Internet Monitoring Protects Residents, Pleases Owners
Moss Landing is one of those well-kept secret “Southern Living” areas most dream about retiring to some day. Located on the Pamlico River, this beautiful 8-acre development offers waterfront luxury along North Carolina’s Inner Banks with proximity to the Intracoastal Waterway. The site features luxury villas and town homes with upscale amenities and a deep-water marina in the historic, waterfront town of Washington, North Carolina.
Villas and “Townes” are 1,526 to 3,210 square feet homes with open architectural floor plans featuring high ceilings, lavish master suites and gourmet kitchens. All boast spectacular riverfront views. The Townes-style buildings are three stories with parking underneath and elevator service to each level. Phase I of Moss Landing construction is now complete, encompassing five buildings that are already occupied.
Along with the many amenities found in this beautiful development, residents desire a sense of safety for peace of mind. With most on fixed incomes, monthly costs of maintenance and other services must be kept to a minimum. Fire protection is a major consideration for home owners especially in a condominium setting where common walls are shared. To satisfy customer requirements, the developers chose non-proprietary commercial systems that are readily available and cost-effective, with a proven track record of positive results.
In Phase I of the development, commercial fire alarm panels manufactured by Fire-Lite Alarms were used to protect two of the buildings. Like most fire alarm systems, each panel required two phone lines for communications with a central station. Each phone line cost $60 per month for a yearly total of $1,440 per panel for both lines. In addition, a pump station located in each building required one dedicated phone line, another $60 monthly cost, to monitor station failure switches.
To complete the fire alarm installations throughout the remaining three buildings of Phase I and take over system monitoring, developers called on local fire alarm and security dealer, S.C.I. (Solar Creations, Inc.) Technologies of Winterville, N.C. The Developers had originally hired S.C.I. Technologies to install the camera systems and house audio in each residential unit.
Once the five fire alarm panels and additional pump station monitors were up and running, total phone line charges escalated to $900 per month. This cost would eventually pass to the condominium owners as part of their monthly maintenance fees.
High-Tech Cost Reductions
Shortly after completion of Phase I, one of the developers mentioned the exorbitant telephone charges to S.C.I. Technologies’ President, Mike Roberson. Determined to help his customer reduce costs, Roberson researched options and found an Internet communicator, UL (Underwriters Laboratories)-approved for both primary and secondary communications with Fire-Lite Alarms control panels.
The FireWatch™ IP Communicator is listed to ANSI/UL-864 Ninth Edition standards and meets the latest 2010 NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, section 26.6 requirements titled Communications Methods for Supervising Station Alarm Systems. Designed by Fire-Lite to connect to its panels’ existing phone line ports, the IP Communicator was a surprisingly easy change for Roberson’s team to make.
“After reviewing the specifications, I was convinced the installation of this little device would translate into big cost savings for our customer,” says Roberson. “Costs aside, the added reliability IP monitoring provides is a great bonus.”
While standard fire alarm phone dialer systems typically run one supervisory test in a 24-hour period, the FireWatch IP Communicator is polled over the Internet every 90 seconds. Central stations need only a VisorALARM-Plus receiver, which supports up to three destination IP receiver addresses, allowing for additional equipment redundancies and a multitude of configuration options. This unique flexibility enables the configuration of secondary IP receivers for backup or even clusters of two or more receivers for off-site disaster recovery purposes.
The addition of a 2UD daughter board to the FireWatch IP Communicator gave S.C.I. technicians the option of accessing the panel remotely via the Internet using standard control panel upload/download software readily available from www.firelite.com. Panel history can be downloaded through the panel’s IP connection to determine if maintenance is needed, such as cleaning or replacement of smoke detectors.
Roberson’s team mounted one IP Communicator in a Fire-Lite IP enclosure beside each fire alarm control panel. The devices are powered by the panel’s auxiliary 24-volt power terminals. To simulate two standard, analog telephone lines, the IP device supplies dial tone and 48 Volts DC to both telephone ports.
An auxiliary input for use in monitoring other devices comes standard on the FireWatch IP Communicator device. At Moss Landing, the input was used to monitor pump stations for trouble conditions via the Internet, helping S.C.I. eliminate more costly phone lines.
With this new technology in-hand, Roberson’s team had to determine how to get Internet connectivity to each panel. In most applications, such as retail, office, healthcare and even school facilities, a standard IP line is usually present and capable of being shared with the fire alarm. In this case, with construction already complete, S.C.I. went wireless, utilizing wireless routers and endpoints.
Peace of Mind
As an added benefit to living at Moss Landing, developers have asked S.C.I. to create a VLAN network to allow residents Internet access. Since the FireWatch IP Communicator uses less than 72 bytes for a polling message or alarm event, there is plenty of bandwidth left for other applications.
With the improvements made by S.C.I., Moss Landing residents can enjoy their dream homes and rest easy under the protection of the latest IP fire alarm technology. All-in-all, Roberson succeeded in saving the community more than $10,000 in, what are now, unnecessary phone line charges.
Do the Math
$60/month per phone line x 2 phone lines per alarm panel x 5 panels = $600/month
$60/month per phone line x 1 phone line per pump station x 5 pump stations = $300/month
$600/month + $300/month x 12 months = $10,800/Year Savings
IP Communications Inner-Workings
During an alarm or trouble event, the fire alarm control panel senses a dial tone from the IP Communicator and dials the pre-programmed phone number as it would normally. The device then captures the standard Contact-ID event data, secures it using AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) 512-bit encryption and parses it into Ethernet packets. The Ethernet packets are forwarded over the IP network to the receiver at the remote central station.
The receiver accepts the information, decrypts the contact-ID data and presents the account number and alarm event data to the automation software. An operator acknowledges the alarm or trouble event. Finally, the receiver provides the “kiss-off” signal to the panel.
The VisorALARM-Plus IP receiver provides 90-second polling support for up to 3,000 remote FireWatch IP Communicators. Traditional telephone dialer systems test the line only once every 24 hours. With the IP Communicator, transmission of an alarm or trouble event to the receiver, followed by a response to the panel, takes less than 10 seconds. Wireless router delay is minimal and has no affect on signal latency.
To meet ANSI/UL-864 Ninth Edition requirements for fire alarm monitoring, a central station must possess two IP receivers – one as primary and a second as backup. Fire-Lite’s IP Communicator can be programmed for up to three IP addresses. Therefore, a local site with a third receiver could be set up on-site for monitoring of systems by a facilities manager or security guard. Furthermore, all registered IP Communicator account information and receiver configuration is stored on a smart card in the receiver. If a receiver fails, a new receiver can be installed and the system restored via the smart card information within 60 seconds.