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"These Best Practices for Alarm Auditing Protect Against Monitoring Failures..."

When was the last time you audited your alarm system? If you can't remember, you're not alone. Most people don't understand how critical it is to perform a full alarm audit every few years.

best practices
These auditing best practices
come from real DPS clients

With these best practices we've collected from our real-world clients, you can protect yourself from missing alarms due to "small problems" like incorrect wiring and failed sensors.

Follow these 7 alarm auditing best practices:

  1. Audit your alarms regularly
    None of the other advice below can help you if you don't commit to regularly inspecting your monitoring system. If you believe that alarm monitoring is the key to protecting your network reliability, then you have "watch the watchdog" by performing regular alarm audits. You should plan to audit your alarms every 1-3 years. Waiting more than 3 years greatly escalates risk, and anything more frequent that 1 year is probably overkill.
  2. Check sites as part of regularly scheduled visits
    If you do a bit of advanced planning, you can probably audit the majority of your sites without having to roll any extra trucks. When a technician visits a site for another reason - and that site is due for an alarm audit - instruct that technician to test the RTU and sensors as part of the trip. This may involve taking a few extra pieces of equipment, so make sure your technicians are prepared.

    If you follow this step, you'll only have to make special visits to sites you normally visit less than your audit frequency of 1-3 years.
  3. Work against a list of sites and points
    A checklist of sites and alarm points is critical for multiple reasons. First, it ensures that you don't forget any sites. This is especially important when you're auditing as part of regular visits (see #2), as you won't be working through your sites in any particular order or timeframe.

    A checklist also protects your technicians from forgetting alarm points and sensors once on site.

    Finally, your checklists are a written log of your audits that can be referenced by management.
  4. Test sensors with actual conditions whenever possible
    Running a test current into the inputs of your RTUs checks the remote, its transport, and your master station. But what if the alarm wires between the remote and a sensor are broken?

    Running the same test current through the alarm wiring and into the RTU solves this problem, but what if the sensor itself is faulty?

    The only way to test the complete system is to simulate the actual condition that would normally trigger the system. If it's a temperature sensor, use a small heater or some ice to manipulate the reading and make sure you receive alarms. For some types of sensors, this may not be feasible, but you can increase your auditing accuracy by testing the sensor whenever possible.
  5. Check for any new equipment that isn't monitored yet
    During your audit, walk around the site and look for any new equipment that was installed recently but isn't yet monitored. This is especially important, because you're just asking for trouble when you leave equipment unmonitored. If you see any discrete outputs labeled "Minor", "Major", or "Critical" that aren't being used, wire them into your RTU right away.
  6. Check older sites against your newest monitoring standards
    At some point in your company's history, you may have made the decision to monitor temperature at all sites. All new sites were turned up with temperature sensors from the start, but what about your older sites that already existed?

    Your audit is your best opportunity to check these older sites against contemporary standards. When your company has a written policy of monitoring temperature at every site, you'll have a hard time explaining your way out of a service outage and damaged equipment resulting from an HVAC failure.
Test Box
This NetGuardian Test Box can test
32 discretes, 8 analogs,
and 8 controls.
  1. Use the right tools for a faster audit
    These devices will make your audit faster by simulating alarm conditions. One good example is the NetGuardian 3288 Test Fixture.

    This box simulates the 32 discrete alarm inputs on a NetGuardian 832A with 32 dedicated toggles. It also has 8 dials for sending between 0 and 5 volts into 8 analog inputs. Finally, you can test control relays with 8 test LEDs.

    The test box is also useful for other NetGuardian models that use amphenol connectors.

Do you have any unanswered questions about auditing your alarms? Maybe you're wishing you even had advanced analog sensors that would deserve an audit?

For help for either of these problems, contact DPS at 1-800-693-0351 or sales@dpstele.com.