How to Proactively Manage Communication Path Upgrades

The 2G sunset, among other shifts with alarm communications pathways, make it incumbent upon security dealers and integrators to keep their clientele informed of these critical changes.

By Robert M. Gerber

Installing security contractors have witnessed a fundamental shift over the past decade with the communication paths used for alarm systems. With the pending elimination of dedicated Alarmnet radio networks, the change from 2G to 4G cellular service and the demise of hardwired land lines giving way to voice over IP, many existing communicators are in need of an upgrade.

We’ve also seen myriad changes at the local level, driven by AHJs or new laws put in effect that impact monitoring of those systems. For the most part, end users are unaware of how these infrastructure and policy changes impact the functionality of their alarm systems. End users rely on their security partners to provide notice and guidance to keep their systems communicating properly with the monitoring center. 

All too often, system owners are surprised to find out that their recent switch to Internet phone or other changes have resulted in their alarm system no longer sending a signal through either the primary or back-up communication path, thereby putting their home or facility at risk in the event of an incident. To avoid this scenario, proactive communication is key. Consider the following suggestions to keep your customers apprised:

  • Voiceover IP or Other Customer-Initiated Change: Make it a priority to inform customers that changes to their communication infrastructure can impact their alarm system. Provide regular information on your Web site, social media, newsletters, invoices or other customer communication vehicles to keep this reality top of mind. Also provide instruction for the customer to contact you prior to making a change so they understand the impact and potential cost to keep their system operational.
  • Radio and Cellular Service Discontinuation: As technology continues to evolve, it’s critical to keep accurate records of the panel types and equipment installed at each of your customer locations. It helps identify who is impacted by any technology change and affords the opportunity to have a conversation with your customer about keeping their system functional – without any downtime – allowing efficient scheduling of your service team and inventory. Most importantly, remind customers to test their alarm system on a monthly basis, at a minimum, to ensure regardless of technology changes, that their system is functional.

Select the Right Cellular Radio or IP Communicator for Your Customer
Not only is it important to alert your customers of how the recent changes in technology could potentially affect their system, it is equally important to be versed in the communicator options available for upgrade. The selection of the proper device will provide cost effective communications for the customer’s intrusion and/or fire alarm systems. In most cases, the customer will view this upgrade as an unplanned cost, so your ability to select a cost effective solution for them will be appreciated.

Different communicators are needed depending on whether the application is intrusion or fire alarm (combo), or if they are to be used as primary or secondary communication (back-up) only. When selecting a cellular device, tactically consider the brand and model number of the control panel the radio will be connected to, and if it will be used for primary, redundant, or backup functions.

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When upgrading an intrusion communicator, identify what other services this communication path is being utilized for and select the right device to continue to support those services. For example, in addition to providing alarm signals, intrusion communicators often serve as the communication path by which integrators make remote functionality/program changes to the alarm system, such as 24-hour points or turning lights on or off.

The communication path may also be used to provide PIN management services to remotely add/delete customers’ employees from the system. These communicators may also be used to deliver a valuable tool to law enforcement when investigating incidents by providing a time line of alarm activations and transmitting them to the central station for a permanent record.

Fire communicators are most often in need of an upgrade due to the discontinuation of the Alarmnet-A network, which will be shut down by the end of 2016. This discontinuation affects the 7720-ULF fire radio that communicates via a dedicated network installed and serviced by Honeywell Alarmnet. The 7720-ULF fire alarm control panel (FACP) can have initiating devices connected directly to it in addition to being used as a back-up when connected to another FACP’s relay outputs.

When this radio is replaced, determine if it is acting as a back-up or as a standalone FACP with devices connected directly to it. If so, in addition to a new model radio, some type of FACP or dialer must be installed along with it, which must be approved by the local AHJ.

Robert M. Gerber is Director of Engineering, Centralized Operations, for STANLEY Security. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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