More to Central Station Service Than Meets the Eye

Don’t overlook requirements for central station service and its protected premises.

The impetus for this month’s article came from an inquiry by one of our subscribers. They had requested we maintain their account for central station service, but that they had a member of their staff who would provide the inspection and testing of the system. This prompted me to do a little digging into the requirements for central station service, and who is qualified to conduct inspections and tests.

The provisions for central station service have been in NFPA 72 since the 1993 edition and previously were within NFPA 71, Standards for the Installation Maintenance and Use of Central Station Protective Signaling Systems for Watchman Fire Alarm and Supervisory Service. The requirements have generally stayed the same over the years.

The requirements within the 2013 edition of NFPA 72 are found in Chapter 26, Supervising Station Alarm Systems. For providing central station service the standard includes requirements for not only the protected premises, but for the central station, communications channels and the alarm and signaling equipment that is installed at the protected premise.

Remember the Rules of Runner Service

There are six elements required for central station service to exist (see box). If any are not present, then central station service is not present. There has been a general misconception by a number of authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) and perhaps a few fire alarm installation firms that if signals are transmitted to a listed supervising station, then the system is therefore central station service. The short response is that this is not correct.

One key component of this class of system is the runner service. Paragraph states: The central station shall perform the following actions:

(1) Retransmit the alarm to the communications center in accordance with 26.2.1.

(2) Dispatch a runner or technician to the protected premises to arrive within two hours after receipt of a signal if equipment needs to be manually reset by the prime contractor. Except where prohibited by the authority having jurisdiction, the runner or technician shall be permitted to be recalled prior to arrival at the premises if a qualified representative of the subscriber at the premises can provide the necessary resetting of the equipment and is able to place the system back in operating

(3) Immediately notify the subscriber

(4) Provide notice to the subscriber or authority having jurisdiction, or both, if required.

Note that the requirement is to have the runner or technician at the protected premise within two hours from receipt of the alarm signal, not to wait for two hours and then send. The runner may be recalled if the subscriber or others have restored the system before the arrival, and if this has not been prohibited by the AHJ. This requires an understating of the property owner of provisions for the runner or technician to gain entry.

Paragraph covers supervisory signals, while provides the requirements for trouble signals. The runner is required to be at the protected premise within two hours for a supervisory signal, but is allowed four hours for a trouble signal. If both of these cases, the AHJ is to be notified if service cannot be restored after eight hours.

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About the Author


Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.

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