Fire alarm and sprinkler systems are required to be continuously monitored by an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listed central station. Central monitoring stations use a special telephone and mobile lines, radio channels, computers, software and trained staff to receive and monitor fire alarm systems and call the appropriate authorities in the event an alarm signal is received. Typically, there is a monthly fee for each individual account.
What Exactly Is An Underwriter Laboratory?
Most fire protection companies subcontract central station monitoring services to firms that specialize in this service. UL listed central stations provide higher levels of service and reliability because they are mandated to follow certain regulations. This includes hardened infrastructure, backup power and HVAC systems, enhanced security systems and specially trained personnel.
It’s All About POTS
The most common way fire alarm signals are transmitted to a central station is over traditional copper telephone lines known as “POTS” lines. POTS stands for “plain old telephone service.” Fire alarm signals are sent to a digital alarm communicator transmitter (“DACT”) which converts the signals to a digital format capable of being transmitted over a telephone line. Unfortunately, legacy telephone carriers want to convert all POTS lines to other technologies including IP, VOIP and cellular and this will radically change how fire alarm systems are monitored. POTS lines continue to work during power outages, however, newer alternatives, such as VOIP, need backup power to keep operating. Since computer networks, backup power cannot be guaranteed fire marshals have been hesitant to allow signals to be transmitted in this manner.
Alternatives To Pots
What are the alternatives? You can still use POTS lines to transmit fire alarm signals if your facility still has access to them. However, if they fail legacy telephone companies may not be required to repair or replace them. But make no mistake, POTS lines days are numbered.
One alternative is to transmit fire alarm signals to a central station over a radio network. Radio networks approved for fire alarm service are incredibly reliable and as fast as or faster than traditional POTS lines. Battery backup is integral to the radio transmitting unit. Certain buildings may need supplemental exterior antennas but many locations are able to utilize the standard internal antenna on the transmitting unit. One advantage of using radio networks over POTS lines is that there are no monthly telephone fees associated with this form of signal transmission, providing net savings to the customer.
The other alternative is to use cellular transmission. This can be done anywhere there is adequate and reliable cellular service. As with radio transmitters, cellular transmitters may require supplemental exterior antennas and backup batteries are integral to the unit. There are monthly cellular service fees associated with this form of transmission.
The major takeaway to this is that the lifespan of POTS lines is rapidly coming to an end and that there are other acceptable ways to transmit fire alarm signals to a central station. These alternative transmission methods are technologically superior and more cost effective to the customer.
Get The Best of the Best from Fireline!
At Fireline, we offer an array of portable fire extinguishers, fire alarms, and sprinkler systems to keep your property safe. Fireline offers the highest quality alarm systems to alert occupants in your business of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. We also offer fire suppression systems and fire sprinkler systems to keep fires controlled should an incident occur. Our trained sales staff will work with you to determine which system is best for your business and our technicians will ensure a quality installation. Fireline service technicians can test, inspect and repair any existing systems you may have.