Alarm System Upgrades and Enhancements

Our objective was to provide the client with a safety and security system that would alert him of a variety of conditions without using any audible signals. These conditions included burglary and fire alarms, notification of visitors at the front door...

The outputs were the biggest challenge. First, we supplied a digital cellular backup transmitter to supplement the dial-up connection to the central station. AMPS SUNSET is the imminent shutdown of the national analog cellular networks. This law has forced the alarm industry into using other technologies, and we decided on digital cellular.

The client was also concerned about being warned about hurricanes and tornadoes, so we added a COMPU-TTY compatible weather radio to the system which would send a signal if the National Weather Service sent out an alert over its special emergency channel.

The COMPU TTY equipment had a couple of complicated output devices. We decided to use the system anyway, because it provided features we could not readily duplicate otherwise.

The COMPU-TTY offered a wireless interior three-channel strobe unit, and a wireless “bed shaker” which is an electromechanical device which rattles the individual’s pillow in the event of an alarm. We were skeptical about what to expect from the equipment, but once we overcame the interfacing issues, and some RF range coverage problems owing to the wire lath walls and sheer size of the premises, we appreciated what these items added to the system.

SECO-LARM Enforcer
But we still had a large order to fill -- providing annunciation to the owner wherever he happened to be in or around the premises.
Several years ago I was asked to supply a specialty pager for a large warehouse where the guard would need to go on rounds, but still needed to stay in touch with the premises alarm system, whose keypad was located at his guard station.

At that time, I researched and found a proprietary pager made by SECO-LARM that filled the bill. This time around, I selected the six zone version of the SECO-LARM Enforcer.

My six zones were to be
1. Fire
2. Burglary
3. Carbon Monoxide
4. Weather radio
5. Door Bell
6. Phone ringing

Besides the fact that the pager produced a numeric zone display, it also had the essential feature of vibrating when it received a signal.
The SECO-LARM uses a portion of the RF spectrum shared by other services including Citizen’s Band. Although you might think this might have a negative impact on the pager’s performance, but the opposite was the case. For one thing, the SECO-LARM Enforcer transmitter is designed so that when it is triggered, it sends out five rounds of transmissions to the pager to be sure the signal gets through. It works.

Next, because to nature of RF is such that range can be limited by certain architectural factors or excessively large area that must be covered, a booster antenna is recommended by SECO-LARM, and we got a plain vanilla CB vehicle antenna and SWR meter at Radio Shack, and got all the range we needed even with our antenna mounted in a kitchen closet.

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Finally, we needed to provide visual annunciation while our client was outside his house. I needed strobe lights, and found the perfect solution in a mini strobe light from Tane Alarm. These small units feature an LED as a light source instead of the photoflash tubes commonly used in cameras of fire alarms.

These units are low current waterproof and have an extended life time. They come in red, clear, blue and red. I set up two clusters of four strobes; one for the front of the house, another for the back.
Red= Fire
Yellow= CO or Weather Alert
Clear= Door bell or phone ringing.
(Remember, the homeowner has the pager which identifies the exact signal)

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Since this project, I’ve offered these little flasher to clients to enhance safety on vehicle gates, and my customers love them. A real bang for the buck, as we say.
Getting all these things to operate when they were supposed to was a little more involved than a typical alarm system, because many of our signals were non-alarm, and we didn’t want the client to have to reset the alarm panel, or the central station to be notified if a guest was standing out front on a mat. Readers who are interested in more details of our design can contact us at Locksmith Ledger with their questions, and we’ll share our secrets.

We used a few slave relays and employed some creative zone grouping to accomplish exactly what we set out to do. We also had our go around with the electrician who couldn’t seem to provide us with a dial tone, and carpenters who found it necessary to cut wires and knock off sensors. But ultimately, the client was happy and we were proud to be able to meet his special needs.

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