Dialer and Communicator Technology Changes: NFPA Requirements

Posted by Zach Nelson on Sep 15, 2015 1:56:31 PM

During the 2015 Seminar Series titled Trending Now! #FireProtection: Technologies Impacting the Future, Lee Kaiser spoke about Dialer and Communicator Technology changes. In the video excerpt below, you can watch as he explains NFPA requirements needed as more buildings switch from the PSTN network and over to voice-over IP phone services. 

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Let's look at this graph. Between the years 2000 and 2016, so there's a little future projection out there, but, this blue line is the increase in the number of subscribers to voice-over IP phone service, within buildings not, not only residential buildings but also commercial buildings and then this red line is the decline in the number of subscribers to the PSTN network, having regular phone service and so the crossover happened in 2013, and so now we're past that where more people are using voice-over IP than the PSTN network but also understand, some of us are using cellular, telephones.

By a show of hands who in the room only uses a cellular telephone for their home and no longer has, well, boy this is an even, larger quantity than it normally is. Usually it's about half. Well, our family still has a home phone line but we do it through voice-over IP. We actually use our cable, TV service to do that with a cable modem so that's we choose to do it, but understand that it was a lot cheaper for us to do that and it's cheaper for building owners to move away from POTS lines, too for their fire alarm systems.

Those digital dialers that worked really well over the POTS lines don't work over other phone lines that we could provide either through cellular or voice-over IP. The other problem with, cellular and voice-over IP, first, let's talk voice-over IP. First off it's dependent on the IT personnel and their budget so all of a sudden we're including people who aren't fire alarm people that are working with our fire alarm system. We're dependent on them to have a phone network connection that has 24 hours of backup power and is reliable for our use. When we talk about cellular, things are different. We don't have the IT people involved but now the cellular company, we're dependent on their network and the standard for cellular is not the same standard that we had for, the PSTN network, right? So cellular, transmission sites, cell sites only are supposed to have backup power of 8 hours but if you talk to cellular guys, they're gonna tell you that it's a lot less in many of their cell towers, maybe an hour, maybe even less and so that's a big issue for us. The other thing with cellular is that the networks can be overloaded during, you know, wide-scale emergencies where we're all trying to pick up our cell phone and call all, call our loved ones to let them know that we're okay. Well, we can crash the cell network and then not have it available for our building so there's some issues with these technologies that in the long run we're gonna have to deal with.

So back in the good old days, this is how things used to work. From the telephone switching office we used to bring in two copper, POTS lines and that, those were our two independent redundant paths to our dialer and our fire alarm panel but now what's really happened is we have two lines but those are provided through a voice-over IP service and those two lines are really only inside our building. They're virtual telephone lines. Outside of our building we have one pathway out and just two different data packets on the same Internet connection.

So we think we have two pathways but we really don't. We've really come down to a single point of failure in many of our buildings so we have to come up with another way to do that and so as the Fire Alarm Code Making Committee started to look at other technologies they stuck to a few principles. One, the alarm delivery, from the building to the monitoring service has to occur within 90 seconds. There must be two communications paths for every transmitter so each building has to have two communications paths. Now by the way there are new technologies that a single technology can meet dual paths, okay, and we're gonna talk about those when we get to radio systems. You can still have POTS lines, but the POTS line can only be one path going forward so you have to pick another technology, under the new versions of the code and you must have battery backup of 24 hours along the communications path. Now you also must monitor your communications paths for integrity, okay? And so the phone lines are still on a daily cycle so once a day, your dialer's gonna take your phone line off hook and then put it back on hook and that, when they do that the monitoring service is gonna see that and record it and know that the test has been correct. If that, if they don't get that within, you know, 48 hours then they're call the building owner and let you know that you may be offline. When you have two paths using new technologies you need to monitor those paths for integrity every 6 hours but there are some situations where the code says the fire, if it's okay with the fire marshal they can approve a single path for your building and if you have a single path, not dual, then you need to monitor that, path every hour for integrity.

So there's some new compliant technologies that give us dual paths, that's all based around radio. We'll talk about that in the next slide for, radio dialers and then there's some combination ways to make [it] be compliant. I can add new cellular dialers and use a dact over voice-over IP or I can use Internet communicators or I can even combine cellular and the new Internet communicators to provide communications from my building.


This is part 3 of the Dialer and Communication Technology Changes series. Watch the other sections at the links below:

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Topics: Communicator, Technology Changes, Dialer

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