Proper Line Seizure Assurance Made Simple for Security Integrators

Prepare alarm systems perfectly for proper line seizure.

Let’s start by going back in my time machine for a moment. It was in the late 1970s and digital dialers ruled the security alarm landscape. One of my accounts had a burglar alarm activation. As the store owner arrived, the police – who were already inside the store – told him, “Your phone keeps breaking up when we try to make a call, something must be wrong with your alarm system.” In those days, the police sometimes used local land lines as a way to keep radio traffic down and report to their dispatch center.

It took me considerable time to explain to my customer why his phone line had been breaking up; after all the police are experts on alarm systems, right? That’s when I understood the importance of explaining alarm communications line seizure to all of my new alarm system customers.

Recently I had a discussion with David Teschner, an independent experienced alarm technician from Rincon, Ga., who commented, “I was looking at a piece of equipment today, that my techs and I have used thousands of – a Better Way Products BW-1. A question hit me: ‘Does this product satisfy the need for a means of disconnecting an alarm from the phone system, negating the need for RJ-31X and cord?'” I realized that a little more than a quick answer was needed; as such, that also provides a good opportunity here to discuss the importance of properly installed line seizure devices.

Surveying Interface Options for Installation

First, what is line seizure? Line seizure is a function performed by an alarm panel in which all phones, faxes, etc. on the same communication circuit are temporarily disconnected so that an alarm signal from the control panel can be transmitted to the alarm receiving equipment without any physical or electrical interruption.

Over the years there have been two interface devices used for connecting an alarm panel to a PSTN or VoIP voice communications circuit. One is the BW series from Better Way Products, and the other is the RJ-31X/ RJ-38X registered jacks provided by various manufacturers. The RJ device is typically installed within or a few feet of the alarm panel or PERS control. The BW device is typically in-stalled at the demarcation device as the circuit enters the facility or home. The reasons for, and application of, these devices will vary depending on whom and what organization you are consulting.

The telephone or communications service company will tell you that these devices are needed to quickly isolate the alarm equipment from the communication circuit. The alarm company should inform the customer they can unplug this device to quickly regain control of the communications circuit for making a manual emergency call. Let’s go over some very important concepts when installing and operating these devices.

Give Foremost Attention to Location, Supervision

A line seizure device must be installed ahead of ALL communication devices so that they are ALL temporarily isolated when an alarm signal is sent. A big problem today is that many residential phones are being upgraded by various utilities to VoIP phone service without any consideration for relocating the line seizure device ahead of the new VoIP control device. This is a good application for the BW devices.

Location can also pose a challenge as it should be some-where secure but accessible. You would not want a commercial alarm panel to be easily disconnected by a burglar. On the other hand you would want to make it convenient for a residential customer to remove the RJ-31X plug. Remember, you could install both an RJ-31X for customer convenience and a BW for utility tech convenience.

Also keep in mind, without proper circuit or reporting supervision it is possible for a line seizure device to be left unplugged with no one knowing – until there is a critical unreported alarm. The RJ-31X pins 2 and 7 can be used for a supervisory closed circuit; the BW does not have this. Set up periodical test signal reporting so the central knows if communications is lost.

One final note, make sure you explain and demonstrate to the customer where and how the line seizure devices function. It should be a line item in your signed final installation check list. You do have one, right?


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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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