Customers like non-proprietary systems, Interactive says

Clients want the option of choosing from a variety of service providers
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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—More and more customers want non-proprietary fire systems in order to have more choice when it comes to maintenance and service, according to Mike White, fire alarm account manager for Interactive Systems, a security and fire company based here.

“I’ve been seeing that all around the state,” he said told Security Systems News. “All the school systems seem to be requesting non-proprietary now.”

The demand is coming from other verticals as well, and on the security side as well as fire, White said. “It applies to all sorts of businesses. We’re seeing it not only in fire alarm, but in access control, camera systems and things like that,” he said.

Interactive Systems is a Fire-Lite Alarms by Honeywell distributor. White said Fire-Lite’s non-proprietary nature helped Interactive Systems win a $200,000 job last summer to replace the fire alarm systems for 12 schools in the Cheatham County School District in Ashland, Tenn.

“We wanted something that no matter who, what, when or where, they could work on the system at the drop of a hat. That was the biggest selling point with the new systems,” Joey Dority, the school district’s maintenance director, said in a prepared statement.

The district had an “assortment of older conventional and addressable fire alarm systems” for which it was hard to find replacement parts, a news release said.

White told SSN that Interactive Systems—a 45-employee company that completed the Cheatham schools job in just two months—had been a service provider for the school system for about three years. But because the schools had proprietary systems “we could only service wiring problems, and tell them what was wrong,” White told SSN. “If it came down to needing an addressable part or needing the panel program changed, we’d have to tell the school system they would have to call their proprietary manufacturer or the service rep for that system.”

Also, he said, “the biggest thing is most of these customers, whether it be a school system, an office building, a nursing home or whatever the business is, they’re really getting fed up with only having one person to turn to, so they’re at that person’s mercy.”

“In a non-proprietary system, if their normal service company tells them, ‘We can’t get to it for 10 days,’ just about any licensed company they call in the phone book can take care of the system,” White added.

The Fire-Lite equipment has retrofit capabilities that saved the district money and allowed it to afford a more extensive fire alarm renovation, according to White.White said he was able to retrofit without having to replace cable, a move he said saved the district $120,000 to $150,000.

“Utilizing a mix of addressable fire alarm control panels from Fire-Lite, Interactive Systems was able to scale the systems to the size and needs of each facility. Altogether, nine … [panels] were installed,” the release said.

Also, it said, “a mix of pull stations, smoke detectors and heat detectors were utilized, with 75 of these initiating devices needed for each elementary school and nearly 200 for the middle and high school facilities. The 12 schools are also covered by a full scope of new notification appliances, including strobes, horn/strobes and speaker/strobes.”

With a standardized system, White predicted that maintenance will be easier. “Now, instead of having to keep up with a ring of keys or special wrenches … their maintenance personnel only have to carry one key. No matter what school they go to, that key fits every pull station, every cabinet, every panel.”

Interactive Systems was founded in 2000 and serves all of Tennessee, White said. Last summer, the company acquired Ashland City Fire and Safety, Patriot Systems and Audio/Video Design Consultants. It also expanded its headquarters, updating its 2,000-square-foot showroom and adding a state-of-the-art conference room, according to the company’s website.