Don’t let access control your budget

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Replacing an access control system can be very costly and time consuming, especially if you have to make infrastructure changes to accommodate the new system hardware. Nobody wants to go through that if they don’t have to. By using the following example, you can implement a new design while taking advantage of the existing wiring from the old system so all you have to do is swap out the hardware.

Step 1: Figure out what type of communication the current system is using. This step is important because you need to know what kind of wiring you have and where. Most likely, old systems will be RS-232 from the server to the main controller and then RS-485 to the remote boards. If the system isn’t too old there could be IP connections to the main controllers. The type of communication you currently have will determine what type of new hardware you need. Nowadays manufacturers are pushing to have a network connection at all doors, but unless you want to lay all new Cat 6 infrastructure, or have a large budget, that’s not a likely option; and it’s also not necessary.

Step 2: Count your hardware. Make sure you know how many doors you need to control access to. Count the number of card readers, edge devices, I/O boards, remote boards, and control boards. This not only gives you the information you need to come up with a new design, but also gets you familiar with how the current system works and what the future parameters will be.

Step 3: Compare the old hardware to the new. This is by far the most important step. Compare the number of readers the old and new control boards can handle, how many inputs are built into the boards, how many outputs, what type of relays do they have, what voltage is required to power the boards, etc. Every piece of information here is important because even though two manufacturers may have similar system architecture, the features per board are always different. Always evaluate companies that claim one-for-one replacement unless you have looked everything over yourself to make sure all the features of your existing system are covered with the new hardware. Depending upon the existing system, there are direct replacements available, but due diligence must be performed to ensure future compatibility and any possible expansion.

Step 4: Time to design. Once you have gathered all the information from the first three steps you can start to put together the layout of the new system. Manufacturers will provide spec sheets for the typical layout of their products. Using these as a guide, you can start to fit the hardware into place depending on the existing wiring you have.

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Alarm industry, fire officials at odds over proposed NFPA 72 revisions

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A vote will be held during NFPA’s annual conference next week on two motions that seek to amend language in the proposed 2016 edition of NFPA 72, which could have a significant impact on both private alarm monitoring providers and municipal fire districts that provide alarm monitoring service.
Update (06-25-15): According to Kevin Lehan, executive director of the Illinois Electronic Security Association, motion 72-8, which would change Section of the proposed 2016 edition of NFPA 72 back to the original language permitting AHJ approval of monitoring service providers, passed at the NFPA’s annual conference in Chicago on Thursday. SIW original story can be found below:

Next week, members of the National Fire Protection Association will vote on two motions at the organization’s annual conference to amend language in the proposed 2016 edition of NFPA 72, which could have a significant impact on both privately-run alarm monitoring service providers and municipal fire districts that provide alarm monitoring for businesses and residents in their community.

At issue is language that was changed in Section of the code to read: “Alarm, supervisory, and trouble signals shall be permitted to be received at a listed central supervising station.” However, the previous version of the code added the prerequisite: “When permitted by the Authority Having Jurisdiction,” which gives local governments the ability to choose who can and cannot provide fire alarm monitoring in their area.

Opponents of the change have put forth two motions as part of an effort to maintain the status quo. The first motion, 72-8, would add the clause back that gives AHJs the authority to approve or reject monitoring service providers, while the second motion, 72-9, would eliminate the proposed paragraph altogether.

“We’re hoping that these motions will be rejected and that the industry will vote negative on 72-8 and 72-9,” said Kevin Lehan, executive director of the Illinois Electronic Security Association. “What that means is that an AHJ could no longer arbitrarily reject a UL-listed central station from being able to provide remote supervising station services. The way (opponents) would prefer it to read is with AHJ approval. With the caveat of AHJ jurisdiction, the local fire marshal, community, fire district or whatever entity it is can then take the position that UL-listed central stations are not allowed to provide remote monitoring service.”

Subsequently, Lehan said that this would enable fire officials to designate the local public safety answering point to be approved as a remote supervising station and, in effect, bar private industry and create a monitoring monopoly. This has been an ongoing issue in the Chicago area for years and has resulted in the filing of several federal lawsuits.