives of your loved ones are worth that it's protecting.  If you have ANY doubts about whether the device will work when it's needed, you should not buy it.  Here are some brands that have been tested for years and proven themselves:

FirstAlert (BRK is also part of this group)



I've personally purchased all of these brands, and believe they will stand behind their products.


Smoke detectors save lives, when they work the way they're intended.  That takes lots of testing.  Shop carefully.


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5 Things Facilities Managers Need To Know About Hurricane Clean-up

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

Our friends at NFPA have published an informational article for facility managers who are responsible for the safety in a building.  When that building has just been damaged by a hurricane, their job becomes one hundred times harder.  This article gives some great tips and things to consider.

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HELP WANTED - Systems Technicians - Sign-on bonus

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

If you have 2+ years of experience in fire alarms (any brand), burglar alarm, card access, video security, nurse call, intercom, other low-voltage systems, or general electrical work, call me immediately to see if you qualify for up to $1000 in hiring bonus.  We are in need of experienced technicians to service our customers' low-voltage systems, and help install new ones.  As an experienced tech you can make $15-$28/hour to start, depending on specific background and work habits.  See our full benefits package on our careers page of the website.  We're growing, and we want you to grow with us!

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Flexible cloud access control - manage from anywhere

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

What if you could delete a user from your access control system, with a touch on your smart phone?

What if you could let the furnace repair tech into the building, without being there?

What if you could add access control where there's not a hard internet connection?

What you had the flexibility of adding access control on doors where wires can't go? can have all this and more.  Cellular communication for buildings that weren't planned with internet, or as backup to a hard connection.  Wireless reader/locks for doors that are spread out or wires don't make sense.  Mobile pass credentials (electronic key on phone), when physical keys don't make sense.

Our cloud access systems can handle 2 doors to 200 doors.

Multi-building accounts and multi-site accounts are easily managed in the cloud software.

Unlimited users, with unique permissions for each.

The best cyber security in the industry, from the leader in cloud-based security.

Change older local systems to cloud-based systems without replacing all equipment and wiring.


Call us today for a site survey and estimate.


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The fire alarm industry is growing STRONG!

by Adam Jacobs 9/21/2022

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment growth in the U.S. economy will occur at an average rate of 14 percent between 2010 and 2020. Employment among fire alarm and security system technicians, however, is expected to grow at a much faster rate of 33 percent, resulting in an estimated 21,000 new jobs by the end of 2020.

If you have any alarm, or other low-voltage, systems experience we want to talk to you.  We have work lined up, but need more people to help finish it all.

UPDATE:  We have an urgent need for security systems technicians.  If you have experience working on card access, commercial burglar, CCTV, or other systems, go to our CAREERS page and Contact Us.  We need your help.  




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