Notice: We are looking for a license qualifier for Utah. If interested contact Nicoletta Lakatos at 516 747 6700 x 311 or NLakatos@Kirschenbaumesq.com
USE OF NON-SUPERVISED -DUMB - AUXILIARY POWER SUPPLIES BY DET ROBINSON
The following email was submitted by Detective Robinson of the Phoenix PD. At first I thought it was too long for a single article but now I think it serves too important purposes. First, you can see that using a "dumb" power supply is a problem [I'll leave it to the tech experts to decide how much of a problem], and Second, I want you to see how a forensic expert examines a system to identify problems. Problems translate into liability. You need to care because you don't have enough insurance to cover all the possible claims you may face. Sloppy work is going to cost you, perhaps your business and more; so take the time to learn your trade. Detective Robinson is a wealth of information. I am going to try and get him and Jeff Zwirn to do a joint webinar. Maybe paired up with two dealers who like to cut corners if I can find them.
My topic this time has to do with the use of non-supervised ("dumb") auxiliary power supplies on security alarm systems. As the alarm inspector for Phoenix PD over the past 11 years I see the worst of the worst alarm installations that are causing excessive false alarms. Time and time again I have found that alarm companies sell and install non-supervised power supplies to power detection devices such as, PE beams, motion detectors, glass break sensors, etc. that will go into alarm if they lose power. In Phoenix we have severe monsoon storms every year that cause power outages and the false alarms caused by the non-supervised power supplies with dead batteries are atrocious. This problem is completely preventable.
The City of Phoenix Alarm Code states that an alarm company must install an alarm system that is compatible with the environment where it is installed and take reasonable measures to prevent false alarms. The "environment" includes known monsoon weather conditions and other day to day issues that can cause a power outage. Who can explain to me that a "dumb" power supply is the correct product to use on powered security detection devices in this environment? I would like to hear their rational other than the non-supervised power supply was cheaper than the supervised power supply or because they would have to add two more zones into the programing. I have even seen the more expensive power supplies installed and the AC / battery supervision zones are not even hooked up.
I may be presumptuous, but are not all alarm control panels engineered by electrical engineers (smart people with college degrees) who found it necessary to include AC power and battery supervision on an alarm security system for a reason. So why is it, that when the main control panel can not handle the power load of all the detection devices the alarm company decided to instal a "dumb" power supply? Does this not defeat the purpose of engineering a security system by eliminating these features? The human factor can quickly defeat the purpose of highly engineering security systems.
I have inspected alarm systems that have a "dumb" power supply with dead batteries that have been missed by service techs during annual routine preventative maintenance or specific service calls to test the system over and over again. I have had the techs argue with me DURING INSPECTIONS IN FRONT OF THEIR CUSTOMER, claiming that all of the power is coming from the main control panel. It is pretty simple to power down the panel and then walk the system to find if any devices are still powered up. Oops! How does it look to your customers who are standing right there in the middle of an inspection listening to this conversation when the AHJ has to say to the tech: "get out a toner and find where the power is coming from while I explain to your customer what is going on here?"
My personal favorite is when the alarm companies send out their best guru tech to pre-inspect the alarm system because they know that I am coming out and they still miss the "dumb" aux power supply that is mounted on the wall in less than 2 feet from the main control panel. (I have the inspection photos to prove it!) I love the look on their face when we open the cabinet and find a "dumb" power supply with 10+ year old dead batteries that sound like a set of maracas when you shake them. It gets even better when I begin to explain to their customer that they have paid $$ for service calls and over $1000.00 in false alarm fines because the detection devices powered by this "dumb" power supply caused multiple false alarms. I am still waiting to inspect the perfect alarm system after the guru tech or alarm company owner tried to convince me that they just went out there and the problem is 100% user error, but unfortunately I only get to look at the worst of the worst.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. This install was at a bank which is a large national account for this alarm company with scheduled PM and multiple service calls due to false alarms. The alarm system inside the ATM machine in the bank drive thru was causing multiple PD dispatch events to the ATM "shock" sensor. This location had multiple tech service calls prior to the inspection that was supposed to fix the repeat false alarm problem.
The photo shows the main panel lower left, aux power supplies are installed upper right and lower right, the 2G backup cellular is in the upper left.
The ATM out in the drive thru contained a complete stand-alone DIEBOLD Presider alarm control panel with its own back up battery. The ATM was losing AC power even though the main bank still had AC power. The shock sensor inside the ATM was a GE DV1221A ATM vibration detector that requires 12VDC to operate. The servicing alarm company was provided access to the ATM alarm "outputs" from the detection devices only and did not include the AC power loss or battery supervision outputs from the Presider panel.
During the inspection I stood at the ATM in the drive thru with the servicing alarm company tech pointing his finger at the ATM company and the ATM company rep pointing his finger back at the alarm service company blaming each other and the bank manager watching all of this. Welcome to my world... Once I convinced the servicing alarm tech that touching the alarm equipment inside the ATM would not get him fired because I was telling him what to do, we found that the backup battery inside the ATM was completely dead with a swollen and split case. The 110+ summer heat in AZ destroys batteries. This confirmed what the alarm event history showed. Every time the ATM lost AC power, the main control panel inside the bank still had AC power and had no idea that the ATM Presider panel had lost AC or had a low battery which caused the shock sensor to power down resulting in a alarm activation (24-7 zone type) and PD was dispatched.
This problem with the ATMs is especially nasty because of all of the third party back and forth between the ATM service tech, the main alarm system service tech inside the bank (communicator panel), and the armored car companies that service the ATM which leaves the bank manager stuck in the middle and potentially could loose the ability to operate any alarm system at the bank including hold up and silent panics. After an alarm inspection in Phoenix due to excessive false alarm dispatches the entire system is on probation for the next 365 days. If the alarm has three false alarms during the next 365 days post inspection it is illegal for the alarm user and the alarm company to operate the alarm system after the third false alarm. It may sound harsh, but when I explain to the CEO of a bank that they will have to hire security guards or off duty police to stand guard at the bank because their alarm company messed them up with a bad alarm design and I ask the CEO of the bank for his drivers license because I am identifying him for court, things usually roll down hill and the problem gets resolved. My understanding is that the corporate veil is pierced when I have a face to face meting and tell the CEO or highest responsible person that I can meet with that they are on record as being officially informed that they are responsible for the continued willful act of illegally operating an alarm system. Usually I start with the person that I identified during the alarm inspection and had them sign a copy of the written warning explaining this probation and I work my way up the ladder. CEO's do not like it when they hear from me and I tell them that I got the runaround from lower management who told me that they have a 10k annual false alarm budget and they will call the cops anytime that they feel like it if their alarm goes off. At least that is how it has worked in the past when I took several hard headed company owner's to court over illegal ! operation of an alarm system. Maybe you (Ken) can explain what "piercing the corporate veil" means since the alarm company representative or CEO may be in court right alongside their customer.
During the first inspection at this bank I had the alarm tech pull the AC power from the non-supervised Moose HCP125UL aux power (upper right) to load test the batteries. As soon as the AC power was off, all of the motion sensors and the wireless HUB receiver in the bank shut down because the non-supervised 6 year old backup battery was dead. Oh, did I mention all of the transformers except the main control panel are plugged into a switched power strip which made it easy to shut down the power supplies. Do the manufactures instructions say that an alarm control panel can but plugged into a switched outlet? Maybe Ken can have Jeff Zwirn comment on this; is a switched power strip the same as a switched outlet or are they OK because the switched power strip is plugged into a dedicated non switched outlet (same as the transformer for the main panel) for the alarm system because they needed additional AC outlets that the customer does not have? After all, one dedicated outlet has room to plug in two devices, one plug is the main panel transformer, the other plug is the switched power strip for the other power supplies. How about a GFCI outlet in the laundry room or garage? Seen that too.
I found that the BOSCH 8132 aux power supply in the large fairly empty cabinet (lower right) had the 12VDC+- output wired in parallel directly to the DIEBOLD main panel battery +- terminals and no other devices. The tech explained that the 8132 was supplying extra reserve batteries (2) for the main panel which had a single battery. I argued that this configuration prevented the main control panel from isolating the "panel" battery during the timer battery supervision test because it was getting 12VDC from the aux power supply that is not controlled by the main panel and can not be powered down by the main panel during the battery supervision timer test in order to isolate the batteries. This configuration completely eliminated the ability of the main panel to even supervise its own panel battery. The tech argued that the main panel was supervising all 3 of the batteries.
The back up 2G cellular backup battery failed as soon as we put a load on it even though it showed a 13.52VDC "ghost" voltage on the VOM. Even if the 2G was still getting a signal it had a dead battery that had not been reported and was dead in the water without AC power. This brings me to another point; the "professional" alarm tech did not have a "professional "battery load tester, not that that matters so I am told... so we used the AC off -make it function load test. I would bring my own test equipment except that if my test equipment damages the alarm system then the Phoenix PD could be liable and since the alarm company are the "professionals" responsible to properly install and test the alarm equipment they should have the right tools for the job. I get lucky about 10% of the time or less when a tech has the right test equipment. Kind of like calling for a police officer to help you and they show up with a "nerf gun" instead of a Glock 40 cal. Hmmm. I love to watch a customer's face when the alarm tech is throwing a handful of keys at glass break detectors and calls it a "proper" function test because it sent a signal. I've trained several techs how to properly adjust a set of PE beams multiple times and I carry my "Paul" PE beam spec book in my car for the ones that want to challenge me on it in front of a customer like Paul did, thanks Paul.
I ended the first inspection with an e-mail to the bank's Physical Security Operations Manager and the servicing alarm company corporate national account manager for this account with photos and a laundry list of things that were wrong. They asked for time to correct the problems since the bank was probably transitioning to a new ATM provider. Eventually I went back out to the bank for part 2 of this inspection.
During part 2 of this inspection the servicing alarm company sent me copies of the service records to show me that they had installed a brand new BOSCH main control panel and "fixed the system." I found that the ATM had been replaced and we checked out the alarm equipment inside the new ATM, so far so good, I think we are making progress right? The alarm tech was reluctant when I said that I wanted to see the whole system again since I had already inspected the main control panel with him last time I was out here and he told me that they had been out to fix it. The detective in me kicked in and I said that I wanted to "see" if they corrected the problems inside the bank on the main system. It went downhill from there. They basically unwired the old control panel (which was an older version of the same panel as the new BOSCH that was working just fine) and slapped it back into the same old panel enclosure with all of the expansion mods and wiring. They even re-used the "sticky tape" to hold a relay on the face of the panel that still keeps falling off (circled in red in the photo).
I was shocked to find that the BOSCH 8132 12VDC output was still wired to the main control panel in parallel with the main panel battery. The senior guru tech still argued with me at this second inspection about this wiring configuration even after I told him I called the BOSCH tech line and explained how it was wired. BOSCH tech support confirmed my suspicions about the battery supervision and confirmed that this is not installed according to the manufacturers specifications. I told him that Bosch has a special wiring harness for dual batteries and they could put in larger batteries instead of the 7ah batteries if they needed to increase the backup reserve power for the main control that is only powering the keypads and zone expander mods. I asked him to explain his logic since all of the powered devices for the entire alarm system were all connected to the MOOSE PS that had a single 7ah battery, but the main panel needs an entire extra power supply with two more batteries dedicated just for it? I can play his game, so I made him trace all of the wires from the 8132 to the end where they were terminated and verify that this power supply was not supervised. I had him pull the AC power to the main panel and the 8132 power supply then systematically powered the main panel from the batteries one at a time in situ and then eventually from the 8132 power supply with no batteries connected at all, just the 8132 running on AC power. He probably still thinks I am wrong. Can anybody else out there tell me why you would wire the 8132 to the main control panel like this. I am willing to admit I made a mistake if I can learn something from it.
They still used the existing non-supervised Moose PS to provide power to all of the detection devices located inside the bank and added the new ATM detection equipment, which does not have any control panel or backup battery inside of the new ATM. You can hear the MOOSE power supply buzzing with the panel door closed. I stopped short of making the tech do a load calculation, I had seen enough.
The sad part is that at the end of the inspection the tech left the system this way because his service work order did not authorize him to "spend the money" necessary to correct it. After all, I should understand because they were not the ones who installed it like this, they took over the account from another alarm company and someone needs to pay them to fix it. But he assured me they would have never installed it this way. I love the customer service... I am still handing out rope waiting to see if this gets fixed or not.
What would a forensic expert like Jeff Zwirn have to say if this bank got robbed or the ATM broken into where the alarm failed and they found these conditions during the post incident examination of the alarm system and the fact that it was inspected by the AHJ who documented with photos all of the conditions prior to the criminal event?
Ken, how much protection is there in the alarm contract for this servicing alarm company who took over an existing alarm system and then installed a new control panel upgrade but left everything else on the system status quo?
Does anybody have a good answer to my question: Why are alarm companies and alarm techs installing non-supervised power supplies on security systems???
I wish someone would make a show like COPS undercover on the streets in Phoenix with the PD alarm inspector or have "Undercover Boss" come out and go to one of my inspections with owner of their alarm company... On the next episode we will see...
Detective Howard Robinson
Phoenix Police Code Enforcement Unit, Alarm Inspections
WEBINARS - free [these webinars will not be recorded]
MARKETING YOUR ALARM COMPANY presented in a 3 series webinar
Five Marketing Methods That Provide Results, Time and Time Again!
Presented by David Morgan of Security Dealer Marketing www.securitydealermarketing.com
Which marketing methods have worked for over 100 security companies nationwide? According to the 80/20 rule, 80% of results are generated from 20% of your activities. This 3-part webinar series will focus on the 20%, or the 5 marketing methods every dealer and integrator must be using to generate results. Best yet, each one of these 5 marketing methods are all 100% trackable.
All webinars will be from 12:00 – 1:00 pm EST
REGISTER TODAY FOR ALL THE WEBINARS [register for each one separately]:
Part 1: Building Your Marketing Foundation
Thursday, October 8th, 2015 from 12:00 – 1:00 pm EST
Register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1496530252687904769
Part 2: Pull Marketing Strategy
Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 from 12:00 – 1:00 pm EST
Register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/959675008728713985
Part 3: Fine Tuning Your Marketing Machine
Thursday, October 15th, 2015 from 12:00 – 1:00 pm EST
Register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4241516007012418818
About Security Dealer Marketing:
For over 4 years Security Dealer Marketing, a full-service marketing agency for the security industry, has helped dealers, integrators and industry manufacturers nationwide gain market share, expand to new markets and penetrate new verticals successfully! We have helped over 100 security companies nationwide. We know what works and what doesn’t, from experience! We’ve been trusted by many of the industries biggest names, speak frequently at industry conferences on marketing for security companies and have been a featured monthly columnist, Marketing Madmen in SDM Magazine since January of 2014.