Cellular as a sole communications path for fire

In today's economy, customers want to save money, while integrators want new sources of recurring monthly revenue (RMR). Think those are incompatible goals? Not anymore.

Using the revised National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (NFPA 72 2010) to tap into cellular capabilities, integrators can grow revenues while at the same time cut costs for the customer by eliminating their landlines. Previously, NFPA 72 permitted cellular communicators to do nothing more than back up digital alarm communications transmitters (DACT) connected to landlines.

Thanks to changes to the 2010 code, cellular technologies are allowed for all UL 864 Ninth Edition listed fire installations, and while the generic capabilities of a secure fire communications path are stipulated, the type of underlying technology is not. The upshot is that a device that conforms to these guidelines can be the sole path if it can annunciate failures at the central station within five minutes of the failure. Your business can benefit from these changes. Here's how these changes work in practice.

Most business owners pay integrators using DACT for monitoring the system, but not for the two public switched telephone network (PSTN) connections. For those, the business owner pays the local phone company roughly $100 or more per line. If the integrator replaces those two DACT lines with one cellular communicator, then the business owner can slash that monthly landline bill and instead pay a much smaller charge to the integrator for cellular monitoring.The customer reduces his monthly communications fees while the integrator increases his RMR.

To take advantage of these changes-and to improve the bottom line for you and your customers-you'll want to replace your existing systems and switch to cellular as your sole fire communications path. To do that, you'll need a strong cellular signal at the installed location. Supervising the connection to the central station once every five minutes is required for cellular to be the sole path, and anything less than a premium signal could lead to unnecessary outage notifications.

Here's another advantage of making the switch to cellular: with cellular, you can perform a "drop in" installation. Unlike using, say, IP for fire communications, with cellular there are no IT departments to deal with and no complex networking rules to navigate. Want to take the "drop in" concept to the extreme? Then choose a product that uses dial capture to interface with the existing panel and still connects with your central station using the PSTN-exactly like the former landline. (Telular's Telguard TG-7FS allows you to do this quite easily.)

With dial capture based communicators, all you need to do is unplug the landline and plug in the new cellular communicator. All other aspects of the system-from the master control unit through the central station-won't notice the difference.

Simply put, the modernized 2010 edition of NFPA 72 will help you earn more RMR from all your fire installations-present and future. Now all you have to do is take advantage of the opportunity.

If you would like to reference the code for these changes, refer to NFPA 72, National Alarm and Signaling Code, 2010 edition section and the annex Table A.26.6.1 Communications Methods for Supervision Stations.

Shawn Welsh is the vice president of Marketing and Business Development for Telular Corp., Atlanta. He may be reached at swelsh@telular.com.