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Best Ways to Monitor Older Generators and Fire Pumps Remotely

By Andrew Erickson

June 26, 2024

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It can be difficult to maintain a reliable remote monitoring system for fire alarms and emergency generators. Jared, a DPS engineer, and a new DPS client recently collaborated to enhance the client's alarm systems for generators and fire pumps.

Today, we'll look at their conversation as it highlights key considerations and solutions that can be applied to similar monitoring needs. Let's begin!

Text message alerts
It is important for fire alarms and emergency generators to have reliable remote monitoring system

Full Chat Transcript (Web Chat Conversation)

Client: Hello, I need sales assistance.

Jared: Hey, how can I help?

Client: Hi Jared. Are the generator alarms universal? Additionally, can they be used on emergency fire pumps?

Jared: There's typically two ways to get alarms from a generator. Older generators will have a few relay outputs each corresponding to something important like engine temp too high, engine on/off, low oil, etc. Newer generators will usually have a few of those, as well as support for a serial protocol called Modbus that will deliver much more detailed information over a serial line.

Client: Gotcha, so we should be able to utilize these alarms with almost any system? Our site has some fairly old generators ('94-'95), would they still work with those?

Jared: Do you have a make/model of the generator? Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to say for certain, though likely.

Client: I'll have to find the model number. I have the make and serial number but no model at the moment. I believe the fire pump is a Clarke JU6H-UFAD58.

Jared: www.clarkefire.com/docs/defaul...ad58-usa.pdf?sfvrsn=e8d82813_2 Well, it definitely has alarms. Overspeed Alarm & Shutdown, Low Oil Pressure, Low & High Coolant Temperature, Low Raw Water Flow, High Raw Water Temperature, Alternate ECM Warning, Fuel Injection Malfunction, ECM Warning and Failure with Automatic Switching. I would imagine those are relay outputs.

Client: We're looking for something that could send us text/email alerts if possible. I'm not quite sure if the stock system is set up to do that.

Jared: I doubt it. Do you have power/ethernet at the location? And a place to mount a box. Something like this: www.dpstele.com/pdfs/prod_sums/ps-ngdin.pdf

Client: I can consult with our IT and maintenance team, but I believe it's something we can arrange.

Jared: Okay, sounds good. And depending on the space you have to mount a unit like that, we also have server rack-mountable sizes.

Client: Good deal, it looks like a fairly small system, so we should have the space to allocate. I don't happen to see it on the spec sheet but what all can this system relay to us?

Jared: It will relay any alarm information the generator is relaying to it - over email. It will also notify you when it itself is having trouble.

Client: Oh wonderful, can the system be set up for text too?

Jared: And it can also do a lot of other things like monitor temperature, tie into a bunch of other sensors if you wanted to. Setting up to text requires a 3rd party piece to be attached to it, and also requires cell service to be purchased (by you, from a cell service provider).

What's pretty common is to use your current cell service provider's "email to SMS gateway," meaning, for example, if you had Verizon and your number was 5555555555, you can send an email to 5555555555@vtext.com and you'd receive that email as a text, for free.

Client: Oh yeah, that would be no problem at all. Sounds wonderful from my end.

Jared: Yeah, it's very convenient, and having cell service for each unit out in the field can add up. How many generators do you need to monitor?

Client: Off the top of my head, I believe it's 2 fire pumps and 6 generators.

Jared: Alright. Well, if you or someone at your company can take a look at the generators and see what sort of outputs they have, then I can find an RTU that would have the right capacity to support it. Also, there's typically an input on generators that can be used for starting it remotely, which our devices can also do.

Client: Can the remote start input also be used to shut the generator off?

Jared: It would depend on how the generator works. For example, some generators want a relay to be latched constantly while you remote start it, then once you unlatch it, the generator shuts down.

Some generators just want a "momentary" latch. So just latched for a second or so, the generator turns on. In that case, the generator will typically have another input for a momentary latch to shut it down.

Understanding Generator Alarm Compatibility

The discussion began with our client seeking clarity on whether generator alarms are universal and applicable to emergency fire pumps. Jared provided valuable insight:

"There's typically two ways to get alarms from a generator. Older generators will have a few relay outputs each corresponding to something important like engine temp too high, engine on/off, low oil, etc. Newer generators will usually have a few of those, as well as support for a serial protocol called Modbus that will deliver much more detailed information over a serial line."

This response underscores the flexibility of strong monitoring systems to integrate with both old and new generator models. For older systems, relay outputs can still provide essential alarm data. Newer systems offer enhanced data through protocols like Modbus. This flexibility is crucial for maintaining and upgrading monitoring systems without requiring complete overhauls of existing infrastructure.

Applicability to Older Generators

Our client was concerned about the compatibility of these alarm systems with older generators from the mid-'90s. Jared's response reassured him that understanding specific equipment details is essential:

"Do you have a make/model of the generator? Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to say for certain, though likely."

Newer systems offer advanced capabilities. However, older models can often still be integrated effectively into your monitoring system with the right knowledge and tools. At DPS, we make sure our solutions can adapt to a wide range of equipment. This minimizes the need for costly replacements.

Detailed Alarm Capabilities for Fire Pumps

The client provided the model of the fire pump in question, a Clarke JU6H-UFAD58. Jared quickly researched and confirmed the outputs:

"Overspeed Alarm & Shutdown, Low Oil Pressure, Low & High Coolant Temperature, Low Raw Water Flow, High Raw Water Temperature, Alternate ECM Warning, Fuel Injection Malfunction, ECM Warning and Failure with Automatic Switching. I would imagine those are relay outputs."

This comprehensive list of alarms demonstrates the extensive monitoring capabilities inherent in fire pumps. By leveraging relay outputs, these alarms can be integrated into a central monitoring system. This will provide real-time alerts and ensure immediate response to critical issues.

Text message alerts
Stay informed about the status of your equipment from anywhere with text message alerts and updates to your phone

Implementing Text and Email Alerts

Our client expressed interest in receiving text and email alerts for alarms. Jared explained the capabilities of DPS systems:

"It will relay any alarm information the generator is relaying to it - over email. It will also notify you when it itself is having trouble."

This functionality is vital for maintaining awareness of operations and ensuring that critical alarms are never missed. By incorporating email alerts, operators can stay informed about the status of their equipment from anywhere. This enhances the overall system reliability.

Jared also provided a cost-effective solution for text alerts:

"Setting up to text requires a 3rd party piece to be attached to it, and also requires cell service to be purchased (by you, from a cell service provider). What's pretty common is to use your current cell service provider's 'email to SMS gateway.'"

This approach provides a way to receive SMS alerts without additional hardware or service costs. This makes it an attractive option for many operators. It simplifies the process of setting up text alerts and ensures that critical information is always within reach. SMS gateways exist for all major wireless carriers.

Versatility in Monitoring Capabilities

Our client was also interested in the broader capabilities of DPS monitoring systems beyond basic alarm notifications. Jared highlighted the versatility of our systems:

"It can also do a lot of other things like monitor temperature, tie into a bunch of other sensors if you wanted to."

This ability to expand monitoring capabilities beyond just alarms is a significant advantage. By integrating temperature and other environmental sensors, operators can create a comprehensive monitoring solution that covers all critical aspects of their infrastructure. This holistic approach ensures that all potential issues are monitored and addressed promptly.

Remote Management and Control

Another significant advantage discussed was the ability to remotely manage and control the equipment. As Jared mentioned:

"Also, there's typically an input on generators that can be used for starting it remotely, which our devices can also do."

Remote management capabilities are crucial for reducing operational costs and increasing efficiency. By allowing operators to start or stop generators from a remote location, DPS systems help minimize the need for physical presence at remote sites. This saves time and resources. This feature is particularly beneficial for large-scale operations with multiple remote sites.

Comprehensive Monitoring Solutions

From integrating with existing infrastructure to providing real-time notifications and remote management, our systems are designed to meet the diverse needs of our clients. At DPS Telecom, we're committed to delivering reliable, adaptable, and cost-effective solutions to guarantee the smooth operation of your critical infrastructure.

For more information on how DPS Telecom can help you with your monitoring needs, contact us today at 1-800-693-0351 or email sales@dpstele.com. Our team of expert engineers is ready to assist you in building a solution tailored to your specific requirements.

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Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...