Potter: 'Finally, a fire alarm panel designed specifically for sprinkler monitoring'

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Friday, August 23, 2013

ST. LOUIS—Potter Electric Signal Co. has just introduced what it believes is a first: a fire alarm panel designed specifically for sprinkler monitoring.

Craig Summers, national sales manager for Potter, an independent fire manufacturer based here, told Security Systems News that the company believes “we’ve got a winner” with the PFC-6006 Sprinkler Monitoring Panel. The new solution is ideal for the many buildings that have fire sprinklers but no fire alarm systems, he said.

Summers explained, “Fire sprinkler systems usually by code are required to be monitored by a central station.” Up until now, he said, two solutions have been available to do that, but both have drawbacks.

The most common solution is to use only a DACT [digital alarm communication transmitter], he said. A DACT is “ basically a dual line dialer that goes to a central station,” he said. But DACTs have a number of limitations, Summers said.

One is that most are 12-volt, “so they don't run standard 24-volt fire alarm signaling appliances,” he said.

Also, he said, they typically have “burglar-alarm style keypads that require a code sequence” to silence or reset the system, instead of the easy-to-use silence and reset buttons fire panels have. Also, Summers said, “most of the DACTS out there either don’t allow you to connect two-wire smoke detectors to it or they’re very limited in their ability to connect two-wire smoke detectors to it.”

An alternative to just a DACT, Summers said, is “a regular full-blown fire panel with the DACT already built into it. It’s a little better solution because it’s a little more industry standard, with silence and reset buttons … but it’s really expensive.”

That’s where the new PFC-6006, which can act as a small fire alarm panel too, comes in, he said. “It provides full fire alarm features at a price point down in the range of a DACT,” Summers said.

He said that many of the fire dealers that Potter works with don’t install sprinkler systems themselves but do install the devices that monitor them. “So, for those dealers, we’re a perfect fit because nobody really makes a panel like this,” Summers said. “The dealer interest has just been tremendous.”

Production on the panel began this month and shipping should follow in a couple of weeks, Summers said. “We’ve already got several hundred pieces ordered with more coming in every day,” he said.

He said there are a number of buildings that have sprinklers but no fire alarms. “We see it a lot in strip malls, that’s one of the more predominant areas, and in older buildings that may have been grandfathered in without fire alarms,” he said.

The six-zone sprinkler monitoring panel comes with “a big feature that everybody loves,” Summers said. He said that “it comes with a dual-line dialer, DACT, built into the panel and then also has the ability to be monitored via IP… And the two technologies, both the DACT dialer and the IP-type communicator can co-exist so they can back each other up or either one can be primary. … Installers can choose how they want to do it.”

That becomes very important as more jurisdictions adopt the 2013 version of NFPA 72, he said. The new version of the code requires backing up phone lines that send signals to a central station with an alternate technology, and this new panel can communicate over IP.

“This product, out of the box, takes care of that,” Summers said. With other systems, he said, “you’d have to add another module to the system at higher expense to be able to do that.”

Also, he said, because of that IP connectivity, the panel also has email capabilities.

“Emails can be sent to the panel for status updates or to download configuration files. Email can also drive service and revenue with reminders that an inspection or test is due,” the company said in a news release.