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Telephone Notification Device Selection Guide

Telephone notification devices come in two basic forms:

  1. Remote monitoring devices that detect important conditions (high temperature, malfunctioning equipment, etc.) and automatically dial one or more phone numbers to alert relevant personnel to the problem. These are commonly used to alert technical teams at phone, cable, ISP, railway, police, fire, and other organizations.
  2. Automated dialing devices that work through a pre-determined list of many phone numbers to provide an event notification. These are commonly used by school districts to notify parents of important past and upcoming events related to education.

This article will discuss the two types of telephone notification systems in the order shown above, providing links to product examples and industry contact information for potential buyers of these systems.

Choosing a remote monitoring device

Some remote terminal units (RTUs) are equipped with a modem that allows them to call you on your phone when a problem occurs. "Problems" can include high temperature, physical intrusion by thieves or vandals, the failure of critical equipment, weather conditions, or just about anything else that can be monitored with a sensor.

But you can't just pick the first device you come across and expect that it will work for you. You need to evaluate it against a few important criteria.

First, you need to know if the telephone notification monitoring device you're considering has the right sensor and alarm inputs to detect all important threats in your network environment. Look for analog sensor inputs, discrete inputs (can be used for monitoring either sensors or alarm contacts on your equipment), serial ports, and the ability to handle various communications protocols.

Second, you need to make sure that the device is smart enough to call you in a way that works for you. Do you want calls for every detected event at all hours of the day or not? Probably not. There are probably some issues that can wait until you get back to the office in the morning. For example, a minor equipment issue or a "50% battery life" condition are probably not emergencies.

That's why you need a device that will suppress telephone notifications unless they're urgent enough for the time of day. A minor issue can probably trigger an alert during business hours when you're on the job, but it shouldn't wake you up at 3am.

Also, what if you have different after-hours technicians assigned to different hours and days of the week? Make sure you find a device that's capable of delivering phone notifications to the right person at the right time of the week.

Recommended remote monitoring devices that include telephone notification

Choosing an automated dialing device

If you need a device to sequentially dial a list of telephone numbers and deliver a pre-recorded voice message, you need to look for some specific capabilities.

First, you need to ensure that the device can hold the entire phone notification database. You can't leave anyone out, so you need to make sure you have the technical capability to perform a full notification sequence without breaking the list into parts and running them separately.

Second, how many outbound phone lines can be accessed simultaneously? Each additional line reduces the total amount of time required to send out telephone notifications to all recipients.

You should also consider whether you can designate certain phone numbers as belonging to certain groups. Parents whose students are members of a certain school team or club, for example, might require a specialized notification that should not be sent to the full list.