Alarm Expert: Beware This Dangerous Fire Alarm Product

The Virtual Alarm monitoring re-transmitter is being marketed as UL-compliant, but doesn’t even come close, according to Jeff Zwirn.

When you read the verbiage “UL Fire Monitoring” and the equipment is red and states “DO NOT UNPLUG OR REMOVE BY ORDER OF THE STATE FIRE MARSHAL,” what comes to mind?

A new product is available on Amazon by VirtuAlarm, and its called Virtual Alarm UL Fire Digital Dual Phone Line Alarm Monitoring Re-Transmitter. The company purports that the device provides:

  1. Fire alarm system monitoring over 2 telephone lines with E-Z setup and free over the phone support.
  2. Nationwide approved UL fire monitoring provided by VirtuAlarm for only $15.95 per month.
  3. Free smartphone app for alarm notifications during any supervisory, trouble or fire alarm.
  4. Use VirtuAlarm monitoring or route alarms to any professional fire alarm monitoring company worldwide.
  5. Installers and dealers can become an affiliate at www.VirtuAlarm.com to receive monthly revenues.

What’s the problem?

The product is not listed by UL or any NRTL, and the way the company attempts to reconcile the materiality of this fact is to advise that UL does not list telephone equipment, RJ-31X jacks, and that UL does not apply to their product.

Clearly, these representations are grossly erroneous. In the meanwhile, this product is not just two RJ-31X telephone jack(s) alone, (which are still required to be listed) but it also contains a call diverter/router(s), and then built into each of the jacks is a fully customer accessible timer that allows the customer to delay any alarm or trouble signals from 1-10 seconds once the FACP attempts to transmit to the “UL Fire” monitoring central station.

If that was not troubling enough, the way this product is being marketed will certainly fool the public and many authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) into believing that “this product” is compliant, but it’s not even close.

I for one am not aware of any conforming product that is NRTL-listed for commercial fire alarm systems and/or monitoring and then allows for non-listed RJ-31X jacks that contain call diverter/router(s) and built-in timers so the customer can delay alarm and trouble signals before they reach the central station.

Similarly, “UL Fire Monitoring” that requires non-listed equipment to be installed at the protected premises as a condition precedent for it to purport to be able to divert and route signal(s) from any FACP to another central station should never have been manufactured let alone be marketed and sold to the unsuspecting public.


This blog originally appeared on Jeff Zwrin’s LinkedIn.

About the Author

Contact:

Jeffrey D. Zwirn, CPP, CFPS, CFE, FACFEI, CHS-IV, SET, CCI, FASI&T, MBAT, writes Security Sales & Integration’s “Security Science” column. He is also president of IDS Research and Development, an alarm and security consultation, expert witness and training authority providing nationwide services on all issues related to alarm and security matters. He can be reached at (201) 287-0900.

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2 Responses to “Alarm Expert: Beware This Dangerous Fire Alarm Product”

  1. Ben Price says:

    The UL FIRE DIVERTERS that your ‘Expert” misrepresents the product and its function. When a Alarm Dealer wants to migrate a FACP from one Central Station to another, the FACP needs to be Re-programmed to dial the new Central Stations receiver line. In many cases, the Alarm Dealer is doing a Takeover and does not have the ability o Re-program the FACP. This is where the UL FIRE DIVERTERS can be used. By making NO CHANGES to the FACP or the telephone network, and simply unplugging the telco phone jack and placing the UL FIRE DIVERTER between the FACP and the telephone jack, the FACP will detect that the telco line has been restored and continue to send a daily test signal which are the two (2) conditions for NFPA 72 UL FIRE signaling.

    The claim that we allow the user to ‘delay’ signals using an adjustable timer on the UL FIRE DIVERTER is NOT FACTUAL. The switch with a 1 through 9 dial is used by the installer to adjust the required wait time for the telephone line to be forced to hang up and then go off hook o allow the DIVERTER to dial the phone number entered into it for the new Central Station.

    When the alarm signal is sent by the FACP, it is routed to the Central Station of the Alarm Installers choice. The FACP still sends a daily test to the Central Station and would still cause a COMMM FAIL trouble on the FACP if the telco line was to be disconnected.

    The “Expert” also states that the telco phone jack must be UL LISTED for Fire. I would challenge the “Expert” to provide any documentation as to that claim as it is simply not true.

  2. The UL FIRE DIVERTERS that your ‘Expert” misrepresents the product and its function. No. The product shall be listed for its intended product see NFPA 70 and in accordance with NFPA 72 all Fire Alarm Equipment shall be listed for its intended purpose. If you still erroneously disagree please let me know in which states you have sold your product and I will notify the State Fire Marshal.

    I am sure that you will learn rapidly that not paying attention to fire alarm and life safety codes is never an acceptable option. Concurrently it creates a foreeable danger to the public.

    It would also be very helpful to understand what your education, skill, knowledge, training, experience and peer reviewed credentials are in fire alarm science, fire alarm technology, building and fire codes, UL Standards and NFPA Standards.

    When an Alarm Dealer wants to migrate a FACP from one Central Station to another,the FACP needs to be Re-programmed to dial the new Central Stations receiver line. Yes, but this is performed within the FACP and not through a non-listed “call diverter”.

    In many cases, the Alarm Dealer is doing a Takeover and does not have the ability to Re-program the FACP. If the alarm dealer does not have the ability to gain access into the FACP for reprogramming the control panel shall be replaced, This is where the UL FIRE DIVERTERS can be used. No not at all, the UL Fire Diverter can never be used without violating both UL and NFPA Standards. The UL Fire Diverter is not UL Listed and it is not listed by any Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) Clearly, just the audacious claim by you that this dangerous product is a “UL Fire Diverter” is not only a gross misrepresentation of material facts but it is deceptive in my opinion as a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) among my other credentials.

    The UL FIRE DIVERTERS that your ‘Expert” misrepresents the product and its function. Your definition of “function” is not supported by any UL Standard or any edition of NFPA 72 from its first edition back in 1993 to its current edition of 2019. In other words, just because you say its so does not mean its so and there is no alarm product which has ever been manufactured for a commercial fire alarm system, let alone a UL Listed Commercial FACP, that gets an exclusion that it does not need to be listed for its intended purpose by an NRTL.

    In many cases, the Alarm Dealer is doing a Takeover and does not have the ability to Re-program the FACP. This is where the UL FIRE DIVERTERS can be used. No this is absolutely false. By making NO CHANGES to the FACP or the telephone network, and simply unplugging the telco phone jack and placing the UL FIRE DIVERTER between the FACP and the telephone jack, the FACP will detect that the telco line has been restored and continue to send a daily test signal which are the two (2) conditions for NFPA 72 UL FIRE signaling.

    First, the two conditions you reference from NFPA 72 are distinct, separate and apart from being able to install a non-listed product onto a Commercial Fire Alarm System or to any alarm system as it is strictly prohibited.

    Once you introduce any equipment and connect it to a UL Listed FACP, it is not a task of just simply unplugging and placing this dangerous device onto both of the Fire Alarm Systems communications paths.

    The claim that we allow the user to ‘delay’ signals using an adjustable timer on the UL FIRE DIVERTER is NOT FACTUAL. The switch with a 1 through 9 dial is used by the installer to adjust the required wait time for the telephone line to be forced to hang up and then go off hook o allow the DIVERTER to dial the phone number entered into it for the new Central Station. The word “forced” is not referenced in any edition of UL Standards and NFPA Standards.

    In other words, what you say needs to be done to make your non-listed product “work” is absurd because it is not listed and no UL Listed FACP recognizes your product as anything that it can be legally connected to under both UL and NFPA standards for either remote or central station monitoring.

    You are selling this product to customers who do not know and you are selling it to alarm companies who should know better but are still installing these products, In any event, NFPA 72 does not allow for any delay for alarm and trouble signals to be transmitted to a remote/central station regardless of your created justification that you state your product needs to have all the while it is not Listed by an NRTL.

    Another dangerous problem is if the delay that you state you need in order for your non-listed product to function gets changed as to its setting and a result of same the diverter” does not work during an alarm emergency and the remote/central station does not receive an alarm signal(s). Than what, its acceptable for people to be seriously injured, for people to be killed and/or for the premises to suffer significant property damage?

    I have not seen any testing from your company to validate that your product will work with all communications formats from Commercial Fire Alarm Control Panels and this is yet another reason that since your product is not listed it should not be sold and for any of your products that have been sold they need to be immediately returned and all monies paid for same should be refunded by your company.

    When the alarm signal is sent by the FACP, it is routed to the Central Station of the Alarm Installers choice. The FACP still sends a daily test to the Central Station and would still cause a COMMM FAIL trouble on the FACP if the telco line was to be disconnected. This is not the point at all. No installer or manufacturer can just decide to violate UL Standards, NFPA 70 and NFPA 72 to make what you call as a “choice” and no authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) would ever knowingly accept this non-listed and dangerous product. We need an alarm signal to immediately transmit to the remote/central station and not a COMM fail indication at the site only due to the use of your non-listed and dangerous product. This is not just about unplugging a telephone jack, it is about introducing a non-listed product onto a Commercial Fire Alarm System.

    Under your analogy, smoke detectors, pull stations, duct detectors, and sole path wireless radio alarm transmitters do not have to be listed by UL or another NRTL as well, which amplifies that your posturing is utter nonsense in that all products shall be listed. Nothing more and certainly less.
    The “Expert” also states that the telco phone jack must be UL LISTED for Fire. I would challenge the “Expert” to provide any documentation as to that claim as it is simply not true. Get a copy of NFPA 72 and read it. Furthermore and to start here is just one of the many manufacturers that provides UL Listed RJ-31X jacks. Surely these products were not listed by happenstance. See http://www.modular-components.com/security-accessories. It is axiomatic that your company does not know and/or does not want to know what it needed to do before manufacturing and/or selling its product to the public. Moreover, your company has not performed any research authoritative or otherwise before it blindly or otherwise decided to dangerously put this product into the steam of commerce.

    You as the seller and/or manufacturer should be fully aware of UL Listing requirements and NFPA 72 as to both the former National Fire Alarm Code and the latter National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. Your statements are reckless and in my opinion demonstrates a conscious disregard and indifference to the safety, welfare and security of the public. I trust that you will step back and immediately contact both UL and NFPA directly to verify what myself and other experts know to be true as elaborated to above. By the way the use of your dangerous and non-listed product is not tantamount to UL Fire Monitoring.

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