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Alarm Service Certifications During Times of Crisis

In a public health crisis, certain practices affecting daily life — including a quarantine, social distancing and work from home — might impact alarm service certifications.

Standard construction safety equipment in a control room.

October 1, 2021

Update to requirements

With the Sept. 16, 2021, publication of requirements covering virtual operators’ workspaces (UL 827, the Standard for Central-Station Services, Sec 52–54), monitoring stations have a new option for deploying their remote staff — one that isn’t contingent on governmental declaration of emergency.

For stations in areas still under governmental regulation or where health and safety guidelines preclude returning to normal conditions, operation in compliance with UL 827, Sec 51 - Operation During a Regional/National Disruption, remains an option. See our Sept. 20 update article for more information.

All UL Certified Central-Stations can now also deploy remotely located operators under any conditions without requiring a governmental declaration if they operate in compliance with Sections 52–54.

Note that UL 2050, the Standard for National Industrial Security Systems; CAN/ULC S301, the Standard for Signal Receiving Centres Configurations and Operations; and CAN/ULC S561, the Standard for Installation and Services for Fire Signal Receiving Centres and Systems, systems are excluded from Sec 52–54 remote monitoring.

Stations considering a transition from Sec 51 compliance to Sec 52–54 compliance should consider these key differences:

Bandwidth and connectivity: New Sec 54.1.3 preserves the option of either connecting remote operators to the station via primary and secondary means or having sufficient operators on duty so that loss of communications does not result in the loss of any signals. However, it adds a requirement for backup power for remotely located workstations, routers and network communication equipment under the former option.

Remote operator workstation: Sec 54.2.2 requires that a remote operator workstation employ a means to send a duress signal to the central station. New requirements in UL 1981, the Standard for Central-Station Automation Systems, will specify that upon receiving the duress signal, the automation shall:

  1. Restrict the workstation’s access to subscriber data through the automation system.
  2. Notify the central-station supervisor that the operator has reported that he/she is under duress.
  3. Log the event.

Reestablishing full communications to the automation system shall require the managing central-station to take action after the duress incident has been resolved.

Workplace environment: Sec 54.3 (non-emergency conditions) requirements are more specific and detailed than those in 51.3.3 (emergency conditions). Some remote workplaces in use during the current pandemic may not meet the requirements for general use without modification. Specific items include:

  • Work area needs to be in a closed room.
  • Workstation screen cannot be visible to another person outside the work area.
  • Operators must use headsets.
  • Video recording devices have to be deployed with a field of view that includes the operator and surrounding work area.
  • The central-station company needs the ability to capture the operator’s screen content when logged on.

In addition, Sec 54.3.3 and 54.3.4 require that:

  • A central-station company verify and document that the remote workspace complies with requirements prior to an operator at that station logging into the automation system from that location for the first time.
  • At least once per year, the station must conduct a complete review of the physical workspace and document findings. 
  • Corrective action that returns operations to compliance be taken when items of non-compliance are identified, either during a periodic verification check or during the course of normal management oversight.

Cyber and information security training: Finally, the new Sec 54.3.7 requires that the station provide remote operators with training on current cyber and information security issues and company security policies to mitigate security-related risks.

Customers with questions on this topic may contact their UL auditor or fill out the form below and one of our subject matter experts will contact you.

Complimentary access to UL 827 is available here by clicking on Digital View. If you do not have a UL Standards account, you can create one free of charge from the Digital View login screen

 

Updated Sept. 20, 201

Update to original article published on April 2, 2020.

In recent months, some state and local governments have lifted previous restrictions on business and people movement/assembly. However, in many of those locations, health officials continue to publish safety guidelines that preclude the return-to-normal operations in a central station.

UL 827, the Standard for Central-Station Alarm Services, permits the use of remotely located alarm handling agents — typically from their homes — when normal operations are disrupted by a government declaration, including mandates or health guidelines. Under Section 51, stations must justify their decision to proceed remotely, and all remotely located alarm handling agents must return to work in the central station within 30 days of the government lifting declarations and/or any associated health and safety guidelines.

However, with safety guidelines varying across locations, UL has clarified its interpretation of UL 827, Section 51 as follows: 

  • UL is not in a position to understand all local risk factors, applicable local governmental regulations or applicable health and safety guidelines and, therefore, will not be mandating the return of remote operators to central stations based on UL 827, per Section 51.1.2. 
  • Instead, UL Certified central stations currently employing remotely located operators under Section 51 should update the documentation required by 51.1.1C, stating the facts as to why the operation cannot be maintained at existing site(s) at this time.  

 
Customers with questions on this topic may contact their UL auditor, or fill out the form below and one of our subject matter experts will contact you. 

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