MONITORING: IMPORTANT UPDATES ON FIRE ALARM COMMUNICATIONS IMPACTING DEPENDABILITY
The following article appeared in the August 24-30th edition of the Boston Business Journal. It's a must read on what's been taking place in the communications field and how those changes impact alarm monitoring. For the digital article click here.
At this time last year, I described significant changes impacting fire alarm communications and signal transmissions. The specific changes surrounded the phase-out of copper telephone lines (POTS – plain old telephone service), the increased use of Ethernet monitoring, sunsets of 2G & 3G (cellular), and changes in Massachusetts Building Code 9th Edition which now references NFPA 72 - 2013 Edition. (See NEREJ article - Monitoring for fire alarms; Are you ready for change? What you need to know, August 25-31, 2017.)
What do these changes mean to building owners and facilities/property managers? One of the major outcomes is that the telecommunications companies are no longer supporting copper telephone land lines. Recently, we have detected an unintended but serious consequence of the replacement of these lines by providers. If your fire alarm communications are driven through these lines or through the replacement of these lines with fiber optics, they may not be reliable or meet the minimum requirements for redundancy and backup.
Updates & New Challenges
As copper telephone lines are becoming obsolete, they are being replaced by fiber optic technology. However, due to the increase in amount and type of data being transmitted over the various communication paths, different types of filters are being applied. The reality is that the types of filters applied to the fiber network are preventing and blocking some alarm signals from transmitting from the building alarm communicator to the central station receiver monitoring the alarms. The filters identify old-fashioned dial tones as “noise” and blocks the tones. In other words, the analog (legacy) signals are being filtered out in support of new data.
Failure to Communicate
The bottom line is that the central station industry is logging an increased number of “fail to test” occurrences, which in some cases, can be attributed to the use of these filters.
What is the answer to this new conundrum? At NOREL, we have relied on primarily the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) wireless telemetry radio network and in some instances, the cellular option.
Anticipating how changes will impact your alarm systems allows you to plan for the future. However, the cellular option comprises its own set of challenges: 2G is obsolete, 3G will be sunset soon, and the ever-changing telecommunications field is racing towards 4G, 5G and 6G. That means that cellular users will be looking to continually upgrade their equipment. As most of us know, we have little control over technical upgrades in the cellular world not only with fire alarms, but with our phones, tablets and other devices.
Wireless mesh radio provides multiple paths between building alarm panels and the alarm receiving station. The networks are operated and maintained by individual alarm companies who monitor them.
Telemetry radios operate in a band of spectrum that is set aside for data and alarm communications only by the FCC. While the subscriber features are frequently improved upon, this UHF transmission method has remained unchanged for many years. This stability offers an advantage over cellular as while the features improve, the method of transmission does not. This allows new and older units to talk on the same system for years, unlike cellular. For the end user, this means keeping the same equipment for longer, with no downtime.
Also of note, the telemetry radio system is self-managed. The provider owns the operating frequency and, in most cases, the related equipment. When there’s a problem, there aren’t multiple providers involved. With cellular, there is the end user, their alarm company, the provider network (such as Honeywell, DSC, NAPCO, etc.) and the cellular company (such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.) so when an outage occurs, it can be a failure in any one or more of these networks/systems.
NOREL employs and endorses the use of a mesh radio network. Along with the radio network infrastructure’s proven history of reliability and redundancy, we feel strongly that this type of network provides more control and flexibility. We have the capability to continually monitor the status of the network without relying on a communication carrier. This technology also allows for redundant, multiple paths of communications as each unit is a transceiver (both a transmitter and receiver); this allows all field subscriber units to “help” transmit signals throughout the network. If one goes down, another can assist in passing signals.
Ultimately, upon evaluating and choosing the best method for your alarm communication systems, just remember the three “R”s: Radio, Reliability, and Redundancy.
Tom Norton is the president of NOREL Service Co., Inc., Waltham, Mass.
THIRD TIME: NOREL NAMED ONE OF LARGEST VETERAN-OWNED COMPANIES IN MASSACHUSETTS
Boston Business Journal has once listed NOREL Service Co., Inc. as #17 OF the top 20 Largest Veteran-owned Companies in Massachusetts.
As in years past, we are proud of our designation and honored to be amongst the other great companies named.
TOM NORTON RECOGNIZED FOR DEDICATION
Tom Norton received the Superior Civilian Service Award during the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes Memorial Dinner on May 22, 2018 for his continued devotion and dedication. We are honored to work with Tom and also thank him for his seemingly endless efforts.
COMPANY OF THE MONTH: NOREL Sets the Bar for Fire and Life Safety Service
NOREL Announces the Formation of NOREL Systems Group (NSG)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOREL Service Company Announces New Division to Meet Autocall Needs
Waltham, April 24, 2018 – NOREL Service Company is pleased to announce the next stage in positioning itself toward becoming New England’s Premier Integrated Life-Safety Systems Provider.
To meet the growing demand for the new Autocall line, NOREL has created a new division, NOREL System Group [NSG].
NSG is led by Dan Chauvin, who brings more than three decades of sales and leadership in the fire alarm, life safety and integrated security industry. Dan derives his expertise from 16 Years as the Boston Branch Sales Manager for a top life safety company, and most recently as Vice President of one of the largest systems integration companies in New England. For the past 16 years, Dan managed a sales force of 15 highly-skilled professionals and grew the organization to over 38 million in total revenue. Dan has been the lead on numerous high profile, complex projects and offers enterprise expertise relative to life-safety, security and critical communications systems. Dan is a Certified Engineering Technologist (NICET IV), and holds both a RI Master Fire Alarm License and a Telecom Contractors license (TSC).
Mike Turso, who anchors the Engineering Department for NSG, has grown up in the fire alarm industry and brings more than 20 years of experience to NSG. He is a fire alarm expert and has designed thousands of life safety systems throughout New England. Mike is NICET III fire alarm certified.
The mission of NOREL’s newly formed Systems Group is to provide our clients with innovative and practical solutions to their Life Safety, Integrated Security and Critical Communications needs. The NSG team is comprised of highly-trained professionals who are committed to the industry for which they have served collectively for more than 50 years.
With offices in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts, along with the newly-organized NSG division, NOREL Service is excited and poised to match its 46 years of continuous growth.
About NOREL Service Company
NOREL Service Company, Inc. provides sales, service, installation, testing, and monitoring of top-of-the-line fire and security systems. The company has earned a reputation for providing superior service and has grown year over year since 1971.
NOREL Service has partnered with numerous building owners and property managers, and currently provides service and solutions for more than 2,500 various types of facilities in and around Boston and New England.
NOREL is a federally-certified Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB), a Boston Business Journal top 25 Largest Veteran-Owned Business in Massachusetts (2016, 2017), and a Massachusetts Veteran Business Enterprise (VBE).
When is the best time to conduct a test of your fire alarm system? The most typical response for most building owners, facility engineers and property managers is, “There’s never a good time.”
For retail, shopping centers, or mixed-use buildings, fire alarm system testing requires scheduling and entry coordination with store owners/occupants, facilities managers, or property managers. And, depending on the building type and the number of notification devices, the optimal time to test alarm-signaling devices may be before or after store or business hours, which could result in technician overtime costs.
Fire alarm technicians need to adhere to associated building and NFPA codes while performing the appropriate tests on each horn, speaker, strobe and other emergency signaling device. For larger campuses and facilities, testing will yield a short period of time in which the alarms will be sounded off and on. Sometimes, the testing time is extended due to separate signaling devices for local smoke detectors, CO detectors, and building general alarms.
It’s always a good idea to review and assess your fire alarm system before a major or minor event occurs and to reduce the chances of false alarms. Too often, a system is evaluated after a false alarm takes place, or after a triggered event highlights a deeper issue or malfunction.
The exciting news is that emerging fire alarm technology includes components which make life easier for building owners and managers. New technology not only streamlines and automates fire alarm testing, but provides for more immediate and accurate reporting on your desktop, mobile phone or tablet. This sophisticated technology allows for signaling devices to be programmed to perform different functions in different situations, for example, smoke detector activation can be indicated by one sound while carbon monoxide can be indicated by a different sound. As well, newer systems can be set to auto-test and report at predetermined times and improve the length of any disruption(s) or sounding of alarms.
Your fire alarm systems should have these features or components:
Individual or selected groups of signaling devices to be tested at a predefined date and time
Shortest amount of time to test all signals in a building
Testing protocol in compliance with fire code.
For the best in retail and mixed-use properties, it’s even more important to be able to test fire alarm systems without disrupting customers, store owners, and occupants. The most current features to look for include:
Automatic testing of fire alarm signaling devices in 5 seconds or less
Auto testing or scheduling to be done any time, day or night
Panel-generated reporting of test results listing every notification device by location
Reports broken down for retrieval and delineated by “trouble” or “alarm”
Longer battery life and power supply for reduced energy costs
Comprehensive plan for fire alarm testing over the life of the system
Command centers with the ability to view statuses for all devices immediately
Integration with other Building Management Systems (BMS)
“Nice to have” components allow for your future needs, whether you are thinking about upgrading your existing system, adding additional fire alarms for other buildings, or integrating your fire alarm systems with new projects or structures. These include:
Reporting capabilities which include automatically-generated reports from the control panel listing signaling devices tested, by time, date, location, and pass/fail test status
Paging and background music over the same notification/alarm system
Emergency text message alerts
Transfer of panel information and programming via USB device
Testing without disruption to customers and business owners
Pre-programmed smoke sensitivity and wider ranges for these settings
Easy to upgrade and to scale with flexibility and modular design.
Each winter, we’ve seen the impact of fires in New England. Is it time for you to review your fire alarm systems?
George Aguiar is VP integrated systems, sales & marketing for NOREL Service Co., Inc. Waltham, Mass.
New England Real Estate Journal - 17 Accord Park Drive #207, Norwell MA 02061 - (781) 878-4540
NOREL Service Company to Distribute Autocall™ Fire Detection Systems
NOREL Service Company to Distribute AutocallTM Fire Detection Systems
NOREL Service Company awarded select national distributorship by Johnson Controls for newly released Autocall fire detection systems.
Waltham, January 16, 2018. Based on its reputation and years of experience in the industry, NOREL Service Co., Inc. has been awarded a selective national distributorship by Johnson Controls for the recently released suite of AutocallTM fire detection systems. NOREL Service is excited to have the ability to provide customers with the most trusted and advanced technology in fire and life safety for today's environment.
AutocallTM provides next-generation fire detection technology while building on decades of trusted legacy systems. Autocall systems are highly modular and allow for integration with other Building Management Systems (BMS) using industry standard protocols such as BACNet and Modbus. Advanced features include fire alarm self-testing without disruption, addressable notification, and powerful networking capabilities.
Autocall's TrueSite allows a building manager or owner to view up-to-date, valuable command center information quickly and in real time, using a PC-based workstation, Apple, or Android mobile device.
As a highly-qualified distributor, NOREL Service maintains experience in designing (CAD) and installing systems for large and small buildings and extended campuses. NOREL's technicians and sales experts have been formally trained on the technical details and specifications of AutocallTM products and as always, adhere to applicable building and life safety codes.
About NOREL Service Company
NOREL Service Company, Inc. provides sales, service, and installation of top-of-the-line fire and security systems. The company has earned a reputation for providing superior service and has grown year over year since 1971.
The company's sustained success can be attributed to its leadership, highly-trained technicians, and its long-standing customers. NOREL Service has partnered with numerous building owners and property managers, and currently provides service and solutions for more than 2,500 various types of facilities in and around Boston and New England.
NOREL is a Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) and a Boston Business Journal top 25 Largest Veteran-Owned Business in Massachusetts (2016, 2017).
NOREL FORMALLY DESIGNATED AS VETERAN-OWNED SMALL BUSINESS (VOSB)
We are proud to announce our formal designation as a Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, D.C.
Thank you to NOREL's Founder and President Thomas F. Norton for serving in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps and as Lieutenant Commander in the Reserves.
Other employees at NOREL who have served our country include: Dan Chauvin, Walter Van Wart, Gary Decker, and Mark Garland. Thank you!
NEREJ ARTICLE: Monitoring for Fire Alarms: Are You Ready for Change?
This article first appeared in NEREJ's August 25, 2017 edition – New England Real Estate Journal - Shopping Centers
Tom Norton, NOREL Service Co., Inc.
Building occupancies such as retail, residential, commercial, healthcare, and education, need effective and reliable fire protection. Over the past year, this point has been emphasized again and again with reported fires causing severe loss of property and loss of life from fires in London, California and here in New England.
Property managers, building owners and facilities directors need to ensure the fire alarm systems in their properties are maintained to operate in a reliable fashion. Staying abreast of the latest technology for fire protection systems, along with any impending changes to fire and building codes which could impact the way you procure fire-related services, is mandatory in order to maintain the dependability of fire alarm systems.
What you need to know
One of the most drastic changes in technology is the way a fire alarm system reports to the monitoring or supervising station. In recent years, this modification has gone unnoticed until a fire occurs and the fire department is not notified of the alarm condition. Additionally, land lines and outdated reporting technologies have become much less reliable, for example:
As of January 1 of this year, the FCC has authorized the sunset of copper phone lines (or POTS plain old telephone service).
Customer demand for POTS has drastically declined along with the advent of new technologies, i.e. fiber, Internet, cellular.
As a result, current connections using POTS and Leased Line Circuits (called BANA) will remain in service until they fail, at which point there will be no service or maintenance provided by the communications carriers.
Within the next two to four years, it is estimated that 3G cellular connections will also use the same sunset rules as 2G. Specifically, the industry has deemed 2021 as a guideline for ending 3G support.
These changes will require building owners/managers to seek alternative and more reliable methods for communication between their building(s) and their alarm monitoring company.
Changes to building and fire codes: Why plan now?
Coinciding with the timing of these industry developments, The Massachusetts Building Code, 9th Edition, will be taking effect this summer. The building code references NFPA 72-2013 Edition, which provides for alternate methods of communication in addition to allowing the existing radio and cellular methods between a building and its alarm receiving station.
The code allows various options described below with my comments on their reliability.
Option 1: Wireless radio
Wireless Mesh Radio Monitoring: this is a network of radio communicators which provides multiple paths of communication between buildings and an alarm receiving station.
These mesh radio networks provide more reliable response time due to the redundancy of the system; there are multiple paths for signals from the building to the monitoring facility.
Reliability is improved through a privately-owned and operated system using the network of paths connecting with the alarm receiving station without relying on current communications providers.
Option 2: Cellular networks
Use cellular with Internet backup.
User is at the mercy of the cellular carriers quality and reliability of service and sunsetting of technologies.
Option 3: Combination
Use of one telephone line along with either a one-way private radio alarm system, or a two-way RF multiplex system for transmission.
Why radio monitoring is the optimal choice
Using a Radio Mesh Network provides the most reliable communication method for alarm communications to the remote receiving station. And, the dependability of radio monitoring can be obtained generally at lower monthly cost. Mesh radio has the following benefits:
Free from constraints of the major communication providers;
No phone lines required;
Significantly quicker response speeds and faster notification;
Provides for a more robust communication system at a reduced cost; no phone bills and no phone maintenance;
Remote diagnostics ability; and
Provides a more streamlined emergency communication system.
Furthermore, the mesh radio network has the capability to incorporate life safety and environmental signals by monitoring alarm signals over the same network used for security, temperature monitoring, and carbon monoxide detection.
Mesh radio monitoring provides customers with an advantage against the changing communications environment while still providing reliable communications of a potential emergency situation to summon fire department assistance.
Tom Norton is the president of NOREL Service Co., Inc., Waltham, Mass.
New England Real Estate Journal • 17 Accord Park Drive #207, Norwell MA 02061 • (781) 878-4540 • Contact
AGAIN, NOREL NAMED ONE OF LARGEST VETERAN-OWNED COMPANIES IN MASSACHUSETTS
Boston Business Journal has once again listed NOREL Service Co., Inc. as one of the top 20 Largest veteran-owned companies in Massachusetts.
We are proud to be listed again in 2017 and honored to be amongst the other great companies named.
FALL RIVER'S FAULTY FIRE ALARM SYSTEM GETTING AN UPGRADE
NOREL Service to help the city of Fall River update its alarm and communication systems.
NOREL NAMED ONE OF LARGEST VETERAN-OWNED COMPANIES IN MASSACHUSETTS
Boston Business Journal identified NOREL Service Co., Inc. as one of the top 25 Largest veteran-owned companies in Massachusetts for 2016.
We are honored to be on this list and proud to be amongst the other great companies named.