We have recently been asked by clients and AHJs our opinion on the use of IP communicators in lieu of the DACTs which have traditionally been used to communicate from a premise to a supervising station.It appears that Section 8.6.4 in NFPA 72 – 2007 allows for “Other Transmission Technologies”.  Many of the fire alarm manufacturers are now beginning to offer an IP communicator that is listed to the requirements found in 8.6.4.Our concern about an IP communicator, with no other alternative communication path, is that while they will be designed to have a battery backup for 24-hours or more, how do we ensure that the data equipment upstream, i.e. switches, routers, and gateways have same sort of emergency backup?  I have calculated a UPS (uninterruptible power source) for my home’s FiOS equipment, and it is not inexpensive.  List price for the UPS was over $10K as I recall.

So, in a long power outage, if we don’t have 24-hours or longer of E-power to the IT equipment, how do we ensure that a fire signal gets to the Central Station?  The answer is we can’t, but if correctly installed, the system will notify the end user at the site with a trouble signal.

There are some steps that we would to help minimize this issue:

  1. First you have to minimize the number of data connection points in the circuit.  If possible, I would connect directly to the router/gateway.
  2. We  would ensure that the IT components are secured in a locked room, cabinet, or enclosure to ensure that someone trying to obtain a spare data port doesn’t simply unplug the connection.
  3. We would put wording into your monitoring contract that states effectively that if the client doesn’t have emergency power for those data components, that you, the monitoring provider, are indemnified against loss of signal due to the power loss.  (You should consult your attorney for specific language.)

An alternative is to use an IP/GSM dialer which can allow the IP communicator as the primary path and use the GSM as the alternative path when IP communication is not available.  This would be more like a traditional slave communicator that would monitor alarm, supervisory & trouble conditions.  To obtain a UL Commercial Fire Listing you must use all of the required components.

Prior to implementing this solution, you will need to make sure that your central station can receive both the IP and GSM signals, and that it is affiliated with the GSM network.

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