Fire-Lite Alarms Kicks-Off New Year with New Training!

New Online Tutorials, Videos and Blogs to Supplement Hands-On Courses

Registration is now open for a new round of trainings planned up to June 2015 in a variety of locations throughout the U.S. The new schedule consists of a basic two-day course for individuals seeking more hands-on fire alarm technical training and an advanced one-day session offering experienced technicians more applications and programming expertise. The Certificate Renewal Program was also brought back by popular demand, allowing technician’s opportunity to renew their Fire-Lite training certification without attending another course. Both instructor-led courses and the Certificate Renewal Program qualify students to receive continuing education credits (CEUs).

Beyond its hands-on courses, Fire-Lite Alarms continues to grow its library of online tutorials; Lite-Tips training videos; and blog on industry trends and technology.

More information on Fire-Lite Alarms’ training offerings is available on www.firelite.com.

 

About the Author
Beth Welch is the Manager of Public Relations for Honeywell Fire Systems. For a decade, she has strived to raise awareness of new technologies, industry trends and information, for the benefit of engineers, integrators and end users.

 

Top 3 Reasons to Monitor Fire Alarms over GSM or IP – A Central Station Perspective

It’s amazing how dramatically our industry has changed in just the last few years. As plain old telephone systems (POTS) gradually go extinct, new technologies, including IP and GSM, are making their mark on the fire alarm and security market. And I for one am excited for the future.

A bit about how I became such a supporter of GSM and IP: I’ve been a Honeywell dealer for years, working with many different Fire-Lite technologies. When Honeywell created AlarmNet, I was excited about the possibilities—especially since phone companies had long been talking about the inevitable death of POTS. We learned about GSM through its connection with AlarmNet, and for the most part, we’ve used GSM (often with an IP back-up) for all our fire alarm systems even since. I’m also in the process of converting our burglar alarms to GSM as well.

At Diamond Communications, Inc., we encourage our customers to use GSM or a combination of GSM and IP for alarm communications, and I believe many dealers can benefit from doing the same. From my perspective, there are three main reasons to monitor over GSM and/or IP:

1. Reliability is maximized.
In my experience of operating the Diamond Communications, Inc., Central Station, GSM is the most reliable method available today. Phone lines can easily go down, and even internet connectivity is spotty in some areas. To ensure the most reliable monitoring connection, we encourage our customers to go the GSM route, with IP as an optional back-up.

In addition to improved reliability, GSM pings the central station hourly, signaling that the system is working as it should. POTS lines send a signal only once every 24 hours. For POTS customers, their system could be down for a full day without them knowing, leaving them vulnerable to unreported fire.

2. Your customers save money every month.
Here’s another compelling reason for your customers to embrace GSM and IP: It can save them a significant amount of money. For two dedicated POTS lines, many of my customers in California were paying the phone company approximately $100-$120 a month. But GSM does away with that cost altogether, saving each customer approximately 50 percent per month. Over the life of a system, that difference adds up quickly.

3. Security is improved.
Traditional POTS lines can easily be cut or tampered with. And since POTS systems only communicate with the central station every 24 hours, a line could be down for a while before a problem is detected.

However, GSM and IP do away with these types of security concerns, since there is no physical wire to be cut.

 

Looking to the Future
The transition from POTS to GSM and IP is the biggest change in the industry since communicators were invented. GSM and IP are the next step forward, which is why we’re enthusiastic about offering the technology to our customers and letting them know how it can benefit them.

In my experience, a GSM is more reliable especially given the fact that the technology is more reliable, secure and can save them money. So if you’re looking to transition your fire alarm customers to GSM, be sure to really highlight these differentiators. You might be surprised at how much your business benefits.

 

 

About the Author
Michael Tarin is the President of Diamond Communications, Inc., based in Madera, Calif. Founded in 1968 with a focus on electrical work, Diamond Communications, Inc., has since transitioned into fire alarm and security technology. The company has its own Central Station and provides installation, service and monitoring for fire alarm and security systems. Since receiving National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) certification, Diamond Communications, Inc., also designs and engineers fire alarm systems.

Is Wireless Held to a Higher Standard?

Wireless technology is not new to the world or even the fire and security industry. Many products are converting to IP based and you also see a myriad of WiFi devices. However, in an industry that is highly regulated, there is always a concern about new technology. Despite the proposed benefits, adoption of new technology is typically slower. It should be comforting to know that products based on new technology still have to meet very stringent requirements due to the nature of its purpose.

The first regulatory approval / standard to look at is Underwriters Laboratories. The standard that is most common for fire and life safety systems is UL 864 (Control Units and Accessories fUL Logoor Fire Alarm Systems). UL 864 covers fire alarm control panels, like the MS-9200UDLS, and various products and accessories. The same UL standard covers the new Fire-Lite SWIFT Wireless gateway and associated products.

There are a series of UL requirements to ensure that the wireless devices meet the same performance criteria as standard wired devices (e.g., the 10 second activation to notification requirement). Although the standard is based on the performance of the devices, the actual tests are conducted with wireless technology in mind. In addition to UL 864, the standard that covers detection is UL 268 (Smoke Detectors for Fire Alarm Systems). UL 268 covers smoke detection, like the SD355, and also covers the performance of the detectors.

Next is National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). NFPA 72 2010 and 2013 cover wireless solutions for fire alarm systems in Chapter 23. Chapter 23.18 in the 2010 edition and Chapter 23.16 in theNFPA Logo 2013 edition are titled “Special Requirements for Low-Power Radio (Wireless) Systems”. Chapter 23 covers the listing requirements, power supplies, alarm signals, and more specifically for wireless systems. Is your jurisdiction currently on an earlier version? The 2007 edition of NFPA 72 also includes requirements for wireless fire alarm systems.

The final regulatory approval of interest is the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). The products need to comply with part 15 of the FCC rules, meaning that operation is subjecFCC Logot to the following two conditions:

  • The device may not cause harmful interference
  • The device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation

Since the intended purpose of this type of system is to transmit information wirelessly, special care is taken not to interfere with other systems. In addition, features and functionality are built-in to mitigate the effect of external interference on the system.

So the answer is – Yes, wireless is held to a higher standard and Fire-Lite Alarms is pleased to offer a SWIFT Wireless solution that meets it. Check out our SWIFT Wireless solution on www.firelite.com.

 

 

About the Author
Richard Conner is the Director of Marketing for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power. Richard joined Honeywell in 2002 and has over 15 years of experience in the fire alarm industry in Marketing, Engineering, and Product Support positions. Richard is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs for all brands.

 

 

Why Use Twitter for Business?

Even with only 140 characters you can create a great program to announce, engage and inform your followers.  It’s not a “set it and forget it” program – you will need to dedicate time to maintain and adjust as needed – but with so many people and companies beginning to utilize different aspects of social media, yTweetou don’t want to be left behind!

 

Here are my reasons for using Twitter for business:

Inform
Information is all over the place.  When you visit our website, you’ll find product pages, technical bulletins, newsletters, webinars, training & seminars, etc… you get the idea. But sometimes you just want to see the short story and leave the real reviewing for later, when you have time to sit and read.  A tweet can be as simple as your next training dates and a registration link or if you are attending a conference or trade event and want to promote it among your followers.  Retweet others that are involved in the industry or announce new products.

Advertise
A twitter account is free.  I don’t know about you and your business, but we end up cutting back on advertising when other higher priority expenses come up. We may have to forgo a couple ads in top industry magazines, but look at it this way – with nearly 60% of American adults now possessing smartphones, we have to consider alternative methods of capturing their attention.     Twitter also offers advertising through their site.  You can promote certain tweets to target audiences and possibly build awareness of your brand/product/service in new minds – particularly to those who are local to your business.

Entertain
I try to entertain our followers and keep interest high in what we tweet about throughout the day.  We’ll throw in a contest about weird stories from the field or a fun #TBT (throw back Thursday) picture of an old brochure or system.  The life safety industry is very serious, but if you get one chuckle out of a random picture or snarky comment, I’d hope you would carry that through your day.

Observe
There are over 285 million active users on Twitter. That’s a lot of people that have opinions on topics you might be interested in – good or bad!  Wouldn’t you like to know what people are saying about your company or your competitors?  By observing your audience, you can see what topics are hot, what they are interested in, and what people don’t like.

As an example, let’s say I see a few folks talking about fiber and the uses of it in the Fire/Life safety business.  As a manufacturer that has a product that utilizes fiber (Lite-Connect), I would focus my tweets on FAQs about fiber, ways to learn more about it, how my product uses fiber, and everything else revolving around the topic.  BTW, we have a webinar on Lite-Connect if you are interested.

Understand
People are going to talk about their experience with you or your company.  If you see negative comments, don’t ignore them.  By sitting back, you won’t get to the root cause, and this is the perfect opportunity to publicly turn a bad situation around and look like a superhero – with just a few 140 character tweets.  Maybe they lumped you in with a competitor they had a bad experience with and the comment really has nothing to do with your company. Maybe there was a problem with a part they used or received. By reaching out, asking for details, and offering to work with them on a solution, you show that you do care about the customer and what they think of your product and company.  I’ve personally reached out to a few folks that had problems. We worked out the details, produced an easy fix and everyone was satisfied.

Businesses should already look to continuously improving: customer service, technical knowledge, product training, marketing, sales and support, …  Your customer does you a favor by calling, make sure you answer and support their needs to the best of your ability.  J

So, to see what I’ve been talking about for the past 5 minutes, visit Fire-Lite on twitter: @FireLiteAlarms.

I love this 2 minute video from Twitter on “What Can Your Business Do…In Just 140 Characters?”. It spotlights success stories from companies – large and small – that share their stories of services, sales, fund raising, innovations, and ice cream!

BRB – I need to tweet @BenandJerrys with some new flavor suggestions!

About the Author
Elizabeth Richards is the Manager of Communications for Fire-Lite Alarms, Honeywell Power and Silent Knight. Liz joined Honeywell Fire Systems in 2003 and is responsible for the communications, collateral, messaging, and events for all three brands. You can follow her on Twitter @EARichards973

The K-12 Fire and Emergency Communication Opportunity You May Have Missed

As of this fall, there are more than 98,300 public elementary and secondary schools operating in the United States, with nearly 50 million students and 3.1 million full-time teachers, according to the Institute of Education Sciences. At every one of these schools, fire safety and emergency response is a top priority; but with so many different facilities and buildings, how can school districts ensure that each and every student and teacher is protected?

The large majority of K-12 schools have fairly basic fire alarm and emergency communication system (ECS) technology, such as fire/smoke detectors and alarms, which may include bells or strobes. However, with the growing diversity of threats against elementary and secondary schools—including active shooters, fire and weather emergencies, and even terrorism—these antiquated systems simply aren’t enough.

As a fire alarm installer, you may be missing out on an opportunity to retrofit your K-12 customers’ facilities with a voice ECS—a more affordable option than upgrading their fire and ECS and adding an intercom system. For your customers, this missed opportunity could be keeping them from improved safety and emergency response. Now is the time to work with school districts to retrofit their facilities.

Why? Voice evacuation systems go a lot further toward protecting students and teachers during an emergency. Rather than simply alerting building occupants that an emergency exists, voice capabilities enable administrators to give specific instructions during such an event. In a school environment with hundreds or even thousands of students and teachers, this could give the occupants more time to exit safety.

For example, the Emergency Communication System / Voice Evacuation from Fire-Lite provides flexible communications features. Administrators can broadcast up to 14 different pre-recorded announcements, or use the microphone to give custom instructions, such as “lock your doors and shelter in place” or “evacuate the building and meet on the front lawn.” With certain devices, officials can even call in to the voice system remotely to provide instructions from a cell phone or landline. It is “fire-rated”, which provides peace of mind knowing that the system is fully-supervised and tested on a regular basis per NFPA 72.

Many fire alarm dealers have avoided pushing the benefits of voice evacuation to the K-12 market. In most cases, the cost of running wire puts these projects out of budget for many school districts. However, by opting for a voice system that can be easily retrofitted into an existing fire alarm/ECS, dealers can help their K-12 customers significantly cut down on the cost of upgrading to voice.

School officials are always thrilled to hear that their facilities can easily be retrofitted to include advanced voice capabilities. Not only do they save money and time over adding a separate paging system—which many consider—they also wind up with a significantly improved emergency communication system that is also fire-rated.

For the vast majority of K-12 school districts, budgets will always be a huge concern. Know that these customers often require long cycles to get funding approval. Plant the seed now by discussing the possibilities of voice capabilities with your K-12 customers, and make it a priority to establish voice retrofits as a growing part of your business.

 

About the Author
Dan Lajoie is Regional Sales Manager for Fire-Lite, Honeywell Power and Silent Knight.  During his 39-year career, Dan has been involved in many aspects of the electronic life safety industry, first as a technician and later as system designer for a nationwide equipment distributor. Dan is NICET Level IV certified and an accredited instructor for the New Jersey Electrical Board of Examiners, as well as the New Jersey Fire and Burglar Alarm Advisory Committee.

 

Changes in Cellular Monitoring are on Fire!

The telecommunications industry is changing as the Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) is being phased out and consumers migrate to faster wireless and IP based alternatives. In response to this, cellular carriers and device makers have begun offering new devices and cellular network upgrades to handle the increased bandwidth requirements for consumers.

While these changes in technology are good for the consumer market as it brings about more speed, and accessibility of data, it has caused some challenges in the fire industry. Typically dealers look to save their customers money by eliminating phone lines while trying to protect them from any future technology changes that might occur when using a cellular communicator. So how can you protect your customer by getting them the most return on investment when migrating to a fully wireless cellular solution? The answer is to simply research your options.

So what are the different cellular formats and how do they affect my cellular monitoring for Fire? Many have most likely heard of second generation (2G) third generation (3G) and fourth generation (4G) of cellular networks. The most significant changes and value that these networks offer are better speed and coverage which is what consumers typically require for their devices.

In the Fire industry, it is a little different since speed is typically not as much of an issue because the amount of data being transferred is not significant. What is typically more important for Fire installations is coverage and longevity since a fire panel always needs to be connected to transmit life safety events and are typically not replaced every two years like many smart phones. That is why when selecting your Cellular communicator it is important to understand which cellular network is being used. It is also a good idea to make sure that the specific coverage required for your communicator is available in the location needed. It also a good idea to do your research to make sure that there are no immediate plans to discontinue the network that your Fire communicator will work on.

 

2G, 3G, 4G

2G Networks: Was launched in the US around1987 and Introduced SMS Texting as well as General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) which first offered packetized data transmission. 2G coverage is diminishing rapidly across the country since AT&T had announced that in early 2017 that they expect to completely discontinue their 2G cellular networks.

3G Networks: Was originally designed for voice calls and data transmission. 3G coverage is still pretty good around the United States but varies by carriers. 3G networks appear to have some longevity since there was a lot of investment made in this technology over time. No one knows specifically when 3G technology will be phased out by the carriers, but some rumors are that major carriers will not begin this process until at least 2020.

4G Networks: Was designed and launched around 2010 primarily for data transmission. It offers the fastest speeds available and coverage continues to be expanded as companies invest in these networks. There are different formats such as LTE and HSPA+ which vary by carriers. Both appear to offer decent longevity, but (LTE) Long Term Evolution appears to offer the fastest speeds.

 

In response, many cellular communicators have been designed to use 4G technology in order to give their customers the best coverage and the most longevity possible in an industry that is known for a lot of change. Fire-Lite’s IPGSM-4G connects to the DACT of any UL-listed fire alarm control panel and communicates over 4G cellular only, IP Ethernet or both. This allows customers to saves the costs of expensive POTS lines while offering them the best coverage and the most longevity possible.

 

About the Author
Ken Gentile is a Product Manager for Fire-Lite Alarms and Honeywell Power. Using his more than 15 years of marketing and engineering experience, Ken’s primary focus lies in the development of new products.