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On back to base fire alarms

By johnboy - 8 May 2009 18

My parents recently had a fire in their home.

As near as all the investigators, insurance companies, forensics, and fire fighters, can figure out it was an electrical fault.

Apparently this can “just happen”.

It occurred during working hours, so no-one was home.

In the normal course of things the fire alarm would have beeped away and no-one would have noticed until the fire was completely out of control.

As it happened they’d been burgled a couple of times a few years ago and had a back-to-base security system installed, which included fire alarms.

Over the years since there have been a number of annoying of false alarms on the security side, but it really earned its keep here.

The fire alarm informed the base, the base immediately worked through their list of contact mobile numbers, and got my mother. She confirmed that no-one should be home. They asked if she’d like the fire brigade called, to which the answer was yes.

Before she could get from her office in Civic to the house in the Inner North the fire brigade had arrived and put the fire out (the next door neighbour had a key and was able to let them in, but they would have broken down the door if need be).

So there’s a lot of aggravation and a bit of heartache. But there’s still a house, and most of the things that were in it are OK.

Something to think about if you love your house and the things inside it.

(This message sadly not paid for by the security system industry)

What’s Your opinion?


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18 Responses to
On back to base fire alarms
gomer 4:07 am 09 May 09

Jivrashia said :

it was an electrical fault.

jb, can you please elaborate on that?
I’ve got a lot of electrical equipments (aka computers) running 24×7, so I’d like to know what to look out for.

electrical fires tend to be more likely in un-fused, water related appliances. eg washing machines, kettles etc. computers usually have heat triggered cutouts so they are usually OK.

creative_canberran 8:40 pm 08 May 09

peterh said :

pptvb said :

@ Banshee
In these modern times we use GPRS.
More reliable than GSM & generally works out at the same monitoring cost per month.
Downside is the cost of the initial hardware, but against the monthly land line connection cost, it pays for itself in 12 months.
There are 2 types of smoke alarms that are generally connected to your alarm. Those without their own battery & those with. Those with are obviously better and meet current codes. For larger houses they can be linked so that they all scream if one is triggered.
For years I have been telling customers that a reporting smoke detector is better than one that just screams until it melts!
Yes – I run a security company.
No – I’m not chasing your business
Yes – I can answer your questions
Good post JB.

pptvb,
is there a method to connect the device to a ups to enable it to run on battery only in the event of power failure? will the device talk to a next g device as well as gprs?

Most if not all reputable hard wired alarm systems will offer a UPS function. This normally comprises a 12 volt battery in the control box which will provide around 48hrs of run time. More complex UPS systems can be added to most homes which can also provide emergency lighting but they cost a bit.

The wireless dialler function of alarm systems simply sends the same condition code (ie, alarm condition, duress, power failure, tamper) that a regular land line connected system would send. This is sent to a monitoring centre.
Typically, a GSM dialler is used though I have heard of ones with 3G (WCDMA) radios. In any case, GSM coverage is abundant and so 3G isn’t essential for most cases.

P.S. I don’t work in security or fire protection, though given the my knowledge, perhaps I should.

creative_canberran 8:32 pm 08 May 09

pptvb said :

@ Banshee
In these modern times we use GPRS.
More reliable than GSM & generally works out at the same monitoring cost per month.
Downside is the cost of the initial hardware, but against the monthly land line connection cost, it pays for itself in 12 months.
There are 2 types of smoke alarms that are generally connected to your alarm. Those without their own battery & those with. Those with are obviously better and meet current codes. For larger houses they can be linked so that they all scream if one is triggered.
For years I have been telling customers that a reporting smoke detector is better than one that just screams until it melts!
Yes – I run a security company.
No – I’m not chasing your business
Yes – I can answer your questions
Good post JB.

I wouldn’t trust you with my home security given the flaws in your post.
Firstly, GPRS is a data transmission layer that runs on GSM networks. One is not more reliable than the other as you suggest as they are interdependent technologies.
Secondly, smoke alarms that will be networked and/or connected to an alarm system must can only be mains powered. The more important consideration you missed is which real type of smoke alarm, ionisation or photo-electric. Each one is better for different types of fires and it’s a good idea to have both.

peterh 5:12 pm 08 May 09

pptvb said :

@ Banshee
In these modern times we use GPRS.
More reliable than GSM & generally works out at the same monitoring cost per month.
Downside is the cost of the initial hardware, but against the monthly land line connection cost, it pays for itself in 12 months.
There are 2 types of smoke alarms that are generally connected to your alarm. Those without their own battery & those with. Those with are obviously better and meet current codes. For larger houses they can be linked so that they all scream if one is triggered.
For years I have been telling customers that a reporting smoke detector is better than one that just screams until it melts!
Yes – I run a security company.
No – I’m not chasing your business
Yes – I can answer your questions
Good post JB.

pptvb,
is there a method to connect the device to a ups to enable it to run on battery only in the event of power failure? will the device talk to a next g device as well as gprs?

screaming banshee 4:13 pm 08 May 09

@pptvb
I’ve actually got a GSM card on account which only costs me for actually usage, no expiry and no minimum monthly costs, so if I can use that it’d be great. Unfortunately it predates GPRS.

Care for off-site discussion?

screaming banshee 4:08 pm 08 May 09

Jivrashia said :

it was an electrical fault.

jb, can you please elaborate on that?
I’ve got a lot of electrical equipments (aka computers) running 24×7, so I’d like to know what to look out for.

Look out for smoke and glowing orange flames….thats a fire.

Honestly, the smell of something hot is probably your earliest indication other than the costly exercise of have every single electrical connection in the house inspected. Which would have to be done say every 3-6 months to be worthwhile anyway.

pptvb 3:02 pm 08 May 09

@ Banshee
In these modern times we use GPRS.
More reliable than GSM & generally works out at the same monitoring cost per month.
Downside is the cost of the initial hardware, but against the monthly land line connection cost, it pays for itself in 12 months.
There are 2 types of smoke alarms that are generally connected to your alarm. Those without their own battery & those with. Those with are obviously better and meet current codes. For larger houses they can be linked so that they all scream if one is triggered.
For years I have been telling customers that a reporting smoke detector is better than one that just screams until it melts!
Yes – I run a security company.
No – I’m not chasing your business
Yes – I can answer your questions
Good post JB.

Davo111 1:52 pm 08 May 09

screaming banshee said :

Great story jb, I’m actually looking into a security system with this functionality right now but as I don’t have a landline it would cost me around $70 per month for line rental and monitoring service so I’m looking into a GSM dialler whereby I progam it with a set of contact numbers and the unit will dial me directly with any alarms.

Now the question, does anyone know of a reputable company that offers GSM dialers?

I remember seeing some information on the internet on how to use an old nokia 5110 phone and rig it up so it calls your phone when your car alarm goes off. google is your friend, i don’t see why you couldn’t use this method and tweak it for a fire alarm. Then just use a vodafone prepad 365 plan – $20, lasts 365 days.

Pazza 1:25 pm 08 May 09

Vermin and possums are firebugs. A little nibble here and there and then up she goes.

Jivrashia 1:10 pm 08 May 09

it was an electrical fault.

jb, can you please elaborate on that?
I’ve got a lot of electrical equipments (aka computers) running 24×7, so I’d like to know what to look out for.

Skidbladnir 12:24 pm 08 May 09

Once my comment gets out of moderation, there is a link there.

Skidbladnir 12:23 pm 08 May 09

For those who suddenly get interested as a result of hearing stories about damage mitigation for monitored systems, there is this thread from the “Where can I get a good cup of coffee\good handyman\cheap hand shandy?” days of RiotACT…

The “Recommendations for Security System installation/monitoring?” thread.
http://the-riotact.com/?p=7735

Personally, I recommend Lindon Burgess, owner\operator of CrimTech Systems, Master License #: 17501770.
Highly knowledgeable, professional, cleans up his mess, and takes complaints seriously.
(Disclosure, I worked with him at a different secutiy company for two years, but do not get paid for recommendations or sales. Also, that is not Lindon’ face on the website.)

screaming banshee 12:13 pm 08 May 09

Great story jb, I’m actually looking into a security system with this functionality right now but as I don’t have a landline it would cost me around $70 per month for line rental and monitoring service so I’m looking into a GSM dialler whereby I progam it with a set of contact numbers and the unit will dial me directly with any alarms.

Now the question, does anyone know of a reputable company that offers GSM dialers?

Hells_Bells74 12:07 pm 08 May 09

Johnboy, I am so pleased everything worked out for your parents. Fire can be so devastating.

I would consider using that if I owned my home for sure. For time being the security of hard-wired smoke alarms in my home to protect us while we sleep will be fine. Really important to have those (fire licked me as I slept as a baby and there were no smoke alarms to alert my mum to come back to the caravan to save my almost 2yr old brother before it was too late), but we all know that.

caf 12:03 pm 08 May 09

On the other hand, if you’ve got a modern house with a softwood roof construction, the fire will go so quickly that there’s little point.

We had a house fire last year, someone was around to call the firies and they arrived within minutes, but roof cavity burnt so fast that there wasn’t much they could except stop it spreading to neighbouring properties. Place had to be completely demolished down to the slab.

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