Month: December 2016

Why you need to upgrade that DVR

If your CCTV system uses a DVR, it may be time to consider upgrading to a Network Video Recorder (NVR). This newer technology is now available in a price range that makes better video surveillance accessible. Here we will review the changing technology that brought us to where we are in current CCTV systems, and the advantages we now have with this technology.

Original Analog Technology

Analog was the original technology for CCTV systems and it served a purpose, recording activity on the property for future access and review. It did not, however, broadcast live information which is how we now use CCTV for monitoring purposes. Analog picture quality was low and often unusable for identifying individuals; it also relied on staff changing the tapes regularly.

The Digital Difference

Digital systems revolutionized the way we use CCTV for security. A live broadcast is now available for monitoring from either an onsite or remote location. The footage is transferred to a computer or server for storage. Digital technology allows CCTV to be used for live security monitoring.

Digital provides faster retrieval, as you can rapidly search events by time, date, location and camera. You have options for archiving important information with your digital system, including HDD, CD-R, or DVD. You can also save space by setting your system to record only when motion or other pre-defined events are detected.

All digital surveillance technology provides higher resolution than analog. Within digital, there is also a difference in resolution. DVR’s provide a digital resolution of 1080, which we are all familiar with from our TVs. While this is an improvement from the pixilated analog video previously used, NVR-based systems have megapixel cameras which provide much clearer images which can show detail and have the ability to zoom in on facial details.

Technology End of Life

Low-definition analog systems are reaching the end of their lifespan due to competitively priced, better quality digital systems. It’s not just the camera quality either, digital systems provide better system back-up options and less maintenance.

Digital CCTV also have a longer lifespan as most systems have upgradeable software. However, DVR is being phased out for IP based systems. NVR systems have much higher resolution cameras and are now competitively priced with older cameras.

Don’t keep your security system in the past. Secure your people and assets with the most current technology available.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Better Video Surveillance: Upgrading is easier than you thought

Video surveillance is an integral part of any security plan.

It can be intimidating to upgrade technology, but upgrading your CCTV system is easier than you may think.  Network-based IP CCTV systems have become more affordable as the technology has become more common, so that now better quality video surveillance is cost-effective. If you haven’t upgraded your system to a Network-based IP CCTV system now may be the time.

Traditional CCTV Set-up

Traditional systems are arranged with cameras with a separate power source, and stored on a DVR. A DVR then converts the images to digital and broadcasts them on a monitor for instant viewing. The digital footage can also be sent out from the DVR, through a firewall/router and modem over the internet to remote devices for viewing.

Network-based IP CCTV Set-up

Unlike early digital cameras, IP cameras do not need a separate power source, they may derive their power from the same cable that transmits the video images. The signal is sent to a POE Switch (Power over Ethernet), and from their it can be delivered to multiple devices including a network video recorder (NVR) which does not have to be housed on-site and transmits the signal to monitors for immediate viewing, a local PC, and out, through a router/switch, and over the internet to remote devices for viewing.

The main differences here are: 1. the single cabling for power and video to the IP cameras, instead of separate cables required for power and video; and 2. No need to have an onsite storage device. This may not seem like much of a difference, but if your system is still based on older technology and you are worried about making the switch to newer and better technology, below are a few items to think about.

  1. Ease of Installation

A common misconception is that Network Video Recording-based installations are much more complex than DVR-based. While that may have been true in the past, advances in technology have included features like plug-and-play camera recognition which make NVR installations as simple as possible. New IP cameras also have ease of installation as a primary feature.

  1. Existing Infrastructure Use During Upgrade

If you have a CCTV system already in place, then you might want to transition your system slowly. There are solutions for this that will allow a slower migration so that you can replace components one at a time, either when they start to fail or have reached their end of life. This transition allows you to maximize your initial investments and provides the flexibility of funding your video surveillance upgrade over time.

  1. Cost-Effectiveness

As technology advances, IP cameras and NVR deployments are becoming more cost effective. The price of IP cameras continues to drop, and they provide significantly improved capabilities. The DVR is no longer cheaper to purchase, and the NVR operates as more than just storage – it can manage the video surveillance requirements while also operating as the foundation for the overall storage and data management needs for a work group, remote location, or stand-alone business.

  1. Scalability

If you are expanding your current CCTV system, utilizing IP cameras is the most logical choice to cover new areas. Network-IP cameras can be added to an installation that uses existing cameras. If you are expanding and ready to move away from the outdated technology of a DVR system, then this is a good place to start your system migration.

  1. Reliability

IP video surveillance systems have proven to be faster, more reliable, and every bit as durable as the older systems which utilize DVRs and analog cameras. When you consider all the inherent advantages of NVRs, the move to NVRs combined with IP cameras makes even more sense.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Top 3 Reasons to Upgrade your CCTV System

CCTV systems are a critical part of your life safety system, they help to maintain a secure property and provide a safe working environment to your people. If you have an older system and cameras, you may not be getting very much value from your CCTV monitoring or footage. IP-based megapixel systems can greatly improve your security. Here are the top three reasons you should upgrade your CCTV System.

  1. Higher Image Quality

The best quality for a CCTV system will come with megapixel cameras. We’ve all seen the grainy footage from traditional cameras and CCTV systems. New, megapixel cameras far surpass this with better resolution, providing a clear picture. This new technology also gives security teams the ability to zoom in on facial details. This can be important when identifying individuals from past records or assisting law enforcement in an investigation.

  1. You shouldn’t rely on outdated technology

Keeping your analog cameras and VCR or DVR, is relying on technology that is outdated (or obsolete in the case of the VCR). Sticking with outmoded technology is not providing you with the best security. New CCTV technology have better quality images from the cameras, better storage, and easier viewing and retrieving of footage.

  1. Mobile Access

We rely on mobile technology as a part of our everyday lives. Updating your CCTV System will allow you to have mobile access to your security footage and view what’s happening in real time from your mobile device. This also allows you to have a remote monitoring site or connect your CCTV system to your monitoring partner. With access to your video feed, you can check in with your facility at any time. This can be particularly helpful when an alarm has been triggered or if suspicious activity is reported on your property.

Your CCTV system should provide you with reliable, usable video security. As technology continues to progress, options for upgrading your CCTV system become more cost-effective and easier to install. Upgrading your CCTV to an IP-based megapixel system will improve your overall security program.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Replacing Batteries in your Exit Lights

Exit lights serve an important purpose – in the event of an emergency they light the way to safety. While exit lights are connected to a power source, they rely on battery operation during an emergency when the power may go out.

Batteries are one of the top reasons exit lights fail (check out the top 4 Exit Light Failures). Batteries in exit lights maintain their charge from the electrical power connection.  Even rechargeable batteries will eventually stop working though, and batteries in exit lights need to be replaced every 2 years to ensure continued operation.

You won’t be able to tell that your batteries have died in the exit light, as we discussed, during normal operations the light functions from the electrical connection, not batteries. If you do not change your batteries on a regular basis you may be allowing your dead batteries to sit in the light which can cause additional problem. Old batteries can leak acid which will damage the exit light.

The charging unit in an exit light has the job of recharging the batteries, ensuring they are fully charged in the event of a power outage. If your batteries are dead, your exit light’s charging unit will continue to send that charge, working overtime trying to charge dead or dying batteries. Eventually, this will cause the charging unit to burn out. The required annual inspection will find this problem, and you will need to replace the exit light.

Not being proactive in changing batteries though means you are gambling that an inspection will occur before an emergency when the lights are needed to be in working order. Also, a charging unit that is overworked trying to charge dead batteries can be a fire hazard, so it is important to be proactive in changing your exit light batteries to prevent this hazard.

A1 recommends that you change your exit light batteries every 2 years as a preventive measure for outages and additional problems. Learn how to do your own monthly, visual inspection of exit lights here. This is required by OSHA and the NFPA Life Safety Code, and can help you to identify dead batteries or other issues that need to be addressed with your exit lights. A complete inspection and test of your exit lights must be performed annually by Your Life Safety Partner.

Will Buchholz

Top Exit Light Failures

Exit lights are an important part of your Life Safety system. It can be easy to overlook exit lights since they are a part of our everyday landscape. But it is imperative that you keep them working, not just because it is required, but because they will help to save lives in an emergency. Here we outline the most common exit light failures, all of which can be avoided with regular inspections and maintenance.

Batteries

The most common reason exit/emergency lights fail to work is dead batteries. During an emergency, Exit signs operate on batteries which maintain their charge from an electrical power connection.  Even rechargeable batteries will eventually stop working though. If you allow your dead batteries to sit in the light they can cause additional problems such as leaking battery acid and damaging the charging unit. A1 recommends that you change your exit light batteries every 2 years as a preventive measure for outages and additional problems.

Charging Unit

If you do not change your batteries on a regular basis, and your batteries go bad, they can put an additional strain on the charging unit (the part of the light that recharges the batteries). As the charging unit works harder, attempting to charge failing or failed batteries, it can burn out; now you have to replace your exit light instead of the batteries.

Exit Lights which use Incandescent Bulbs 

Older exit lights use incandescent bulbs which burn out after a period of use. Facility owners and managers can save money by upgrading to new LED or Photoluminescent exit lights.

In addition to burned out bulbs, it is common to find these lights with burned lenses (the part of the light that glows red) as anything over a 15-watt bulb will burn the lens. Changing the bulb is easy, of course, but facility managers need to be careful to use only 15-watt or less bulbs to avoid this damage.

Test button on incandescent lights are also another area where problem commonly occur. The test button is a spring loaded button which pushes on the motherboard. After so many tests, the motherboard can actually be pushed so far away that the spring no longer reaches.

New Exit Signs/New Buildings

One frequent service call we get from new buildings is for their exit lights not working during the initial inspection by the owners. Typically, the problem is that the batteries have been put in the exit light but not plugged into the charging unit. If they are not plugged in, there is not battery power to use during the inspection (when the power is cut). Before you call for a service visit at your new building, check that your batteries are plugged in!

Exit lights are an integral part of your Life Safety system. There are requirements from insurance and OSHA to perform monthly and annual inspections and maintain documentation.  Click here for more information on exit light inspections, including a template for monthly inspection reports.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Will Buchholz

Time to replace your smoke alarm

Working smoke detectors or smoke alarms greatly decrease the risk of injury or death in a fire. Like any Life Safety device, smoke detectors and alarms need to be inspected, tested and replaced on a regular schedule to ensure they work effectively.

Smoke Alarms and Smoke Detectors

As we discussed in our blog Smoke Alarms, there is a difference between a smoke alarm and a smoke detector. A smoke alarm is a stand-alone device with a built-in sounder, a power supply, and a sensor. A smoke alarm is not connected to a fire alarm control panel, but may interconnect with other smoke alarms within the building. A smoke detector is part of a commercial fire protection system, it has only a built-in sensor and sends information to the fire alarm panel.

Technology Lifespan

However, the sensing technology within smoke alarms and smoke detectors are the same – primarily, photoelectric smoke detection. This sensing system can become less responsive as it ages. To ensure your people and assets are protected, you should replace all smoke detectors and smoke alarms when they are 10 years old. To determine the age of your alarm/detector, look at the back where you will find the date of manufacture.

Inspections

You should test your smoke alarms once a month by pushing the test button. Twice a year you should replace the batteries in all of your smoke alarms, it is encouraged that you do this when your clocks change for daylight savings as it serves as a regular reminder. You can clean your smoke alarms by vacuuming the outside, do not remove the alarm’s cover to vacuum.

Smoke detectors will be professionally inspected on an annual basis when your fire alarm system is inspected and tested. Your Life Safety Partner will check for the proper signal reception from the detectors at the alarm panel, clean your smoke detectors, and, when required, perform a sensitivity test.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Fire Hose Testing

Occupant Use Fire Hoses

The small hoses inside facilities are typically referred to as “Occupant Use Hoses.” This is a reflection of the fact that professional fire services will not use these hoses, but their own professional-grade hoses. Very seldom, if ever, will a fire department utilize the hose available within a facility and one of the reasons is that the hose is not maintained by the fire department so they cannot be sure of its maintenance history and current state.

So, what are occupant use fire hoses for?

Occupant use fire hoses were originally intended for building occupants to use like they would an extinguisher, to fight incipient stage fires. Concerns of liability have changed this standard though and most companies do not encourage employees to fight incipient stage fires. Employee safety should always be your primary concern. Before deciding whether your facility should allow the use of hoses for incipient stage firefighting, look closely at your hazards, resources, and safety issues.

One special use of fire hoses is during a time when your sprinkler system may be down for repairs or improvements. Having a fire hose charged and available can provide protection during this vulnerable time. It may also be a precaution you can take when hot work is being done in your facility. During any hot work activity, it is possible for sparks to smolder for a long period of time which may result in a fire. While an extinguisher can also be used, extinguishers only provide a few seconds of discharge which may not be sufficient during hot work situations.

Why do fire hoses need to be inspected?

Like any Life Safety inspection, the purpose of fire hose inspections is to ensure it is in operable condition for use during an emergency. There is a specific concern with fire hoses, since they operate under pressure from the water flow, if there is a break in a worn and unmaintained hose it can cause a portion of the hose to whip around uncontrollably, potentially causing injury.

When should you have your hoses inspected professionally?

Every year, or after any use, you should have your fire hose inspected by a professional for a visual hose, nozzle and coupling inspection. During this inspection, your Life Safety Partner will unrack, unreel/unroll and physically inspect your hose to determine that the hose, couplings, and any nozzle have not been vandalized, they are free of debris, and exhibit no evidence of mildew, rot or damage by chemicals, burns, cuts, abrasion or vermin. They will also check that nozzle controls and adjustments operate properly, inspect gaskets for presence, tight fit, and deterioration, and couplings for damage, corrosion, and rotation.

Within 5 years of manufacture, and every 3 years after that, your Life Safety Partner should perform a Hose Pressure Service Test. Using a hose testing machine, they will raise the hose pressure slowly to 45 psi and bleed off air, then raise the pressure slowly until the service test pressure is attached and maintained for 3 minutes.

Please note, these testing and inspections requirements are for occupant use fire hoses. If you have a fire brigade and a structural fire brigade hose cabinet, then both testing and inspection must be completed on an annual basis.

What self-inspections should you do to check for problems in between professional inspections?

In between your annual inspection, it’s a good idea to have someone assigned to perform a brief visual inspection of your fire hose. This can be done at the same time they perform your monthly extinguisher inspections. Look for cracks, weak areas, signs of fraying, vandalism of any type, and broken couplings. If you see signs of any damage, you should contact your Life Safety Partner for assistance.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Joseph Reynolds
Joseph Reynolds

Why have your sprinkler gauges checked?

The importance of pressure gauges on a fire sprinkler system can sometimes be overlooked. It is a common misconception that if a pressure gauge is registering pressure then it is operating properly. We must first take a look at what these gauges are and how they are used in order to completely understand their importance as a part of your sprinkler system.

Types of Pressure Gauges: Dry and Liquid Filled

Pressure gauges for a fire sprinkler system come in two basic types: dry and liquid filled. The dry gauge is most common; it consists of a numbered dial with an indicating needle that is attached to a spring loaded mechanism. This spring is compressed by pressure from the system, causing the needle to rise in relation to the amount of pressure. Liquid filled gauges operate under the same principle but are completely filled with liquid, usually glycerin. The liquid does a couple things, it lubricates and protects components in the gauge from wear and corrosion, while at the same time it dampens vibration and small spikes or jumps of the needle as pressures change. This creates a more sensitive precise gauge. For that reason, these gauges, which are higher in price, are usually used on testing or other more demanding applications.

Selecting the Correct Gaugegauge

Gauges can be manufactured for a specific application, such as fire pump readings and high pressure systems, or for a specific pressure type such as water pressure, air pressure, or a combination. Choosing the proper gauge for the application should be done by a trained Life Safety professional, as not just any gauge may be installed. NFPA 13 requires the gauge be approved for the application as well as have UL and FM approval. Your Life Safety Partner will also have the expertise needed to determine gauge location and correct installation procedures. Gauges are typically installed on ¼”, 3-way valves to allow easy replacement without taking the system out of service since fire sprinkler systems should always be functioning.

Gauge use in a Fire Sprinkler System

Fire sprinkler systems are always on, active, and supplied by an automatic water supply. Gauges help us ensure that the system is active, in service, and proper water supply and pressure is available. Located at various points in the system, they give us an indication of what the system status is and if anything has changed that may affect performance. Water pressure gauges at the control risers indicate the system is active and supplied by water pressure. This “resting active” pressure is known as static pressure. When the main drain on the system is opened completely, a water flowing pressure reading can be taken here which is known as a residual pressure. Your Life Safety Partner will track these readings during annual inspections, a change in this residual pressure can give warning to changes in the water supply or supply piping system. Gauges monitoring air pressure on dry systems are important for setting the correct air to water pressures on dry gaugesvalves and recording trip pressures. A system air pressure that is too high could result in delayed trip times, too little could cause false trips. Gauges are used too monitor pressures on standpipes, fire pump performance, and many other functions.


Inspection and Maintenance

As with any other critical component of a sprinkler system, gauges must be tested, inspected and maintained. Gauges are used in almost every stage of system testing. Quarterly, semi-annual and annual inspections all include testing that involves gauges. NFPA requires a monthly visual inspection of gauges noting any damage, leakage, or unusual readings. The date of the gauge should also be noted in inspections, as NFPA requires all gauges to be tested or replaced every 5 years. When gauges are tested, they must fall within a +/- 3% accuracy range or they have to be re-calibrated. Because the cost of new gauges is relatively low, it is common to have the gauges replaced rather than paying for the testing and re-calibrating.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Greg Lane

 

Air Sampling Smoke Detection

Active vs Passive Smoke Detection

Air sampling smoke detectors are “active” systems which constantly sample the air from multiple points throughout the environment. Other smoke detection devices are “passive” systems. They rely on the heat of the smoke and the airflow of the room, for the smoke or heat to reach the detector. This can be a problem in rooms with constant air flows like server rooms, with smoldering fires which generate relatively little smoke, and with incipient stage fires where the smoke is not hot and therefore has very little thermal lift. Since these environmental conditions are particularly prevalent in server rooms, this is one space where air sampling smoke detectors are best used.

Server Room Fire Prevention with Air Sampling Smoke Detectors

Air sampling smoke detectors are classified as Very Early Warning Smoke Detectors (VEWSD). This is especially important in server rooms where the incipient stage of an electrical fire may not be detected by EWSD (Early Warning Smoke Detectors). This stage, which can last for hours or even days, is not a visible fire but the human nose may smell the fumes.

Smoke from a server room fire is harmful to other electrical equipment in the space. The by-products of smoke from PVC and digital circuit boards are gases such as HCL, and these gases will cause corrosion of IT equipment. Even at very low levels, the gas can cause moderate corrosion with long-term effects on electronics.

Air sampling smoke detectors can detect smoke at this incipient stage to activate alarms so that a response can be taken (whether through a fire suppression system or by an individual trained to respond) to put out and address the cause of the fire. Because the system monitors the space for overheating materials, and can detect this even before an actual fire develops, air sampling detectors act as a fire prevention tool.

How Air Sampling Smoke Detection Worksair-sampling-smoke-detector

Air sampling smoke detectors are quite different from conventional spot type smoke detectors. Aspirating systems are typically made up of a number of small-bore pipes laid out above or below a ceiling in parallel runs, some feet apart. Small holes, also some meters apart, are drilled into each pipe to form a matrix of holes which are the sampling points, providing an even distribution across the ceiling. Air or smoke is drawn into the pipework through the holes and onward to a very sensitive smoke detector mounted nearby, using the negative pressure of an aspirator (air pump).

While air sampling smoke detectors are more sensitive to detecting smoke, they are less susceptible to the major sources of false alarms – dust, draughts and electrical interference. False alarms are a definite annoyance to building owners, managers and tenants. They also have a higher cost for our fire service providers, click here to read about the true cost of false alarms.

Sensitivity Settings of Air Sampling Smoke Detection Systems

Aspirating Smoke Detectors can have the sensitivity settings for alarm levels adjusted. The levels are typically set for an Alert, Action, and Fire 1. An Alert sends notice to local staff so they can investigate the threat of fire that has been detected. The Action level is generally used to initiate smoke control, begin a warning sequence via the evacuation system, and alert further staff members to the situation. The Fire 1 alarm indicates a fire condition is very close or has started. This alarm would activate evacuation procedures for the building, the fire alarm panel for the affected zone is activated, notifying the monitoring company and fire services. An additional Fire 2 threshold can be set; this level would act as confirmation of a serious fire event with the option to activate a suppression system. This should be a safety net setting, as the building’s fire systems and procedures should have operated properly before this point to prevent the fire.

For more in-depth information about the advantages of 725 psi clean agent systems, check out A1’s Lunch & Learns for architects and engineers.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke