Mammoth Fire to monitor city's non-emergency signals

The Lowell fire distributor, which has a central station, will take on fire service calls city dispatchers can't handle
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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

LOWELL, Mass.—Mammoth Fire Alarms, based here, has won a three-year contract to monitor the non-emergency fire signals that wireless fire-alarm boxes are now sending to the city's dispatch center.

Charles Beaulieu, the owner of Mammoth, which bills itself as New England’s largest fire alarm distributor, said he believes the public-private monitoring arrangement is a first in the area.

“It’s kind of unusual,” he told Security Systems News. Mammoth will start monitoring the signals at its central station, located here, in May. The city will pay Mammoth about $100,000 over the life of the contract, Beaulieu said.

The city decided last year to seek bids from private companies to monitor the signals “because dispatchers complained they did not always have time to acknowledge receiving the signals and notify property owners of them,” according to the Lowell Sun newspaper.

“The non-emergency alerts, also known as ‘non-fire’ signals, identify issues with fire alarm systems that need addressing, such as problems with water flow in a sprinkler system or a low battery,” the paper said.

A city councilor expressed worries that ignoring such signals could lead to alarm systems failing during a fire if they weren’t fixed, the paper reported.

Beaulieu said he did not know precisely how many calls the city is receiving but said “they’re just inundated.” And he said that during weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast last fall and caused power outages and other problems, such service calls can quickly go from a few hundred a day to thousands.

Mammoth—a 22-year-old company that distributes fire products from Canada-based Mircom and Hopkinton, Mass.-based Advanced Fire Systems and also has a sprinkler division—won the bid last June, Beaulieu said. It was the only bidder for the job, the Lowell Sun reported.

Beaulieu said it has been a complex task working out the rerouting of just the non-emergency calls from the city to Mammoth’s central station, but “it’s all coming to fruition now.”

The newspaper reported that the city is paying East Coast Security Services of Salem, N.H., $50,000 “to reprogram the wireless alarm system so that the non-fire signals are sent to Mammoth Fire. East Coast designed and installed the city's wireless fire-alarm system a couple years ago.”

Beaulieu predicted that for Mammoth, which has more than 100 employees, the first year of the contract “is going to be very involved to get it all up and running. There will be a lot of man-hours.” But he expects that once the monitoring service is established, it will be relatively easy to maintain.

He said Mammoth could end up getting service work from the property owners it contacts about the non-emergency alarms if those owners don’t already have a company that regularly provides them with service.

It’s also possible the arrangement also could be a model for other cities with the same problems as Lowell, Beaulieu said.