Panels are the brains of the operation, loaded with features and functionality. New advancements in smoke detection and protection technology are engineered for greater sensitivity and performance applications. Panels can monitor for problems, correct sensitivity, calibrate and receive vital information and provide advanced maintenance, protection and supervision.
IP addresses death of POTS
Richard Denner, vice president, Checkmate Security, West Babylon, N.Y., found the biggest change for his business was the introduction of the IP communicator. "The reason I feel this is such an important change in the industry has to do with the issues surrounding the age of phone lines and the frequency by which clients switch phone carriers and forget about the dedicated phone line connected to the fire panel," Denner said. Denner welcomes the new advancements primarily because the phone lines are antiquated and when problems do arise, service providers take a long time to work things out. "It's always five phone calls and hours or a week later to resolve." The IP communicator has made operations seamless, he said.
Steve Nielsen, technical services engineer, Harrington Signal, Moline, Ill., agreed that "the fire industry is moving to reporting alarm and trouble signals to the central stations using IP instead of digital dialers." Change does come slowly and Denner has found in some towns on Long Island there is hesitancy amongst some fire marshals and Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) who feel the technology is unproven and will for now, continue to require the dialer backup.
Wielding the World Wide Web
When it comes to the newer panels loaded with fire panel software that enables dealers to program the system, access status, use diagnostic tools and test data via the Web, the choice is pretty clear. "Fire system dealers are looking to streamline installation times and end-users need convenience tools for monitoring and maintaining these systems. As a result, fire panel software that enables Web-based access to important system functions is gaining popularity," said Tom Mechler, product marketing manager, Bosch Security Systems, Fairport, N.Y. "The advantages are clear for dealers and end-users-especially those who may be responsible for multiple sites who now have the ability to access the panel remotely from a central security office or any Internet-enabled location without dedicated software."
Transitioning to a Web-based system has its advantage, according to Brett Brewster, president and CEO, BuildingReports.com, Atlanta. "Currently most manufacturers use software that is updated by technicians via a laptop using a serial connection to the panel. Web-based software can deliver these updates via a standard Internet connection."
Features boost responsiveness
New features such as software used to program the fire alarm control panel has generated a lot of industry buzz, according to Loren Schreiber, product manager for Silent Knight, a division of Honeywell Fire Systems, Northford, Conn. "There are small changes in the panel that are unique to everyone's fire panel but the big features are the downloading abilities of software and other features the panel can perform. With a trouble condition you can get the information remotely before you get to the site," Schreiber said.
A feature beneficial to early detection is found in aspirated gas systems, which help to solve many potential hazard situations and address problems conventional detection cannot solve. "I used to view aspirated smoke detection as a specialty niche product good for use in clean rooms, data rooms and other pristine environments," Claudio Groppetti, vice president of Global Product Management, Xtralis Fire and Environmental Business Unit, Minneapolis. "Nothing could be further from the truth. Being able to provide a product with a range of sensitivities in a host of various environments is a very powerful tool."
Fire technology has been steady for many years but now there are new reporting and upload/download methods via the Web and software that enhances these systems.