Burgler Alarm Systems: Ask the Security Alarm and Monitoring Expert

Sept. 24, 2004
Responding to Carbon Monoxide Alarms Q: What should the proper response be to central station monitored CO gas detectors?

A: Carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless and colorless. It is impossible to detect except with a CO detector. CO detectors have a threshold setting of a certain number of parts per million, above which they will annunciate an alarm.

The threshold level of a CO gas detector is probably low enough so that the gas present at the detector is not yet threatening to life. When a detector alarms and you inquire about the condition of the occupants, the answer might be very misleading. There is no judging what the levels are in other parts of the dwelling or the rate of rise of the level of gas. High levels of CO can affect judgment.

The most prudent response when a CO detector alarm is transmitted to a central station should be to call the premises immediately. Alert the occupants of the CO alarm and tell them to leave the premises without delay, accounting for all occupants as they do. The next call should be to the fire department or to whomever the responding agency is designated in that area, alerting them of the nature of the alarm.

If a CO alarm has occurred, it is a good idea to advise the occupants to have a professional explore its cause before re-entering the dwelling.

The installed CO sensor should be a system-powered and monitored device, not an interconnection to a widely available AC powered device. AC powered devices might fail as a result of a catastrophic occurrence that also caused the CO event. It is far better to have a CO detector handled as a fire alarm sensor in a supervised loop, powered by a backup battery.

Security Assessment at a Glance
DSC gives users of its PowerSeriesT control panels the means to assess the state of their security systems at a glance using the PC5601 status module. The module uses a tri-color LED to display either flashing or steady colors to indicate system status. It requires no programming, and features a four-wire, color-coded wiring harness for quick and easy connection to any PowerSeries control panel. The PC5601 is housed within a sleek white plastic enclosure that can be mounted to a standard electrical box or directly onto an interior wall.

The value of the PC5601 is maximized when used in tandem with DSC's WS4939 wireless key. The wireless key allows users to disarm their alarm system as they approach their home, and, once inside, they can quickly reference the PC5601 to see if an alarm has been recently activated. For more information, visit www.dsc.com

Intruder Detection

The VX-402R from OPTEX is a battery operated outdoor security sensor compatible with all manufacturers' wireless technology. There are no wires or high installation costs; simply insert a 9V battery and connect a wireless transmitter to the relay outputs. The VX-402R comes with 100 pound immunity, provides a 40 foot by 40 foot detection pattern, and is completely weatherized for direct exposure to the elements. For more information, visit www.optexamerica.com

Going Beyond the Traditional

Q: Can you comment on non-traditional central station services such as GPS?

A: There are several services not in the usual palette of central station services that many centrals are now offering. In addition to the more familiar Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS), for instance, are the various GPS services.

Many full service central station companies and larger dealers use GPS equipped service vehicles to manage their fleets. They can track and better control the travels of their service calls. All sorts of sophisticated software packages are available to better route vehicles by location and skill set of a vehicle's driver. Payback is quick and plentiful if this technology is used diligently.

Beyond that, however, GPS services can be made available to existing and new customers. GPS in itself is well known. When a vehicle is equipped with a properly installed GPS receiver, the vehicle's position, speed and direction are easy to compute. But, to be useful to a remote location, it must be reliably transmitted to a central point. This can be done by several transmission modes. The correct choice is a direct function of what else is required to be transmitted besides the fundamental GPS data.

In the most simplistic scenario, only data is required to be transmitted. An efficient way to accomplish the task is to use a cellular based control channel technology. It is lower in cost and more universally available than some alternatives. However, it suffers from the fact that it is basically one way. While it is possible to communicate from the central location back to the vehicle, only a small amount of data can be transmitted in the reverse direction.

The possibility exists to use a proprietary RF system that normally carries alarm signals. This is particularly advantageous when an alarm company owns their system and has excellent coverage in the geographic area of interest.

For more robust communications, wireless services such as CDMA and GSM, for example, are required. The recurring cost is more but these services will allow for full two-way data streams, even compressed video. If voice is required, conventional cellular is the best way to go, even in combination with one of the above data services.

Most users are familiar with the OnStar type services. Such systems require integration with the vehicle to use all its service capability. Features include the ability to unlock doors, interconnect with the ignition system, interconnect with horn and lights, monitor airbag deployment and even monitor the vehicle's computer. OnStar is standard on high-end General Motor's vehicles. It is also available as a factory-installed option on other GM models and some foreign made vehicles.

One national company is now marketing a simpler, removable take-it-with-you version. It is extremely simple to install and offers many of the safety features of OnStar without the interconnections to the vehicle except for 12-volt power.

Even with the simplest of systems, a variety of services can be offered to customers. Basic data is the ability to know if a vehicle is in motion, the speed and direction of the vehicle and whether or not that motion is authorized (vehicle properly entered and started). This requires only the addition of a vehicle security system. With this basic data, a properly equipped central station can determine if a vehicle has been stolen, where it is located and, if in motion, its speed and direction.

Additionally with that data, as an example, a parent can call in and discover where a son or daughter is at any given moment. Using a GeoFence, that is defining an imaginary perimeter around a vehicle, you could know if a vehicle moves outside a predefined perimeter.

Additionally, the Internet allows these services to be delivered back to a customer's PC or PDA. This is especially useful if a central database can be accessed to deliver information such as the nearest gas station, restaurant, hospital, etc.

Extending the GeoFence concept, a delivery truck's route can be predetermined. Deviations from that route can be annunciated as required. This is especially useful in asset tracking.

Consider GPS-type services if you wish to grow your business.

Louis T. Fiore is a consultant from Sparta, NJ. He is Past President of CSAA (1997-1999) and President of L.T. Fiore, Inc. His practice includes the use of wireless and the Internet for alarm monitoring as well as regulatory issues for security systems in general. He also serves as Chairman of Central Station Alarm Association's (CSAA) Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) and Standards Committee. He is the current chairman of the SIA's Security Industry Standards Council (SISC) and a long-time member of the Supervising Station Committee of NFPA 72. Send your questions to [email protected]