For many, many years DVACS was the best way to monitor a fire alarm system. As an active form of monitoring it was robust, had great infrastructure behind it and provided very fast signalling of fire alarm signals to ULC monitoring companies. However, as time has moved forward DVACS has been slowly phased out of the security and monitoring industry, and many people are looking to upgrade or replace their existing DVACS systems. This is for, essentially, 3 reasons:
- Manufacturers have stopped making Equipment that works with DVACS signalling
- Costs for DVACS continue to Rise
- New Technology Has Emerged
Despite what you may hear, DVACS is not disappearing because of a lack of support from the service provider, and it is not being cancelled. For a more in-depth feature on the decline in the use of DVACS, please see our article “What is Happening with DVACS?”.
With this being said, there are still DVACS fire alarm monitoring systems out there and there are some valid reasons why you may want move away from your current DVACS system. This can include:
- Your alarm installer and/or monitoring provider no longer supports the DVACS product
- Service Issue with the monitoring panel where no parts are available
- Looking to reduce escalating monitoring costs due to DVACS
- Looking for a ULC certificate for fire alarm monitoring to comply with ULC-S561
In this case, how do you go about replacing your ULC fire monitoring panel? There are a couple of different ways to look at doing this:
UPGRADE YOUR ULC FIRE MONITORING SYSTEM TO AN ACTIVE CELLULAR SYSTEM
In the past, we’ve talked about “active” fire alarm monitoring. Typically, this is done through cellular communications. When an active system is used, the cellular connection is supervised and only one path is needed. This is just like a DVACS system, and if you’re using an active, supervised cellular system the upgrade is fairly easy, and is a one-for-one panel upgrade. As the end user, there is no need to worry about ordering in any new infrastructure, as your ULC fire monitoring company will take care of that. Therefore these systems are typically best when there’s no other communication infrastructure in place.
The main concern when using active communications is that you have a strong cellular signal, so that you’re not running into issues with communications failures. This might mean running an antenna in the building, depending on where you’re installing the ULC fire monitoring panel. Provided you have strong signal strength, upgrades or DVACS replacements to active cellular fire monitoring systems are quick and easy. The price for these systems is generally less than a DVACS system, too.
UPGRADE YOUR ULC FIRE MONITORING SYSTEM TO A PASSIVE FIRE MONITORING SYSTEM
The other option is to look to upgrade your system is using a “passive” system. These systems are not constantly supervised, and rely on two communications paths out of the building. These communications paths monitor each other, and report immediately if one or the other experiences an issue. More in-depth description of passive systems can be ready in this blog post.
These systems rely on two paths out of the building, most typically a combination of two of:
- Analog Phone Line/Fax Line (can be an existing line)
- IP/Internet Connection
These types of installations are best used where communications infrastructure is already in place that the end user controls (ie: pays for) that can be used for the purpose of monitoring. Because these communication systems are already in place, the costs for monitoring these types of systems are significantly lower than DVACS, usually hundreds of dollars per year lower than a DVACS system. As two paths out of the building are being used, there is less chance of their being a situation where there’s no monitoring in the building, which can happen with a DVACS system in the event of a service outage. If one pathway in a passive system “goes down”, the second can pick up and deliver alarms until the other is restored.
There is a little more work in installing these systems, as your ULC fire monitoring installer will need to interface with your existing phone system (in the event you want to connect via a phone line or fax line) or may require some intervention by an IT person if connecting via an IP or Internet connection. These hurdles are usually fairly easy to surmount, however.
Moving on from your DVACS system is an inevitability, as equipment ages and costs rise. While it has been a solid system for decades, DVACS’ best days are behind it. If you have any questions about your existing DVACS system, or about the best way to upgrade your ULC fire alarm monitoring system please contact us.