TideLog Archive for July, 2010

I played rugby again today, quite a while after my match with the guys. This time it was with Rikky and a group of girlfriends she plays footie with. It was rainy, very rainy, and muddy. I was teaching them, too (what I know) as only 3 of the ladies had rugby skills. The pitch we used was a public one, and it was a muddy mess, having been used just this morning for a school football match. Public pitches owned by councils are always like swamps in winter in the UK, but that’s how I love my rugby. Fast, furious, with women, and as muddy and wet as possible. Rikku is a lot stronger than I ever thought, as I found out in a scrum, and several tackles. Teaching her front and rear tackles (ooeerr, missy!) was something I’ll never forget in a while! She floored me, hard, nearly burying me alive in the slop.

If my cute 5ft 9′ slim Canadian ladyfriend is anything to go by, if I ever play rugby with beefy rugby chicks, remind me to be very afraid! I always though she lifted bus wheels with ease working with me in the garage at her company. She is stronger than I ever even thought, even after our months of football with the Hopwood LFC girls. She’s strong at foot tackling, but actual bodily tackling… Wow. I’ll never forget how scared I was seeing her charging at me the fourth and fifth time. Even how cute she looked in her Woodhill training kit covered in mud didn’t cross my mind. I’m starting to think she may have a Supergirl outfit under her clothes, sometimes! She would be VERY cute then, absolutely! A nice tight Spandex one and long cape, like in the UltraSexyHeroines pics I’ve posted in the past…. Heaven….

Tonight, though, we have a test that might switch the scarediness on to her, and that certainly wasn’t on her PSV test criteria…. She wants to branch Matsuki Transport out into doing nightclub runs, limo and driver hire. So to prepare her, and seriously test her driving saintness, me and a group of guys from my Stretford Saints gang are gonna get ourselves nicely merried up with booze, and see how she drives a double decker bus filled with loud, friendly, drunk merry people. I’ve done it, with people I didn’t know, and it does test your concentration, a lot. I’m not sure how she’d handle any unruly passengers in a club bus, but I suppose we’ll have to hire bouncers to boot idiots off at the roadside. Now that would be funny if legal to do!

We’ll need to test her other drivers, but only if she doesn’t leap out of the idea. That, and I still haven’t finished her test club bus conversion. I wish we’d bought a scrapper Olympian, instead of the brand new £130,000 Volvo B9TL double decker she chose, of her own will, given the choice of old or new, she chose new! Well, Rikky being Rikky, and a lady, she wouldn’t buy old used shoes, would she? That was what she said, not me!

Awwww. Sporty chicks, geeky chicks, bus driver chicks, Asian chicks. I love them all to bits!

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Programming the Optima is done entirely with the keypad. You can change all aspects of the system, such as user code, entry and exit time, bell on time. There are two programming modes, Engineer Programming mode, and Customer Programming mode. Below are the things you can change in each mode.

NOTE: You cannot enter any Programming Mode if the system is stuck in a Tamper or Attack event. Clear these before doing so. Tamper locks the system out completely until cleared, the keypad will not respond. Check for open Zone tampers on PIR’s and contacts, and rectify. Call a professional alarm engineer if in doubt, or leave me a note using my Contact form to the left sidebar.

Engineer Programming Mode

Things the Engineer can change: Exit Time, Entry Time, Bell Time, and Reset to Factory Conditions (cannot be done unless the codes are known, if you’ve lost the codes, perform an NVM reset. See the very bottom of my article). Please note that the Engineer Code is fixed at 9999 and CANNOT be changed without a specialist EEPROM re-program.

To enter Engineer Programming mode, the system must be in Day mode, with the system unarmed and the Power and Day LED’s lit.

1. Press PROG. All LED’s on the panel will illuminate.

2. Enter the Customer Code. The Day and Tamper LED’s will illuminate.

3. Press PROG again, and enter the engineer code, 9999. The Day and Attack LED’s will light. The system is now in Engineer Programming mode.

NOTE: To exit Programming Mode after making changes, press RESET twice. The system then goes back to Day mode.

Exit Time:

1. Press 1. The Zone 1 & Zone 2 LED’s will light.

2. Enter the time required in 10 second increments, divided by 10.

Eg. 10 seconds ÷ 10 = 1 so enter 01

20 seconds = 02

30 seconds = 03

3. After entering the two digits the Day and Attack LED’s will illuminate again.

Entry Time:

1. Press 2. The Zone 1 and Zone 2 LED’s light up.

2. Enter the required time as with Exit Time above.

3. The Day and Attack LED’s show once more.

Bell Time:

1. Press 3. Zone 1 and Zone 2 LED’s illuminate.

2. Enter the required time in minutes:

01 = 1 minute

20 = 20 minutes

99 = Maximum 99 minutes

00 = No bell stop

NOTE: To conform with Noise Pollution regulations it is recommended that no more than 15 or 20 minutes be programmed.

Reset to Factory Conditions:

From Engineer Programming mode, pressing the SET button returns the system to Day and factory set codes and timers will be set, as below:

Factory Defaults:

Default User/Customer Code: 0123

Engineer Code: 9999 (Cannot EVER be changed by ordinary end users or engineers only by software engineers like myself with the correct equipment)

Entry Time: 20 seconds

Exit Time: 20 seconds

Bell Time: 20 minutes

To exit Engineer Programming mode, press RESET twice. The system will now go back into Day mode.

Customer Programming Mode

Things you can change: Code change, Alarm Memory Recall, Alarm Tests (Bell test, Strobe test, Low/High volume sounder test, and Walk test (zone test)

To get into Customer Programming, make sure the system is in Day mode, with the system unarmed, and the Power and Day indicators lit.

1. Press PROG. All LED’s will illuminate.

2. Enter your user code. The Day and Tamper LED’s will illuminate. The system is now in Customer Programming mode. To change any aspect, see below.

NOTE: To exit Programming Mode after making changes, press RESET twice. The system then goes back to Day mode.

Code Change:

1. Press 8. The four Zone LED’s will illuminate.

2. Enter your new code. The system beeps twice, and the Day and Tamper LED’s will light up

Alarm Memory Recall:

1. Press MEM. The last alarm will now be displayed for 5 seconds. The Day and Tamper LED’s will illuminate.

Alarm Tests:

1. Press 0. The Day, Tamper and Attack LED’s illuminate. The system is now in the Test routine.

Strobe Test: Press 2. Press 0 to stop the test.

Bell Test: Press 3. Press 0 to stop the test.

Low & High Volume Sounder Test: This tests the volume of the internal control panel speaker. Press 4 to perform the Low Volume test, and 2-4 to perform the High Volume test. Press 0 to stop the test.

Walk Test: Press 5 to start the test. Walk around the premises, opening each zone. The system will beep each time a door is opened, PIR triggered, or pressure mat stepped on, and the relevant Zone LED will illuminate. Press 0 to stop the test.

To exit Customer Programming mode, press RESET twice. The system will now go back into Day mode.

Performing NVM Reset

The codes set during programming are stored in an area of Non-Volatile Memory (NVM), which retains its settings even if the power is removed from the system. These can be reset to factory defaults (see Engineer Reset above for the codes) by following this procedure:

1. Disconnect the mains power, either by removing the fuse of the in-line spur (if fitted) or at the main junction box.

2. Remove the control panel cover. If the system battery is operational, the system will go into a full alarm condition as you’ve opened the control panel tamper switch. If not, it will stay silent. Also, when you remove the battery, if the bell box has an internal battery, the bell may operate on its own. This is normal tamper protection.

3. Remove the wires from terminals 9 and 19 (9 is one of Zone 4 wires and 19 is Set +ve) making notes as to where they go. Place a wire jumper in terminals 9 and 19, linking them together.

4. Apply mains power (you can use the battery but it is best to use mains depending on the age and condition of the battery). The system will now have a reset NVM, and have factory settings applied. The Tamper and Attack indicators will be lit, and the system is in Self Test mode, showing any faulty/open zones. Fix as necessary, if necessary! Switch off mains.

5. Remove the wire jumper from 9 and 19, replace original wiring, refit battery (will go into Alarm if the battery’s good!) and cover. Silence the alarm with 0123 once the cover tamper is closed, then enter whichever Programming mode you wish to re-program the codes etc.

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This is a question I get asked by DIY guys. What is a microprocessor watchdog? What exactly does it do? What happens when something is wrong?

The watchdog timer is a chip external to the processor. However, it could also be included within the same chip as the CPU; this is done in many microcontrollers. In either case, the watchdog timer is tied directly to the processor’s reset signal. Expansion card based watchdog timers exist and can be fitted to computers without an onboard watchdog. It is a computer hardware or software timer that triggers a system reset or other corrective action if the main program, due to some fault condition, such as a hang, neglects to regularly service the watchdog (writing a “service pulse” to it, also referred to as “kicking the dog”, “petting the dog”, “feeding the watchdog” or “waking the watchdog”). The intention is to bring the system back from the unresponsive state into normal operation.

An example task in an alarm is making sure that the processor triggers the timer circuit upon set, and that the zones trigger correctly. The processor is active all the time. Every time you walk past a PIR or open a door, even if the system is unset, the processor watches for every trigger, and makes sure it’s ignored or actioned upon. If the processor crashes, freezes, or goes into shock following power surges, it will be reset by the watchdog.

In some systems this will reset the whole alarm, resulting in a similar reset to a power cycle, the alarm then goes into full alarm condition. In high end systems, the processor is reset silently whilst the rest of the system is held off in its current state, and a log is written to the system event log, that can then be acessed by the alarm engineer.

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I like to test systems before I fit them, especially if the unit has been refurbished by me, as I do circuit repair to all panels. I set up what I call a “barebones testbed”. This involves laying out the components of the alarm, and physically wiring it all together using short lengths of cable, then performing an in depth NVM test program, zone and walk test, before actually installing it into its permanent home and drilling any holes.

WARNING: It can get noisy, as we will have the bell/sounder at close range, so I suggest a good pair of ear defenders, and getting anyone else, and pets, away from the area, as anything up to 135DB will cause extreme hearing damage to those unprotected.

I’ll use the ADE Optima XM system as an example here, as it is a system I regularly refurbish.

1. Obtain all components of the system you wish to test. PIR’s, door contacts etc, and enough wiring. It doesn’t have to be really long.

2. Obtain a kettle lead, and cut the kettle end off. Replace the fuse with a 2A fuse (this is REALLY important, as an alarm MUST have a 2A fuse). Trim your wires using wire cutters. This method is safe because the plug has an inline 2A fuse, and is the same as if the alarm was installed in line with a fused spur. The wires are also the same SWG that is in flat twin & earth mains cable, just the mains cable wil have single core cable. It doesn’t really matter, as the supply is still 240V 60Hz regardless.

3. Wire your test lead into the transformer input terminal block using current wiring standards. Brown is Live, Blue is Neutral, and Green/Yellow is Earth. On the Optima XM the Brown goes into the left terminal, Earth in the middle, and Brown on the right. Other systems may be different according to age (the standard changed in 2004) so the manual may be wrong regarding colours if it’s an old system.

4. Plug the system in to make sure it powers. It may go into Tamper if the zones aren’t jumpered, as we’ve not connected anything. If you’ve done any chip repair, you might like to jumper the zones first, and reset the NVM (On the Optima this can be done by removing ALL zone wiring, and jumpering terminals 9 – 19 together and powering up without battery. Jumper the Tamper and PA terminals though!!). Then jumper the zones, and use the default customer code to test the timer and set procedure, to make sure the processor is working correctly. Unplug and plug in a few times to make sure the NVM is holding settings.

5. Unplug, and now wire all your test zones in. Make sure all your tampers are wired correctly, and closed, this is a common fault that makes amateur engineers think the panel is at fault, when in fact it is them not understanding their job properly.

6. Once you’ve checked your wiring, close your door sensors, and keep out of the proximity of any PIR’s. Switch on. The Optima in my example will now go into a full alarm condition because power has been restored and we don’t have a battery connected. if you’ve reset the NVM, use default codes, otherwise use the ones already set if you know them. If not follow my NVM reset step in Step 4 (Optima and Optima XM ONLY, as part of my example, other panels will be different)

7. Test all zones. Part the door sensors, and test. Reset the alarm and follow this with all PIR’s and other sensors, checking any time inhibit zones. A time inhibit zone is a zone that you have to go through to unset the system, like a living room PIR, after opening the front door. This means that once the entry timer has started by opening the door, the PIR won’t trigger into a full alarm before the timer stops when you go through the room to unset the alarm.

Job done! Now you’re ready to install the system into its permanent home, knowing that the equipment works, before any holes are drilled and cabling routed through walls and floorboards.

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12 M VOLUMETRIC LENS – Standard lens used on PIRs. Gives full room coverage made up of 24 beams.

20-MINUTE CUT OFF TIMER – Standard timer built into all bell boxes. Used to ensure that bell box stops once it has sounded for 20 minutes. It is set at 20 minutes to comply with The Environmental Noise & Pollution Act 1987. 15 minutes is now the norm for bell on operation.

3- WATT STROBE – This is a U-shaped strobe, used on some bell boxes. It is not only brighter, but will also last approximately 2½ times longer than the l-watt version.

30 M LENS – This is an optional lens available for some PIRs. The angle of coverage has been made narrower which in turn sends the PIR beams further (30 metres). Suitable usage would include corridors.

ABS – Stands for Acrylo-nitrile Butadiene Styrene. This is a soft plastic, which is generally used for PIR mouldings.

ACCESS – This zone type is also known as a walk through zone. It is particularly useful if, when entering the premises you have to pass a PIR to get to the control panel. It will only allow you to walk past if the entry/exit zone, i.e. the front door, has been opened first. If any other means of entry is used it will trigger an immediate alarm condition

ACPO – Association of Chief Police Officers

ADVANCED TEMPERATURE COMPENSATION – This is a feature found on some PIRs. It will adjust the threshold levels on the unit, as the background temperature of the room changes, i.e. through heating coming on. This helps to prevent false alarm activations that can be caused by temperature changes.

ALARM ABORT – This is an ACPO recommendation, to reduce false alarm calls to the monitoring station. This feature is built-in as standard to certain panels. If when coming into your premises you accidentally trigger a sensor, this will send a signal down to the monitoring station, which would automatically be treated as an alarm activation. The abort facility allows you to cancel this, by sending a second signal to the monitoring station. You do this by re-entering your user code, within a programmable time window.

ALARM B -This is an ACPO recommendation, to confirm those alarm signals sent to the monitoring station are the genuine article. This is also known as sequential verification. This feature is built-in as standard to some panels. It works by sending two signals instead of one, within a 30 minute time window. Two different zones must trigger this signal, to verify that it’s not a faulty unit, but a genuine alarm condition.

ALERT – This zone type would be used for monitoring of a freezer in a supermarket for example. In the un-set condition, if the freezer failed it would activate the internal -sounders. In the full-set condition it would notify the monitoring station, via the communications equipment. One thing to note is this zone type would never activate the external sounders

ALERT KEYS – On some control panels and remote keypads, there are alert keys. Dependent on which panel you use, it is either fixed on keys 1 & 3, or programmable. If these keys are pressed simultaneously it will activate the external sounder. It also saves the engineer having to use a zone on the panel itself for a panic attack button.

ANTI-MASK – Anti-mask is a feature built into a number of detectors that recognises if someone is try to mask the detector, effectively jamming the beam array to prevent the detector picking up motion. If an attempt to mask the detector is detected, the alarm will be activated.

ARC – Alarm Receiving Centre. A secure location where signals are monitored 24hours a day.

AUDIO VERIFICATION – This is another means of confirming an alarm signal to the monitoring station, in line with the ACPO policy. It works by having microphones situated around the premises. When the monitoring station receives an alarm signal they can ring though to the premises, which in turn will switch the microphones on and allow them to listen quickly to any activity.

BACK TAMPER – Available as standard on the majority of bell boxes. The tamper generally comes in the form of a micro switch. If an intruder attempts to pull the unit away from the wall, the tamper will activate causing an alarm condition. All NACOSS customers use rear tampers in line with their procedures.

BELL DELAY TIME – This is only recommended for use on an alarm system with communication to a monitoring station. It is a programmable time that delays the bell box from activating in the event of an intruder activation. The signal to the monitoring station still goes out immediately, but any bell boxes or internal sounders will not go off until the delay time has elapsed. This means that there is more chance of the police actually catching the intruder, rather than just frightening them away.

BELL ON TIME – This feature is programmed into the panel by the engineer. It is the length of time he wants the bell box to ring for, in the event of an alarm condition. There will normally be a backup 20-minute timer built into the bell unit itself, but this will only be used if the power between the panel and bell is severed.

BLANK END STATION – This phrase applies to any control panel, which does not have a keypad on-board to operate engineer and user functions. It will come in the form of a polycarbonate or metal blank box. All programming functions will need to be done from a remote keypad

CALL PARKING – This is a means of preventing telephone calls on a shared line being blocked, done in conjunction with BT star services, which is similar to call waiting. It works by parking any incoming calls, while it sends the signal out. It is recommended that this be used with a Speech Dialler or digital communicator so, in the event of an alarm, the communications equipment has no problem dialling out.

CEILING MOUNT BRACKET – This is a standard bracket for use with most of our PIRs. It would be mainly used when it is difficult to mount the PIR in the corner, in particular when there is coving in-situ.

CHIME – This zone control is mainly used on shop doors. It is used to indicate when the door is opened. It does this by emitting a duo-tone, which can be done by either the panel or internal sounder. Chime can be used on any zone, with most control panels. Other uses may include the chime being used in conjunction with a PIR at the top of the stairs, to notify when small children are at risk from falling.

CLEANER CODE -This feature is available on some control panels. It allows one to allocate zones to a user code so that, when a code is entered, only the zones allocated will un-set. All remaining zones on the system will still be fully active. Useful applications would include a bank where it would be possible to alarm the safe room whilst leaving the office area un-set to allow the cleaners to do their job.

COVERED PCB -This is a lacquered PCB with a cover secured over the top of it. This will give some formal weather protection, but is by no means as effective as encapsulated modules

CREEP ZONE – Creep zones can be found on the majority of PIRs. PIRs send out a series of beams to give full room coverage. Creep beams are sent out just in front of the unit, to pick up on an intruder trying to tamper with the unit itself.

CURTAIN LENS – This is an interchangeable lens available for all of our PIR units. It changes the beam pattern to a straight vertical coverage, used across a doorway for example.

DB OUTPUT – The sound output from all sounders, internal or external are measured in decibels. By law this cannot exceed 125dB.

DIGI CHANNELS – The channels on the digi or digicom (digital communicator) are used to send information from the panel to the monitoring station. This information will notify them of the type of alarm condition, i.e. intruder, fire, etc. The panel/digicom used determines the number of channels available for this purpose.

DIGI PROGRAMMER -This tends to be a hand held unit in the style of an LCD keypad. It enables the engineer to programme the digi, prior to it being installed. The benefit of this approach is that the alternative is to purchase a chip from the monitoring station, with the programming on. This chip creates further additional costs for the installer.

DIGITAL COMMUNICATOR – Otherwise known as a digi or digicom. The communicator is there to transmit the alarm signals to the monitoring station; it does this using DTMF, (telephone talk). The only time the communicator will transmit to the monitoring station is in an alarm condition or on a test call. The most common communications protocol is BSIA Fast Format.

DUALTECH – A Dualtech is a dual technology detector which uses both PIR and microwave technologies to detect movement. For the detector to alarm, both the PIR and microwave technologies need to detect movement, thus reducing the risk of false alarms.

DURESS CODES – This feature is available on some control panels, and is used in conjunction with either a digital communicator or a STU. If you are under attack, and are being forced to open the premises, there are two ways of activating a duress signal; either through a dedicated code or by upping the first digit of your user code by one (for example, if your code is currently 2345, you would input 3345). This will still un-set the system but at the same time send a duress signal to the monitoring station, so that they can alert the police. The major benefit of this feature is that the signal is sent out but the bells are not activated and intruders get panicked, which can make situations worse.

EMI – Electro Magnetic Interference. This type of interference can be generated by computers or microwaves, and can cause major problems to any electronic circuit board. Manufacturers take this into consideration when designing products, to ensure EMI does not cause damage to the product’s working functions.

ENCAPSULATED BI-MORPH SENSOR – A bi-morph sensor is a wafer thin piezo element. When the element trembles through vibration, it activates an alarm condition. It is normally encapsulated to protect it from damage caused on installation

ENCAPSULATED PCBs – Encapsulated PCBs are manufactured by taking a PCB, giving it a formal lacquer coating and enclosing it in a plastic module. To further enhance this, silicone sealant is put around the edge of the module, which makes the unit totally airtight. The major benefit of this is the protection it gives from moisture and dust ingress, the biggest cause of bell box failures. Encapsulated PCBs will outlast Open or Covered PCB’s every time.

END OF THE LINE RESISTOR – This style of wiring is available for use on many control panels. It is the most secure form of wiring available and makes it virtually impossible for an intruder to compromise the system. It also provides a means of extending the number of zones on some panels at no extra cost. This is done by converting the individual tamper zones into alarm zones, and then using two types of resistors to differentiate between an alarm and a tamper condition.

ENGINEER CODE LOCK-IN – This is a feature designed to prevent unauthorised engineers taking over maintenance contracts. They would normally do this by down powering the panel and reverting it back to factory defaults. If the lock in feature has been used, the panel will still go back to default but the engineer code will stay locked.

ENTRY/EXIT – This zone type is linked back to the main entrance point, e.g. front door. Whether the product used is a contact or a PIR, when the detector is activated, the timer will start. The engineer programmes the timers for entry and exit.

ESCORT MODULE – This is an accessory for the DSC range of control panels. This module enables one to speak to the control panel, through any telephone. It does this by using its voice library of 180 system words and 241 library words. Another feature available is the adding of up to 32 x X10 plug-in devices, which are linked to household appliances. These modules can be can programmed so that the panel switches these appliances on and off at certain times.

EVENT LOG – Many of the higher end control panels have an event log built into them as standard. This is used to record all system movements on a rotation basis. The panel used will determine the log size. It tends to be insurance companies who specify specific sizes, but only on commercial applications.

EXIT TERMINATOR – These can come in many guises, such as keyswitch or pushbutton formats. The user still enters their user code when leaving the premises, but the system will not final set until the exit terminator has been activated. One thing to note is that the system cannot be un-set via the exit terminator.

EXIT TIME – This is the time needed by the user to leave the premises. Factors to be taken into consideration are the agility of the user and the location of the keypad in relation to the exit door. The engineer programs this time.

EXPANDER CARD – The expander card enables the engineer to increase the zones available on the control panel. They are small PCBs, with a number of zones on each card that can be plugged onto the panel itself, or mounted remotely.

FACTORY DEFAULT – These are the settings put into the panels when they are being manufactured. These are set to enable the manufacturer to test the products on the production line. Every panel of the same model will have the same default settings. From there, the engineer can leave the settings as they are or change them to suit the installation.

FIRE – This zone type is used for any smoke or heat detectors. When activated it will cause a full alarm condition, whether the system is set or un-set. One major benefit of using this zone type is that it changes the noise the external sounder produces, into a pulsed sound. This should alert anyone nearby that it is not a normal alarm condition.

FIRST TO LATCH – This is used in conjunction with latch, which is when there is more than one detector on a zone. It enables the engineer to identify which one of the units was activated first, which can be very useful when trying to determine the point of entry. The LED of the unit that went into alarm first will permanently flash. The LEDs on the remaining units will stay constant.

FRESNEL LENS – This is the lens on a PIR. It is called a fresnel lens due to the grooves cut into it. It is these grooves that create the beam pattern. There are 4 main types, which are: 12 metre, 30 metre, Pet Alley or Curtain.

FRONT TAMPER – You will find a front tamper on the majority of the products manufactured. This is put in place to stop intruders trying to disarm the product itself by removing the front cover. The tamper generally comes in the form of spring or micro- switch.

FULL SET – This is the mode when all zones are active. The only time you would normally have a system full set is when you are not on the premises.

FULLY PROGRAMMABLE ZONES – On most panels, the zones are fully programmable to a number of zone types. This gives the engineer total flexibility when designing the system.

GALVANISED STEEL – This is the material we use for most metal bell boxes. The benefit of galvanisation is that it prevents the steel from rusting or swelling. It gives the metal a mottled appearance.

GLASS BREAK DETECTORS – Glass break detectors are activated by detecting the noise made by breaking glass. There are many advantages to using these detectors, they are visually more appealing, they are less expensive to install/maintain, and they are less prone to service problems. One of the major advantages of using this type of detector, however, is that the burglar is detected before he enters your home not after, as is the case with motion detectors.

GRAPHIC ANNUNCIATOR – This is a DSC product, which can be used in conjunction with their PC4010 and PC4020 control panels. It provides a schematic layout of the premises, showing where an alarm occurred. The annunciator comes with a software package to enable one to design the layout to match one’s premises; one then uses LEDs to identify where the detectors are situated.

HIGH PROFILE – This phrase is used when referring to bell boxes. A bellbox is said to be high profile when it is a deep box. This styling tends to be used on commercial applications, as it provides a good visual deterrent.

HOME AUTOMATION (OR DOMOTICA) – This is term used to describe the functions available for controlling domestic appliances (e.g. heating, lighting, curtains) either automatically or remotely. This has grown from the American intruder market, where end users want the control panel to not only deter intruders but to also control the whole house, for example switching appliances or the heating on. In the UK market, the security system is still currently seen purely as a means of providing a deterrent.

ID BISCUITS – These are numbered chip devices, used in conjunction with ID Wiring, to identify the different sensors. They come in a hard wire format. The red packs are numbered 1-10, blue are 11-20 and the green 21-30, and these are then wired into the detectors to identify them by number.

ID WIRING – This style of wiring has become very popular with certain installers over the last few years. The major benefit of this style of wiring is that savings are made through shorter cabling. It works by taking a single cable loop around the building, with the sensors all wired onto it. The sensors are identified using the ID biscuits.

INTELLIGENT RE-POWER – This feature appears on Speech Diallers. This acts as a back-up should all power be taken away from the unit. When power is re-applied, it will be restored in the status that it was in before the equipment went down. For example if it was in the on status, it will come back up as on.

INTERNAL SOUNDERS – There are many different types of internal sounders available. They are more likely to be used on large premises to make sure everyone can hear that there is an alarm condition.

LAST CALL LOG – This feature is available on some speech diallers. It is a log that stores the last telephone number dialled and the last message given. LATCH – Latch is used when we want to wire back more that one detector to a zone

LCD – Liquid Crystal Display. This is used on many keypads and control panels. It tends to be preferred by both the engineer and the end user. The keypad offers full 32-character English text display, which is very easy to understand.

LED – Light Emitting Diode. LEDs are used on many control panels, keypads, bell boxes, etc. They are used on the panels as an indication of the function being used. On bell boxes they are used as a visual deterrent.

LIGHT PIPE – This feature is available on some PIRs. It is a clear section at the top of the unit, through which we can see the LED. On a standard PIR the LED is behind the lens, which can be difficult to see when you are a long distance away from the unit.

LOOK DOWN ZONE – This feature is available on some detectors. These units have a lens on the bottom of the detector through which a beam is sent. This gives greater protection by stopping attack from beneath the unit. This is also a useful feature if using PIRs on a stairway.

LOW PROFILE – This phrase is used when referring to bell boxes. A bellbox is regarded as low profile when it is a slim box. This styling tends to be used on domestic applications, as it does not stand out too much.

MAIN USER – This user option is available on a number of control panels. This priority level is able to set, un-set, part-set, test, remove zones and reset after an alarm (if this feature is programmed by the engineer).

MICROPROCESSOR WATCHDOG – The watchdog is there to look after the functions of the microprocessor chip. It is constantly monitoring the chip to ensure there are no problems. If there are, normally the microprocessor is restarted.

MILLIAMPS – There are 1000 milliamps in 1 Amp. Every technology attached to a security system draws current, and this is measured in milliamps, for example: a control panel generally has a 1 Amp power supply built into it, from that we need to deduct the power need for every PIR, Shock sensor, Bell box etc. If we took a basic system in normal mode it would be drawing approx. 550 milli-amps, but in alarm condition this I could jump up to about 900 milli-amps.

MIRROR OPTICS – Mirror optics are used in some detectors, where a concave mirror is used to focus the infra-red energy, rather than a Fresnel lens that is normally used. The advantage of mirror optics is that the infra-red energy is more accurately focused, increasing the quality of detection.

MULTIPLE TRIGGER INHIBIT – This feature is found on a Speech Dialler. It is there to prevent two messages being sent out at the same time.

ONBOARD KEYPAD – This refers to any control panel with a keypad built into it. All programming is done from this point. Depending on the panel being used, one may also be able to use remote keypads as well.

OPEN PCB’s – These are lowest specification PCB’s available. It is a board with a formal lacquer coating, which gives it some protection from outside extremities, but is definitely not recommended for use at coastal sites, where a high amount of salt air will corrode the unit very quickly.

PAGER + FACILITY – This feature is now available on some Speech Diallers and the Digis. In the event of an alarm condition the units can send a message to a numeric pager.

PA OR PANIC ATTACK BUTTON – This is a button that is mounted at easy-to-hand around a house or building, which can be pressed in the event of a person being threatened or attacked. It will generate a full alarm condition, whether the alarm is set or un-set.

PANIC – This zone type is available for use on most control panels. It is recommended that this is used when attaching panic attack buttons to a system. It will generate a full alarm condition, whether the alarm is set or un-set.

PARTITION – Partitions in a panel allow a number of completely separate alarm systems to be controlled from the same panel. This means that, if one partition is inserted in a panel, this will allow two completely separate alarm systems (i.e. separate users, separate, detectors, separate zones, different settings and part sets, etc.) to be run from that panel. This feature tends to be used in applications such as shared accommodation or apartment blocks when one panel can be used for alarm systems in a number of different apartments/premises.

PART SET -This is the mode that will set part of the alarm system, automatically isolating a zone or zones where people may still need to move around. On all panels there are a number part-set suites available, and these can be linked to any number of zones. Part-set tends to be used in situations such as isolating the upstairs of a house at night, to allow people to walk around freely, whilst leaving the perimeter and downstairs areas fully alarmed.

PART SET EXIT TIME – This is very similar to the normal exit time. The part set exit time is the time needed to get from the control panel to your isolated area, when part-setting the system. Again it’s a countdown timer; the time programmed by the engineer depends mainly on the agility of the user.

PASSIVE INFRA-RED DETECTOR (PIR) – This is the standard detector used on most systems. PIR detectors are electronic devices that detect an intruder by sensing his body heat when he enters or moves around the area of protection. The device consists of a mirror or lens that can focus the energy, a thermal sensor to detect the energy, and associated electronics to analyze the information. The mirror/lens divides the area of coverage into multiple zones of detection. This can be visualized by holding your hand out and spreading your fingers. Each finger represents one optic zone of the detector. An actual PIR detector actually uses much more than 5 zones of detection, and some models can detect motion up to 200 feet from the unit. The PIR can only detect motion within one of its zones and is most sensitive to motion across the zones since this is what causes the greatest change in energy.

PERIMETER SYSTEM – Sensing devices that are located on exterior doors and windows that will activated an alarm if triggered.

PET ALLEY LENSES – This is an interchangeable lens available for use with some PIRs. It changes the beam coverage to start the detection at mid room level. This is to allow small pets to walk around under the beams.

PET IMMUNE DETECTOR – There are several so-called “pet immune” detectors on the market. With the ones tested so far, they are pet-immune but only in certain conditions. There is no true pet immune detector yet available, which would disregard an animal no matter what its size or distance away from the PIR. The best way to overcome the problem of pets is to use perimeter protection instead.

PGM – This is a programmable output available on many control panels. It acts like a light switch. If it were programmed for Bell, which would mean that, when the bell box is activated, it would switch on whatever is connected to it, e.g. trigger a relay to activate floodlights or cameras.

PIEZO SOUNDER – The piezo sounder is used on the majority of external sounders. The sounder consists of an electronic piezo element, called a Piezo Transducer, which gives a very high-pitched output. The benefit of this is that it is low cost and loud, the disadvantage is it is not directional. Police and ambulance sirens also use this type of sounder.

PLAYBACK FACILITY – This feature is available on Speech Diallers. It allows one to listen to the messages recorded onto the unit.

POLYCARBONATE – This is a very strong and resilient plastic that is used for both bell boxes and control panels. It is, to a certain degree, fire resistant as well. To comply with BS4737 regulations, 3mm thick polycarbonate needs to be used.

POTENTIOMETER – A potentiometer is an adjustable resistor which is used for applications such as a volume adjuster on some control panels and a sensitivity adjustment on shock sensors. It has a small wheel that controls the level.

POWER SUPPLY OR PSU – Power supplies are used to give the right voltage and current required to power all technologies on an alarm system. There is normally a power supply built into all of control panels that are 12 volt rated. However, additional PSUs are also sold that are boxed in either polycarbonate or metal enclosures. These tend to be needed for larger systems

PRIORITY LEVELS – These are the differing levels of access given to the users of a control panel. On all panels there is a minimum of Master, User & Set levels available.

PROGRAMMABLE DIAL ATTEMPTS – This feature is used on both the Speech Dialler and the digi. A specified number of dial attempts are programmed into the module to ensure the unit will try a telephone number several times, in case it cannot get through first time.

PT E/E – This zone type is probably one of the most useful zone types available. It is a two in one zone. It acts like an access zone in full set, in that it will allow a person to walk through as long as the entry/exit zone is opened first. In part-set it acts like an entry/exit zone starting the entry timer as soon as it detects a person. It is suitable for use in open plan rooms.

PULSE COUNT – This is available on both some PIRs and shock sensors. Pulse count is incorporated to try and prevent false alarm activations. It will count a number of activations before going into alarm. For example, if a PIR is set at pulse count 3, it would have to see movement in three zones of the detector beam pattern before it would go into alarm.

PYRO – A pyro or pyro element is the thermal sensor that is used in infra-red detectors (PIRs, Quads and Dualtechs)

QUAD DETECTOR – A quad element detector is a type of PIR where four infra-red sensors are built into the detector, increasing the accuracy of detection compared to a normal PIR.

RE-ARMS – It is always recommended to use re-arms. In an alarm condition, after the programmed bell ring time, the bell box will go quiet. If this feature is activated, the panel will automatically re-set itself, ready for action, so if there is still an intruder on the premises or someone re- enters the building, they will be detected and the bell box will be re-activated. Generally, 3-5 re-arms is the normal setting, i.e. the panel will automatically reset 3-5 times before the system needs to be manually reset.

REDCARE COMPATIBLE – Redcare is the best communication format available to send messages between the premises being monitored and the monitoring station. Any panels that have a communication output can take a Redcare STU. The only potential problem is that the STU may not fit into the panel itself, and so has to be mounted in a separate enclosure.

REDCARE STU (SUBSCRIBER TERMINAL UNIT) – This is the communicator used for the BT Redcare system. There are only two manufacturers of STUs, Versus and Digital Audio (DA). They both do a very similar job. The benefit of using a STU over any other form of communication is that it offers permanent monitoring between the premises and the monitoring station. This means that, if there were any problems, e.g. cut phone line or an alarm condition, these would be noticed by the monitoring station within seconds.

REMOTE RESET – This is a feature that allows the monitoring station to reset the control panel remotely, by sending a signal down the telephone line. This is done only when there has been an alarm condition, rather than a tamper condition.

REMOVABLE PCB – On several units the Printed Circuit Board is removable. This is done to make installation of that product easier for the engineer.

RESTORE – This is an ACPO recommendation. It is very similar to Alarm Abort. The main difference is that, to utilise Alarm Abort, you have to designate a channel on your communicator. With Restore, the message is sent on the same channel as your alarm signal. When the system is un-set a Restore signal is sent, to the monitoring station, which will clear the channel. This does rely on the monitoring station being able to take this type of signal. Installation companies will either use Restore or Alarm Abort but not both on the same system.

RFI – Radio Frequency Immunity. Radio waves are generated by the use of mobile phones, police or taxi radios. This type of interference can cause a multitude of problems to the electronics used in alarm products, mainly resulting in false alarms. Manufacturers endeavour, at all times, to design equipment to guard against this interference

RS232 PRINTER PORT – This printer port is available on some control panels. It enables engineers and users to print off the panel log, onto a RS232 compatible printer. This type of port is common with the majority of printers available.

SAB – Self-Activating Bell. The majority of bell boxes available in the market work in SAB mode. This means that the bell box draws all it’s power from the control panel. The NIMH battery normally contained in the bellbox is there purely as a back up, should the power between the panel and bell be cut.

SAB/SCB SELECTABLE – This option is available on several of bell box units. It is there to give the engineer more options, and can be particularly useful if using more than one bell box

SCB – Self-Contained Bell. There are very few bell boxes available on the market that work purely in SCB mode. This means that the bell box receives its quiescent current and trigger from the panel, but when an alarm is activated, the bellbox will draw power from its own on-board battery. Such bellboxes will generally be used when using more than one bellbox on a system, to keep current consumption from the panel to a minimum.

SCREW TAMPER – A screw tamper option is available on nearly all bell boxes. The tamper rests on the cover screws of the unit so that, if the screws are loosened, it will cause a tamper activation. This feature offers greater protection from would be intruders.

SEALED OPTICS – This feature is available on some PIRs. There is a plastic moulding built into the front cover of the unit which, when matched up to the base unit, seals the pyro. This seal then prevents spiders, insects and other foreign bodies getting onto the pyro, resulting in an alarm condition.

SELF-TEST FACILITY – This is a feature common on the NAPCO range of PIRs and Dualtechs. The unit, if for example left alone in an office over a weekend, will automatically test itself every 11-16 hours. This facility is achieved by placing a resistor by the side of the pyro element.

SEPARATE FULL AND PART SET EXIT TIMES – This feature is available on many control panels. The time needed for someone to leave the premises in full set mode tends to be longer than the time someone needs to get to an area that has been isolated in part set mode. Being able to programme both times separately means that the times can be set to suit the application.

SERVICE TIMER – This is an optional feature available on some control panels. It is a means of guaranteeing maintenance and also payment for the installation. The timer can be set from 0-98 weeks (99 turns the feature off). Most engineers will set the timer to 52 weeks, for yearly maintenance. Using this example, two weeks prior to lock (week 50) the panel will advise the customer to call the engineer, advising them every time the system is set or un-set. If, during this time, they decide not to contact the engineer, on week 52 the panel will lock out. This will leave them unable to use the alarm system until the engineer has been out to service the system and reset the timer.

SET ONLY CODE – This is a user priority level. With this code type the user can set the alarm system only. May be used for a cleaner.

SETTING CONFIRMATION – This confirmation, that the system is set, can be either visual via the strobe on a bellbox or audible via the bellbox sounder. This feature has become more popular recently due to the re-introduction of exit terminators for NACOSS companies. It also gives the end user the peace of the mind that the system has set.

SETTING MODES – This defines how the system is set. The options available are: Time, Entry/Exit Door, Time or Entry/Exit and Exit Terminator. Time tends to be the most popular option used

SILENT PART SET – This feature is available on most control panels. If the engineer has programmed this, when someone part-sets the panel, it will not emit any entry/exit tones. This is particularly useful if there are children in bed and there is a risk that setting the alarm system will wake them up.

SOLID STATE – This refers to a type of storage used for voice or data on equipment and replaces the storage of speech on tape, which had a tendency to stretch resulting in the deterioration of speech clarity. With solid state storage, the speech or data is stored on a microprocessor chip that keeps all recording consistent.

STROBE SETTING CONFIRMATION – This feature is available on some control panels. When the system finally sets, whether by time or exit terminator, the strobe on the bell box will flash for 3 seconds. This is a visual confirmation for the end user, to reassure them that the system has set.

SURFACE MOUNT – Almost every electronic security product manufactured uses surface mount technology. This means that most of the electronic components are placed by machine, improving product reliability and production throughput. The surface mount machines used in the production process can place approximately 11,000-15,000 components an hour.

THERMAL NOISE ENVIRONMENT STABILITY – This has been built into PIRs to filter out certain thermal interference caused by items such as mains supplies, lighting, etc. This type of interference can cause false alarm activations.

TWIN-FLASHING LED – Twin-flashing LEDs are used on some bellboxes as a visual deterrent to any would-be intruder. Twin flashing LEDs are also sometimes used on dummy units, to make it look like a live unit. They also give indications to the engineer when servicing, and the bell box goes into Hold Off modefor example.

UPLOAD/DOWNLOAD – This facility is used on higher specification control panels. It provides a means of programming and monitoring alarm systems via a PC. To enable the panel to accept this type of information, a Digi-modem needs to be installed. Any information can then be downloaded from a pc, via a modem, over the telephone line, and into the control panel (or vice versa) within minutes. The major benefit to the Installation Company is that they can now programme systems in advance, and upload the programme settings once the system has been installed. This should also dramatically reduce the amount of site visits needed, as the majority of customer’s queries can be dealt with over the telephone.

USER – This refers to the end user of the alarm system.

USER CODE – This is a pin code used by the user to set or un-set the system. It tends to be a four, five or six digit code of their choice (depending on the panel used).

USER NAME ID – This feature is available on some higher specification control panels. Rather than just having the user listed on the log as a user number, their name can be entered making identification easier when reading the event log. It also personalises the alarm system.

VISUAL VERIFICATION – See Strobe Setting Confirmation

WALK TEST STATUS DISPLAY – This feature is available on many higher spec panels. This is an engineer feature making it easier to do a Walk Test of the system. When the engineer enters walk test mode, the panel will display all zones on the LCD keypad. The engineer can then walk around the premises and activate each zone in turn. When he returns to the keypad, the zones that are working correctly will have disappeared off the display. The ones still showing need to be checked and if necessary adjusted.

WHITE LIGHT FILTER – This term refers to the PIR’s lens. The whiter the lens, the better its immunity to sunlight and strong light sources such as car headlights. This has been a major cause of false alarms, and the vast majority of PIRs nowadays come with a pure white lens.

X-10 – X10 is a power-line carrier protocol that allows compatible devices throughout the home to communicate with each other via the existing 240V wiring in the house. Using X10 it is possible to control lights and virtually any other electrical device from anywhere in the house with no additional wiring. Modules can be bought that plug into a mains socket and will control lights and electrical appliances in any way that the user requires. Using X-10 compatible control panels that are connected to the phone line (via a digi), it is possible to remotely switch on lights and appliances via the Internet and even via a mobile phone.

ZONE – A zone is an area of a building defined within the control panel, which can be activated and deactivated separately from all areas of the building. This allows people to walk around in one area without activating the alarm whilst the rest of the building is protected by the system. Different panels allow a different number of zones to be programmed into them. In general the bigger the building, the greater the number of zones that would need to be programmed into the panel.

ZONE DESCRIPTORS – This feature is available on some control panels, and allows individual zones to be tagged with a text name. As a result, when reading the log, rather than seeing Zone 1, it is possible with these panels to insert the phrase ‘Front Door’, for example. This makes it much easier to identify which zone has been activated.

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