For almost a decade, the security industry has been using the term “convergence” to describe the merging spheres of physical security and IT infrastructure and systems. The fire alarm industry has until recently remained relatively untouched by convergence.
Code changes to the 2007 National Fire Protection Association National Fire Alarm Code (NFPA 72) have addressed this issue, and manufacturers are beginning to introduce products that can comply with NFPA 72’s alternative means of communication.
In the last 20+ years the primary means of communicating the status of a fire alarm system to a receiving station has been a POTS (plain old telephone system) line with the following approved means for secondary notification:
• A second phone line
• A cellular telephone connection
• A one-way radio system
• A one-way private radio alarm system
• A private microwave radio system
• A two-way RF multiplex system
The de facto standard in much of the U.S. has been to use POTS lines for both primary and secondary notification. In many jurisdictions this has come to mean two “dedicated” POTS lines.
There has been ample confusion about whether the lines need to be dedicated. NFPA 72 basically makes the following requirements.