Cellular and Booster Panels
The codes referenced in this talk are published by The National Fire Protection Association or NFPA, specifically, Chapter 26 of the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, known as NFPA72, which is widely used by municipal jurisdictions as the standard for the design and performance of fire alarm systems.
Most buildings where the fire alarm system is not located in a facility manned 24/7 by response-trained personnel are required to be equipped to communicate fire alarm system events and status to a “remote supervising station,” commonly known as Central Station, or just “The Monitoring Company.” Prior to the 2010 edition of NFPA72, two separate means of signal transmission are required, to ensure a reliable path for communication. Traditionally, this requirement was satisfied by two analog telephone lines, also known as copper, POTS or landlines, but the second “backup” path could be served by a connection using alternate technology such as cellular. In the 2010 edition, cellular as the Single Communication Path was permitted with “Link Supervision” so that a failure of the path would be communicated to the supervising station within 5 minutes. This supervision requirement was achieved by having the communicator send a test signal to a supervising station every two minutes. The supervising station would notify the designated authority within 5 minutes if the scheduled test signal was not received. In the 2013 edition of NFPA72, with the increasingly reliable digital technology used in cellular communication, the required response time was increased from 5 to 60 minutes, accomplished by a 15-minute test signal.
What all this means to you, as the person responsible for maintaining the fire alarm system in your facility, is that your monthly cost for leasing and maintaining two dedicated landlines for monitoring can probably be significantly reduced by switching to cellular as “Sole-path.” Cellular communicators can replace phone lines simply as a “drop-in” installation, without either the fire alarm panel or monitoring company seeing any change. At Fireguard we use cellular communicators that can employ “dial capture” to supersede the existing account information programmed into the fire alarm dialer for an easy switch to Fireguard Central Station.
It’s important to know that the recommendations of specific editions of NFPA72 do not become enforced code until a jurisdiction adopts it. You should always consult your local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) before assuming such.