Alarm monitoring has been around for well over one hundred and fifty years. Monitoring for fire alarm signals dates back to the 1850’s. The first 100 years used the basic technology of connecting the central monitoring station to each client by a pair of wires. Initially a telegraph service was used, followed by a dedicated telegraph line with a special fire alarm transmitter and receiver. One early innovative way of signaling was the McCulloh mechanical “clock” style system, dating back to the late 19th century. These were wind-up wheels with cams that would transmit a pulse type coded signal via telegraph type wires on telephone poles, arraigned in a local area looped into and out of a fire alarm dispatch center. A “ticker tape” paper printer at the monitoring center would punch three sets of holes in the paper tape indicating a three digit location code. After transmission, the McCulloh transmitter would need to be manually rewound, the beginning of a requirement for a runner service in addition to the central station monitoring dispatch services.


Once electricity became common throughout the built environment, dedicated point to point, electrically supervised private signaling systems via leased wire lines, supplied by local phone companies (at significant monthly cost) came into use. The local phone company would literally run a two conductor wire for the entire distance between the subscriber location and the central monitoring location on their telephone poles, often for many miles. In addition to regional central stations, certain police and fire departments had alarm receivers at their dispatch desks and would provide the monitoring service for local banks, jewelry stores and other businesses desiring burglar and fire alarm monitoring. It was not unusual for robbers or burglars to climb the telephone poles to cut all the wires, generating line fault conditions at many locations simultaneously.


By 1950 both police and fire departments were deeply feeling the pain of false alarms, occasionally with tragic results due to vehicular accidents in the course of responding to the calls. Today, False Alarms  cost Americans hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and continue to plague our emergency responders to this day. To learn more about eliminating false alarms, please read my post: Want faster 911 Response?


Thank you for any efforts in improving central station monitoring and in the reduction of false alarms!


Felix has 40+ years in the life-safety, electronic, and physical security arenas. Additionally, he specializes in business continuity program development and program management. He serves a full spectrum of clients from residential through Fortune 100 companies, and serves as an expert witness in these areas. He is on the Board of Directors serving as Vice-Chair for ASIS International’s Southern Connecticut Chapter, and an active member of the National Eagle Scout Association. Felix is an ASIS International Board Certified CPP, holds an engineering degree in fire protection systems and is a state certified firefighter in Connecticut.


Copyright © 2015. Felix A. Giannini FPE, CPP. All rights reserved.

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