What does UL 2050 really mean for your central?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

MELVILLE, N.Y.--What exactly is UL 2050? According to Pete Tallman, section manager of the alarm system certificate service at Underwriters Laboratories, "UL 2050 is a standard that describes the monitoring, signal processing, investigation, servicing and operation of alarm systems for which a national industrial security system certificate has been issued by UL."
In other words, it is the standard the security industry must follow to service U.S. federal government facilities. But who needs to be 2050-compliant?
In actuality, it is the alarm dealer, not the central station, who must be UL 2050-compliant in order to do government intrusion detection servicing. Rob Wies, general manager of Monitoring America Alarm Co-Op, tried to investigate the UL 2050 standard recently. "I attended the UL 2050 seminar at CSAA's mid-year meeting. I was there to learn, and I found out that the central never gets 2050-listed. In fact, we can't do anything until we have a dealer who has a contract with the government, then we need to get our central's facility approved, and then our operators," he said.
Tallman gave a seminar at CSAA's meeting to clarify the standard. "Many central station folks are wondering, 'How do we do this?' But actually the dealer will have to facilitate it because he's the medium between the government contractor and the central station ... The prime contractor, aka the government contractor, needs to sponsor the central for clearance. The vehicle to do that is the DD254 contract. So the alarm company who sits in the middle of all of this needs to say to the government contractor, 'I want to use this central station to do our monitoring, please initiate a DD254 to get them started in getting a clearance.'
"Think of it this way: the alarm service company, or dealer, is listed by UL to provide service in this category and thus able to provide a UL certificate in this category. The alarm service company has a variety of choices of locations that could do the monitoring. One choice would be to assign the monitoring to a UL-listed central station," said Tallman.
In addition, "UL has no involvement with nor control over the clearance process, it's done by the U.S. government." The time frame for clearance is a 90-day window, and "We only mention it in conjunction with UL 2050 because it will be an issue, so we want to give everybody a heads up," said Tallman.
The UL 2050 standard, itself, has actually been around for a long time. The category was developed in early '90s, the first edition was released in Nov. 1993, and there was a desk standard prior to that.
Why are so many people inquiring about it right now? "This category is one of two that are in a growth phase right now; we regularly get a lot of questions about it," said Tallman. "The use of this category is driven by the federal government in that this standard is referenced in several government manuals that describe the protection of material. These government documents require that the system be certificated for compliance with a national industrial security systems category--that's the driver. There's been an increase in organizations requiring it. In the national industrial security program, which is a name the government uses for certain operations, there's 22 agencies who use the national industrial security system program operating manual, aka the NISPOM, so all those organizations potentially require certification, which is why this is getting larger and larger."
Bill Mclaughlin, president of American Alarm, based in New Hampshire, said he'd been doing this type of monitoring since the inception of UL 2050, but, "It's difficult to find new customers that require UL 2050." In addition, "There is an extreme amount of record keeping for us to maintain our UL 2050 certification." McLaughlin added that they would continue doing the monitoring, however.
One potential way to find new customers, according to Tallman: the UL web site posts the names of all alarm companies listed in the category at www.ul.com (Tallman recommends searching by category control number CRZH).