Pull For Fire
Information is essential in selecting the appropriate power supplies
- By Michael Carter
- May 21, 2008
In recent years, the wide acceptance
of the Internet, cell phones, instant
messaging, PDAs, online video and
wireless networks has created an expectation
that real-time information is available
instantaneously, anywhere, on
demand. Growing expectations are now
being applied to all types of facility-based
applications, but many fire alarm
systems have lagged severely behind
other applications like CCTV and access
The end users, installing and servicing
dealers, monitoring personnel, first
responders and manufacturers want and
deserve more real-time information about
the fire alarm system installations they
count on to protect the people they serve.
When an alarm goes off at 3 a.m. in a
fully occupied hotel, what happens?
Typically, a call is placed to the on-call
service technician, who has to jump out
of bed to drive to the hotel and try to
resolve the problem. This service takes
hours to complete.
What if you had a system that allows
you to log on from an Internet connection
with a common Web browser, look at the
system, review its status and make the
proper decisions to resolve the problem
without even going to the location? Fire
alarm system users are demanding more
real-time information about installed systems
and the threats to facilities. The only
way—as an industry—to satisfy them is
to exploit the power of a centralized database
that will be able to safely store and
serve needed information to the appropriate
users on demand. A centralized database
is a complex unit on which data is
stored. Users can connect to this database
to create, store and reuse data from the
database, which can reside anywhere.
Centralization is the key to unlocking
the potential of both convenience and
security in a fire alarm system. This technology
contains all of the system’s information,
programming, service history
and signal logs. Rather than locking this
information away at the panel location,
the information is housed on a secure
server that can deliver the comprehensive
data over the Web via an Internet connection—
any time, any place.
A reliable Web-based suite of software
tools with real-time information called
eSP has been developed. eSP meets the
needs of both the installing dealer and the
customer, and is available through an
Internet connection. Sometimes referred
to as “the future of detection,” in reality
it’s not the future, but rather the potential
of available technology.
Terry Lawn of Affordable Fire
Solutions of Linwood, N.J., said the convenience
of the technology impresses
customers more than discussing the merits
of the centralized database that drives
“Our customers love eSP. It contains
all the information from the project conception
though the entire lifecycle of the
system,” Lawn said. “We use the system
to build our quotes, program our panels,
schedule inspections and manage our
“What makes it special is we also can
allow customers to log onto the system
and review their history or look at the last
inspection over the Internet. This makes them feel more secure about their system
and the service we provide.”
Prior to Internet access and the use of
a centralized database application, panel
information and data were stored within
individual systems at remote locations;
common data had to be replicated and
could not be shared. With Internet access
commonplace, and the development of
eSP as a central database, making information
available to multiple users in a
cost-effective, secure manner is not just a
matter of convenience and security; it’s
an evolutionary step for the industry.
Life safety and engineered fire alarm systems
are taking advantage of technology
because it is a natural step for the industry.
The dealers and end users, such as the
hotel industry, are some of the benefactors.
For his part, Nate Grimes, of S.A.
Comunale in Barberton, Ohio, said the
strength of a centralized database lies in the
ability to pre-program, clone and securely
store detailed system information.
“My customers like that the panel is
programmed via the Internet,” said
Grimes, whose business consistently
earns installations in Pennsylvania and
Through pre-programming and remote
access to the centralized database with an
Internet connection, a technician can program
any panel system anywhere in the
world, at any time of the day. Once the
remote programming is complete, using
the centralized database, it is stored forever
on a secure server so there are no
more lost programs. Gone are the days
when a technician had to spend hours
waiting at a construction site. Now, when
a technician arrives at the job site, the
program is downloaded to the panel in
minutes and the job is finished.
Grimes said that hospitality chains
also like the consistency of system programming,
as well as the convenience.
“Concord Hospitality, which owns
and operates hotels all across the United
States, likes the consistency of programming
because the job isn’t being held up
because someone isn’t on the job site the
day of installation,” Grimes said. “Now,
there are no excuses for the programming
not being done on time with consistent
In fact, the day the panel goes live,
Concord downloads the program, which
is stored indefinitely in case of emergency.
“If something happens to the panel,
such as a lightning strike, we don’t have
to go out and reprogram—which takes
hours,” Grimes said. “We just do a new
For end users, the benefit of a centralized
database is that they have access to
the information they need—and information can be segregated, based upon
management need-to-know status. There
are the three levels of access: overall
access, local manager’s access and access
at the property.
With information at managers’ fingertips,
they can make an informed decision
about the systems; they need only an
Internet connection and a login to their
personalized reporting page.
Viking Electronic Services uses a centralized
database to present system information
that allows management to make
critical decisions any time, from anywhere.
When there is a signal in a hotel,
the front desk clerk doesn’t have to make
a decision. A special instruction can be
set up in the database for that system to
contact the hotel manager. That manager
can log on to the system from anywhere
and see the panel.
That means no more midnight fire
drills for hotel guests. The manager can
make the decision as to what action to
take. With this technology, a manager can
be 20 miles away and make an informed
decision to dispatch the fire department
and activate the hotel fire alarm. The
importance to a hotel, of course, is that
guests are not disturbed.
“Customers really like the ability to see
the panel’s signal history remotely,” Lawn
said. “Recently, when one of our customers
was having problems, I was able to
log on to eSP, look at the signal history and
determine the exact nature of the problem.
I did this online without moving one truck.
When we ran the service call, we had
exactly what we needed to fix the problem—
no second trip—and a happy customer.
From a service standpoint, it looks
like we are there 24/7.”
By using the Internet and the centralized
database, dealers have the ability to support
customers like never before. One
dealer in Florida noted that one of his
hotels was having a problem because a
smoke detector was tripped in the middle
of the night. He was able to go online,
test the device and instruct the customer
to reset the system. They shut off the
bells so everyone could go back to sleep
at 3 a.m.
An Internet-accessible fire alarm system
with centralized database technology
also offers programming advantages.
Losing a system’s programming is a thing
of the past. All of the system’s programming
can remain on a secure server with
automatic backup. System programming
can be viewed and reviewed by multiple
authorized users who have Internet access
from anywhere in the world. No more
loading software onto a laptop that has to
be maintained and upgraded—and may
run the risk of being stolen.
The Internet and a centralized database
would allow users to view signal
reports with the click of a mouse. From
anywhere, a manager can view the activity
of a system and what appliances are
active. When an alarm sounds, an end
user doesn’t have to run to the basement
or a closet to see what is happening.
Simply bring up the Web browser and
check the display; all of the functionality
of the fire alarm system is on the desktop.
The system becomes a comprehensive
inspection template; with the push of a
button, a complete report can be produced
with NFPA standardizations. A
visiting fire marshal’s test result instantly
can be produced.
Given the convergence of technologies
that already have made life easier
and secure through enhanced communications
and productivity, it is only natural
that Internet access and use of a
comprehensive centralized database
enhance the lives of hotel owners, managers,
fire alarm system installers and