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IP fire alarm communications

  1. Minimize the number of data connection points in the circuit. If possible, connect directly to the router/gateway.
  2. Install the IT components in a locked room, cabinet, or enclosure to ensure that someone trying to obtain a spare data port doesn’t simply unplug the connection.
  3. Modify the monitoring contract so that it states effectively that if the client doesn’t have emergency power for those data components, that the monitoring provider is indemnified against loss of signal due to the power loss.[v]

An alternative is to use an IP/Global System Mobile Communication (GSM) dialer which can allow the IP communicator as the primary path and use the GSM as the alternative path when IP communication is not available. This can be more like a traditional slave communicator that would monitor alarm, supervisory and trouble conditions, unless the manufacturer offers a model that provides ContactID, thus giving point identification at the receiving station. To obtain a UL Commercial Fire Listing you must use all of the required components.

Prior to implementing this solution, it must be determined that the receiving station can receive both the IP and GSM signals and that it is affiliated with the GSM network.

IP connectivity and infrastructure critical to AHJ acceptance

Another consideration is the availability of IP connectivity at the time of system commissioning and acceptance by the AHJ. It has been difficult enough to have two POTS line available at the time of AHJ’s acceptance testing, now a level of complexity is being added that requires a greater degree of coordination to ensure that the ISP and the associated infrastructure is ready when needed.

When the building is not owner occupied, the owner will have to furnish the IP connectivity, but often there are other systems such as building controls, elevator controls and lighting controls which often can make use of the IP connection for remote programming and diagnostics.

There are two significant benefits to the use of IP communicators:

  1. Reduction in operating costs
  2. Remote diagnostics

Simply put the use of IP communicators can save the system owner significant expense, especially when they have multiple sites that require monitoring.

Under this example, the investment capital is paid back from the operating budget, which means a recovery time of just over a year. It is quite powerful for schools and other entities to be able to use their operational budget to acquire in one year of capital that literally eliminates the operational costs the next year.









Existing POTS/DACT Configuration




Total Monthly POTS Costs:


Total Annual POTS Costs:






Upgrade to IP Communicator





Total Monthly IP Cost (1st Year):



Total Annual IP Cost (1st Year):


Total Monthly Cost (2nd Year):


Total Annual IP Cost (2nd Year):



Figure 1: IP Communicator ROI[vi]

So, the basic math is this; spend $400 over the annual operating costs for the phone lines to save $9,600 in each year following the upgrade. That is not new math; it is easy math for any school or entity that is looking to create savings in its operating budget.

When the IP communicator is integrated into the FACP and it has a native web server associated with it, true remote diagnostics become available to the system owner. While this is difficult to quantify, there can be potential savings on service calls to the owner if basic trouble conditions can be determined remotely and the owner instructed in basic measures to rectify the issue. This has an opportunity gain for the systems integrator, as they can charge for the service consultation, but not have a technician tied up for drive time, especially to remote locations or across highly congested traffic areas.

When using remote diagnostics, there may have to be a higher degree of coordination for allowing the systems service provider access through firewalls and to ensure that an open door is not left into other aspects of the owner’s IT system.

The demise of POTS

While not yet date verified, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has begun the discussion to determine when POTS will no longer be a valid form of communication in the U.S. Some dates have been as early as 2014 in recent media reports.