Why Programing Multiple Communications Paths Into the Central Station Is So Important

While there are multiple types of communication that you can choose from, not all are created equal.

Why Programing Multiple Communications Paths Into the Central Station Is So Important

In the monitoring world, UL prescribes a backup requirement for every piece of critical equipment. However, there’s no governing agency that dictates communication paths unless it’s a UL or commercial fire installation. Still, we believe that implementing redundancy within your system design should be a top priority for all alarm installations.

In other words, it’s important to program multiple communications paths into the central station to mitigate any outages between the customer premises and the central station that are beyond you or your monitoring company’s control.

By having two communications paths, your systems will have redundancy prior to reaching the monitoring center. For example, if your customer has wired (POTS/IP) communication with cellular backup, signals can still be sent to the central station if the wired connection is compromised by a backhoe, would-be burglar or some other factor that disrupts communication.

There are multiple types of communication that you can choose from, but not all are created equal. Each mode of communication has its own set of advantages and challenges. Take, for instance, plain old telephone service (POTS). While copper lines may be “tried and true”, they’re becoming (or are already) extinct and many phone service providers no longer support this antiquated technology.

Voice over IP (VoIP) has been the “king of the hill” for telco providers for several years now, and our industry is well acquainted with the fact that traditional alarm systems are not always compatible with their choice in communication paths as they have moved towards least cost routing (LCR) wireless or IP-based paths.

Today, cellular and Internet protocol (IP) communications have emerged as “best practices” for communicating high priority intrusion, fire or personal help or attack alarm signals.

The most common communication configuration mode that we see is cellular communicators with an IP backup or reversed: an IP or WiFi communicator with a cell backup. IP is quick and less expensive than cellular, however, IP is at the mercy of premises power outages and may sometimes rely on IT personnel with access to make port-forwarding modifications.

You can use two wired communications paths but they should be from different carriers. Therefore, if one carrier’s line goes down, the second carrier may able to take over if the outage isn’t caused in the “last mile” between the telco CO(s) and the customer’s premises. Services like KeepYourIP offer diverse path IP forwarding services so you can completely and securely control the programming on your networks and access where they terminate.

Whatever configuration you choose, the point is that you should recommend two paths to all of your customers. By doing so, you’ll not only be providing a higher level of security, your strong recommendation alone will demonstrate your commitment to the highest standards protection.

When it comes to fire alarm systems, you probably won’t have a choice as many jurisdictions across the country have adopted newer codes and ordinances, prohibiting single communication paths. Why? Because protection is critical and dual communication paths are more reliable (and why we’re recommending you use redundant paths on each installation).

In some cases, the authorities have entirely restricted signal transmissions over POTS lines to IP or cellular-only, considering life safety is at one end and transmitting over unreliable VoIP lines, with no means of redundancy and using carriers who have stopped supporting traditional copper lines are at the other.

Fire systems that use a cell or IP communicator also have a higher ping (supervision) rate, which will check in with the central station more frequently so problems and negative network connectivity can be detected much sooner. Be sure to check with local AHJs to make sure you are following the correct code and ordinance for your area.

Today, a number of “next-generation” alarm and intrusion systems no longer need phone lines to communicate and may be quite different from what you’re used to. However, you’re not alone, and we believe that your central station can be a great source of information and may be able to help you identify options that can work best for your company and the redundant services you wish to provide today and into the future.

Click here to check out our comprehensive central station monitoring guide.

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About the Author


Sarah Salazar is Account Manager at United Central Control.

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