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SWITCHING CUTS ALARM LINK

On November 24, 2003, the FCC enacted new rules that allow individuals to keep their phone number after switching local carriers. Included in this ruling is the ability to switch home phone numbers from "land lines" to cellular or wireless service. In just the first couple of days after the new ruling became effective the FCC said as many as 6 million customers switched to wireless.

Over ninety nine percent of home security systems are monitored by their home telephone line. When this service gets interrupted, remote monitoring is impossible. Some homeowners are finding this out the hard way. Most central monitoring stations perform weekly communications tests with systems equipped with the capability, and properly configured, to reply. When a test fails, monitoring contracts usually describe procedures for notifying the home owner and the servicing contractor that a problem exists. The monitoring contract will remove any liability for failure to notify the appropriate authorities of an emergency if the home owner fails to maintain connectivity.

There are solutions for those who want to disconnect their traditional telephone service in favor of wireless. Wireless devices are available for many alarm systems which can provide connectivity to the central station for monitoring. Owners of Alarm systems that are monitored should contact their servicing contractor prior to making arrangements to disconnect or modify existing telephone service. This includes home owners who are adding DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) service to their phone service for internet connectivity. DSL Filters must be installed downstream of the RJ-31X jack which seizes the line for an outbound alarm signal in the event of an emergency. Make sure to have your alarm system tested by a qualified technician whenever you make any changes to your telephone service.

L.A. ENFORCES LIMITED VERIFIED RESPONSE

Police in Los Angeles have implemented a new policy requiring that burglar alarms be verified before police respond if the home or business has already had at least two false alarms in a year. The plan by Mayor James Hahn also lets the city require customers buy $31 alarm permits and charge for responding to false alarms, starting at $95. The changes approved by the police commission in July was less drastic than a plan advanced a year ago, which would have ended police response to all burglar alarms not verified by surveillance camera or witnesses. That policy, proposed by olice Chief William Bratton, drew intense debate and was never implemented.

PANASONIC NETWORK CAMERA LINE EXPANDED

The Panasonic camera line now includes a wide variety, ranging from entry level through a high-end unit with 21x optical zoom, nearly full 350 pan and 220 tilt at 30 frames per second with dual analog and IP video.  There are wireless models, and outdoor models to choose from, as well as the Gateway Router which will automatically configure up to 16 cameras and create a portal page.  The latest addition to the line is the recording software.

This recording software allows Pan/Tilt/Zoom control of the cameras (where available). The number of network cameras viewable is only limited by the computer the software is run on.  Features include:

Motion Detection Recording with timer control and Date/Time Search
Automatic Backup and Video/Picture export
Store on a local or remote computer
Selectable recording rate


CHALLENGE OF NIGHTCLUB FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS
NFPA Journal®, November/December 2003
By Wayne D. Moore

As last February's fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, clearly demonstrated, one key to successfully notifying an audience in an assembly occupancy is grabbing their attention and letting them know immediately that what they may think is part of the entertainment is really an emergency. This is traditionally the job of the fire alarm system. However, designers and installers of fire alarm systems for nightclubs face some unique challenges.

Nightclubs differ from other assembly occupancies, such as auditoriums or exhibit halls, because they can contain in a single space the maximum number of people allowed. In addition, the entertainment often produces high noise levels, and the patrons often consume enough alcohol to impair their judgment and reaction times.

The Life Safety Code (NFPA 101), requires assembly occupancies with occupant loads of more than 300, and ALL theaters that have more than one viewing room, to have a fire alarm system that complies with NFPA 72 (National Fire Alarm Code). It also requires a manual fire alarm box to initiate the alarm signal, with two exceptions:

The first exception permits the designer to substitute an automatic detection system that provides coverage throughout the building. The second allows the designer to substitute a water-flow-alarm-initiating device on an automatic fire sprinkler system that provides protection throughout the building.

The fire alarm system must transmit the alarm signal to a location in the building where someone is in constant attendance while occupants are present. When that person receives a fire alarm signal, he or she must notify the occupants by live or prerecorded voice announcements.

Should the authority having jurisdiction determine that a constantly attended location is impractical, the assembly occupancy must install a fire alarm system that is initiated by manual fire alarm boxes or other approved means, and it must automatically provide prerecorded evacuation instructions.

Anyone designing a fire alarm system for a nightclub must first make sure that the patrons can see and hear the notification appliances. If the system uses voice communication, the designer must ensure that the automatic or manual voice messages are intelligible. Because the sound level in occupancies such as nightclubs may be as high as 110 dBA, Section A.7.4.2.1 of NFPA 72's Annex states that a system that produces an alarm "at least 15 dB above the average ambient sound level or 5 dB above the maximum sound level" might exceed the maximum sound level of 115 dBA.

Another option, according to NFPA 72, is to "reduce or eliminate the background noise." Some entertainment venues have road show connection panels to which performers can connect their light and sound systems. These panels can be controlled by the fire alarm system. In "less formal applications," such as nightclubs, the fire alarm system can be used to control designated power circuits.

Section 7.4.2.5 of NFPA 72 allows a fire alarm system arrangement to stop or reduce ambient noise if the authority having jurisdiction approves, as long as the system produces "a sound level at least 15 dB above the reduced average ambient sound level or 5 dB above the maximum sound level?" after the ambient noise level has been reduced, whichever is greater." The sound level should be measured 5 feet (1.5 meters) above the floor in the "occupiable area."

Section 7.4.2.2 also allows the authority having jurisdiction or other governing codes or standards to reduce or eliminate the requirements for audible signaling when the fire alarm system provides visible signaling in accordance with Section 7.5 of the code. However, using visible notification appliances in a nightclub may present problems, as patrons might think the fire alarm strobes are merely part of the entertainer's visual effects.

After all, the occupants can only take action if they know that an emergency exists.

Wayne D. Moore is chair of the National Fire Alarm Code Technical Correlating Committee.

COAST GUARD STILL RECEIVING PORT SECURITY PLANS
By Sherie Winston
ENR

Despite a Dec. 31 deadline for port facilities to submit detailed security plans to the Coast Guard, the majority of submissions are expected over the next few weeks.

About one-third of the estimated 5,000 facilities plans required under the federal Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2003 had arrived at Coast Guard headquarters by Jan. 5, says a spokeswoman. But, she explained, the law only requires that the plans be postmarked by Dec. 31. Many had been submitted to local Coast Guard offices which will forward the plans to a central location, the spokeswoman said. Each facility at a port is required to submit a separate plan, although some facilities are small enough to file one plan, the spokeswoman said. Once received, each security plan must be approved. Those not meeting international requirements will be returned for revisions, she says.

Facilities that miss the deadline are subject to a civil penalty of up to $25,000 per violation. Failure to submit a plan is a violation. "We have the authority to begin issuing citations now," she said, adding that officials will look at each "individual situation on a case by case basis."

The more important deadline is the July 1 implementation date when the security plans have to be in place. After that date, facilities that are not in compliance could be shut. There will be no extensions for facilities that had to make adjustments to their original submission.

The spokeswoman said it is hard to generalize what type of security upgrades will be made. Many ports have already made changes, including construction of blast protection barriers. "We want consistency across the nation," she said.

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