FDNY approves network and cell communications for primary fire signaling

DMP products believed to be first to gain the approval, which is expected to result in a speedy, cost-saving choice for end users
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NEW YORK—For the first time, the City of New York Fire Department has approved the use of cellular and network communicators for primary fire alarm signaling to central stations—and Digital Monitoring Products is said to be the first manufacturer to win the approval for its network and cellular products.

“As far as we know, we’re the first to gain the approval,” Terry Shelton, director of product quality assurance for the Springfield, Mo.-based independent manufacturer, told Security Systems News.

Mark Hillenburg, DMP executive director of marketing, said the news, which the company announced this month, represents a big change for the city. “Previously, they have allowed network communication for backup, so really the significant component here is that this is network and cellular now approved for primary,” Hillenburg told SSN.

DMP said the cost of a network and cellular connection may save end users from $60 to $100 per month because two POTS lines are no longer required for fire alarms.

Richard Kleinman, president of AFA Protective Systems, a DMP dealer, called the FDNY decision “a real win” and said it will be a selling point. AFA, a super-regional based in Syosset, N.Y., with offices up and down the East Coast, is “the largest central station fire alarm company in New York City,” Kleinman said.

“We can let the customer know that the New York City Fire Department has approved new methods for transmitting alarms that will benefit the building owners, by not only increasing signal speed but by also reducing cost,” said Kleinman, who also is a member of the National Fire Protection Association’s technical committee on fire signaling systems.

He noted that POTS lines are being phased out, so the decision “is a big step forward. It’s good for the end user and it’s good for fire transmission. A signal on IP gets there instantaneously, so [firefighters] pick up 15 to 20 seconds getting to an alarm because you’re not dialing out.”

Shelton estimated the time savings could even exceed 30 seconds in some cases. “Networked communication and cellular communication is extremely fast in comparison to dialing,” he said.

DMP said it won the approval for products it manufactures, including the ANSI/UL864-listed DMP XR100 and XR500 Series control panels with network and 463G cellular alarm communicators. DMP said its cellular transmitters can be programmed to use a variety of cellular networks including AT&T and T-Mobile and soon Verizon.

According to Shelton and Hillenburg, New York is not the first city to endorse network and cellular communication for primary fire signaling. “New York City, as far as we can tell, is one of the last [to grant approval],” Shelton said.

FDNY has been researching the issue for years, Hillenburg said. The department has a reputation for moving cautiously in approving any changes to city fire requirements because of the city’s dense population and wide variety of old and new buildings.

Now that the decision has been made, Hillenburg said, “it is significant because they are obviously a very large municipality and other AHJ’s do watch them to see what they are doing.”

According to the company’s Aug. 16 news release, “The breakthrough is made possible through extensive testing completed by the FDNY in cooperation with DMP to demonstrate the reliability of the technology.” The release said that “by programming the communicators to send check-in messages every five minutes, the end-to-end FACP to [the] central station receiver meets the already established NFPA 72 code for fire alarm signaling.”

Also, the company said, “IP and cellular networks are robust, less likely to fail during inclement weather conditions, and there is little possibility of outside interference stopping the alarm and supervisory signals from reaching the central station.”

Kleinman cautioned that a cell signal may not work at every building in Manhattan, which is “pretty well blanketed,” but said there should be little problem in other boroughs. “You have to make sure that the cell signal will work at each location, but, for the most part, it’s a real win,” he said.

DMP said that “the built-in network and 463 Series cellular unit fits neatly into the DMP XR100/XR500 enclosures, requiring no additional power supply or equipment cabinets. Programming is accomplished through the keypad on the alarm control, and the SIM card is included with the transmitter. Installing dealers use SecureCom wireless cellular service from DMP, providing a one-stop cellular connection process. Cellular signal strength can be viewed from the keypad of the control panel.”

The company added: “While UL and the FDNY have approved the DMP network and 463G cellular communicator for alarm transmission, alternate and redundant communication paths can also be easily provided for up to eight distinct primary/backup alarm transmission paths. These transmitters from DMP allow fire alarm installation companies to provide not only a dramatic monthly cost savings for their end users, but also [simplify] fire alarm system installation.”