Commentary: Recent Disclosure of an Alleged Flaw in Burglar Alarm Panels

On the 12th of this month, Security eNews–your news blog–carried the following news item related to single-use and combination burglar / fire alarm panels, alleged to be non compliant with regard to UL 985 and NFPA 72:

SDM Magazine (image)Major Alarm Panel Recall Could Be Looming | There appears to be a major issue of non-compliance with both the NFPA and UL codes by possibly every alarm panel manufacturer in the industry — despite being UL certified (click here).

I’d like to make a personal observation on this matter.

Allan B. Colombo, Tech Writer
Allan B. Colombo,  a security/fire Trade Journalist/Writer

First, was public disclosure with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) really necessary? In a world where the popular news media grandstands on any and every opportunity to demonize the security industry, was this really necessary?

Second, as technicians, many of us have suspected that there might be potential issues with the electronic burglar alarm panels we use… but we didn’t publicly disclose the matter because it would tell every burglar known to man that there could be an inherent issue. Oh, and we commonly run our alarm wires inside the walls, inside the structure, and not outside so burglars cannot easily short them.

Combo Burg/Fire Panel (image)
Typical combo burg/fire alarm panel (not named in complaint with CSPC).

Third, couldn’t this be handled in some other manner, other than involving all the above as well as the entire world?

In conclusion, the resolution to this issue is now beyond comprehension or the financial ability of  anyone to address via normal channels.

Not only will this effectively cause most burglar alarm panel manufacturers to expend an unimaginable amount of money and effort to fix, if found to be an issue, but it could put some of them out of business. It may also mean that every alarm company out there might have to return to their good customer’s place of business or residence to replace the alarm panels that they previously installed–and most likely at their own expense.

Did I forget to mention the lawsuits that could result because of all this? Of course, some of the older panels out there were installed before UL and NFPA compliance was codified. That will, of course, help limit or contain the problem to some degree.

Alarm dealers, the immediate resolution to this problem is to stop running all your wires surface on the outside of buildings and homes.  Well, at least make sure you don’t (sorry for the bit of sarcasm here).

And finally, I sincerely hope I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill here, but time will tell. One thing is for sure, this will be an interesting ride.  –Al Colombo

About Al Colombo
Allan B. Colombo (image)Allan B. Colombo is a long-time trade journalist and copywriter in the security and life-safety markets. Over the past 35 years his byline has appeared in nearly every security and locksmith trade magazine on the planet. He’s now a Senior Design Specialist with TpromoCom, a social media, content, and web design company based in Canton, Ohio.

Editor’s Note: Feel free to leave me a comment below. Thank you.

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