Top

The Future of Fire Alarm Signal Transmission: Phasing Out The DACT

Minnesota Department of Public Safety
State Fire Marshal Division

Introduction
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced a plan to discontinue the use
of land line telephones (plain old telephone service or POTS) sometime between 2018 and 2020.
This change will have a significant impact on many fire alarm systems across Minnesota that utilize
digital alarm communicator transmitters (DACTs) to monitor their fire alarm system. In December
2009, AT&T formally petitioned the FCC for permission to start transitioning away from traditional
switched-circuit phone systems and move to all-internet and wireless technology. Since many fire
alarm systems throughout Minnesota utilize phone lines to monitor their fire alarm system, it is
advantageous for business owners and fire officials to start considering alternatives. There currently
is no deadline imposed by the FCC to discontinue POTS phone service and there is no mandate at
this time to discontinue the use of DACT technology. It is recommended that all stakeholders plan
appropriately to prepare for this change and transition to another technology. This document is a
guide for code officials and business owners and gives options to business owners, contractors and
code officials.

Background and the Digital Alarm Communicator Transmitter
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 72 – National Fire Alarm and Signaling
Code gives the requirements for monitoring of fire alarm systems in chapter 26. The State of
Minnesota adopts the 2010 edition NFPA 72. For many years, NFPA 72 has allowed the use of digital
alarm communicator transmitters, also known as DACTs, to monitor fire alarm systems. A DACT uses
one or more telephone lines to monitor and transmit the signal to a supervising station. When the fire
alarm activates the DACT dials a preselected telephone number to transmit the alarm signal to the
supervising station. With the advent of internet and other wireless technology, phone companies are
no longer able to maintain the aging infrastructure for the POTS network. The anticipated elimination
of the POTS phone lines will require the numerous fire alarm systems utilizing DACT technology to
transition to another NFPA 72 approved alternate technology.

Alternatives for Monitoring Fire Alarm Systems
NFPA 72 lists several alternatives to DACT technology, including:

  • Radio
    One-way
    Two-way
    Mesh
  • Internet Protocol (IP-Based Technology)
  • Cellular communicators

Fire alarm systems currently utilizing DACTs to monitor their fire alarm system will, over time, need to transition to one of the alternative options listed above. Unlike DACT technology, radio, internet and
cellular are all considered by NFPA 72 to be approved single transmission technologies. This means
there is no need for a primary line and a backup line used with a DACT.

Recommendations and Questions
Fire alarm industry and fire officials should begin preparing business owners and other affected
parties for this transition. There is no fire code mandate at this time to transition away from the use of DACTs. For new fire alarm system installations, it is highly encouraged for fire alarm industry
professionals to discourage the installation or future use of DACT technology to monitor fire alarm
systems.

For questions regarding this transition, please contact the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division at
651-201-7221 or by email at firecode@state.mn.us.

Download PDF >>

Comments are closed.