American Alarms Blog

Fire Alarm and Fire Sprinkler working together

by Adam Jacobs 2/12/2020

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 2/12/2020

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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Dynamic Domain Name Service (DDNS)

by Adam Jacobs 2/12/2020

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.

 

 

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Don't be afraid to get away from wires!

by Adam Jacobs 2/12/2020

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Access control in the CLOUD

by Adam Jacobs 2/12/2020

First of all, what does "in the cloud" even mean?  Is it up in the sky somewhere?  No.  It really just means that you are not hosting the data on your site.  You pay someone else (maybe someone who understands data storage and cyber-security) to store your information and maintain the equipment that stores it.  Lots of systems are using cloud storage, and access control is no different.  there are a few manufacturers that offer cloud management and information storage.  The best one we've found is Brivo.  What make it the best?

- First in the industry, more experience

- Easy to use customer controls, multiple ways to access info

- Small footprint on-site equipment (control 2 doors with something that looks like a WAP and mounts as easily)

- Expandable from 1 door to thousands of doors in multiple locations

- Best mobile management technology - iOS app, Android app

- Many ways to use readers - mobile (e-key), fob, card

- Highest cyber-security in the industry

- Easy to install and more flexibility than other access control systems

 

But what about the COST?  That's always a concern for customers.  None of us have unlimited budgets.  Well here's a way to compare a cloud system with a non-cloud system, as far as Total Cost of Ownership.

 

https://www.brivo.com/access-control-tco-calculator/

 

Call us today and ask about Brivo cloud access control for your commercial building.

 

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Des Moines is becoming the "no coast" tech hub

by Adam Jacobs 2/12/2020

The Des Moines Partnership just published a great article about WHY Des Moines is growing faster than almost anywhere else, when it comes to tech companies and workers in these fields.  As a business owner that relies on other businesses, and workers that understand technology, I have enjoyed seeing this growth in the Des Moines area.  Here's a link to article, in case you didn't catch it.

 

https://www.dsmpartnership.com/news-media/blog/3-reasons-dsm-usa-is-a-tech-hub

 

If you look for it, you can find something local for all of your technology needs.

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Get to Know Mircom Technologies Ltd.

by Adam Jacobs 2/12/2020

Our premier partner for building technologies is Mircom Group.  They are North America's largest independent manufacturer of building systems technologies.  Here's a short video from their president Mark Falbo.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nud9N8aePxg&feature=em-subs_digest

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What is "intelligibility"?

by Adam Jacobs 2/12/2020

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 http://www.sfpe.org/?page=FPE_ET_Issue_94

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

by Adam Jacobs 2/12/2020

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.

 

FOR  THE FULL PRESENTATION, SEE THE ATTACHED LINK BELOW.

Changes_to_2018_Model_Codes.pdf (795.13 kb)

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Make arming and disarming your security system easy!

by Adam Jacobs 2/12/2020

Honeywell's 4-button key chain fob remote allows you to arm, disarm, and many other functions as you approach your home or business.  Use it to turn off your alarm when you drive into the garage.  Use it as a panic button.  Or program it to do dozens of other things.  With a range of up to 100 feet, you can even be in the yard or at the street when you use it.  This remote fob works with all of Honeywell's Vista series panels.  Call and ask about commercial security systems now.

 

Photo by Jared Reese

  

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