Tips & Tricks – Part I

Glenn Hultz by Glenn Hultz | 07.10.2013

You may have a technician who has 30 years of field experience compared to my six years in the call center, but I’m willing to bet that the amount of problems and solutions I handle on a daily basis outweigh anything he or she is accustomed to seeing.  That particular problem that has you absolutely stumped has probably been encountered and resolved by someone in our call center.

Compass is a great tool that can save you lots of time and money.

Part of the reason for writing this blog is to share some of the insight we’ve gained over the years.  However, the knowledge we possess is useless until you call to access it and I’m sure you’ll agree that having the knowledge yourself could prevent many calls in the first place.  There’s a lot to cover so let’s get started:

Default Your Panels!
It’s the first thing we mention in the Installation Instructions and literally takes one  second.  The amount of time and money it could save in troubleshooting at a later time is immeasurable.  This is not a myth or a diversionary tactic and I’m sure anyone who has fixed a long-standing issue by defaulting the panel can attest to the importance of this often overlooked step.

Fully Enable the Event Log
At some point, this will save you in a dispute with a customer or your central station and it’s also an excellent troubleshooting tool.  I’ve actually spoken with dealers who have won legal disputes because of event log data as well as those who have lost legal disputes because of the lack of event log data.

Set the Clock
Your event log will be rendered much less useful unless you set the clock.  Any schedules set up by the installer or end user will obviously be affected as well.

Reserve the Default Keypad Address for YOU
I mentioned in my last blog that an alpha keypad should be on every truck. And, if you’ll outfit that keypad’s ECP wires with some alligator clips you can walk into a job and be programming in mere seconds.  How?  By “reserving” the default keypad address in the panel for yourself.  Depending on the panel, this could mean address 00 or address 16.  On older, non-addressable panels all the keypads use address 31 so it’s not an issue.  For example, when you’re installing a VISTA-20P, if you start your addresses for the keypads that will remain on site at address 17 then you can always walk right up and clip on your own keypad for programming purposes.

Speaking of Programming…
We get a lot of calls about this so let me try to clear things up a bit. Yes, getting into programming via the “back door” is the same for all of our VISTA panels and most of our panels in general, excluding the LYNX Touch series.  If you’re holding the * and # keys within 50 seconds (5 seconds if the panel is armed) and you don’t get into programming on a functional panel, then either a partition is armed or local programming capability has been locked out via the Compass software – period.

Speaking of Compass…
One of the most important things you can do to ensure a healthy relationship with your Compass software is to always make sure you have the latest update available.  Compass is a truly fantastic tool that can save you lots of time and money but when it comes to troubleshooting it may be better to get out of the chair and get someone on site.  In addition, there are some very helpful features of Compass and I’m always amazed that they aren’t more widely known.  If you mouse over a field in Compass and look in the very bottom right-hand corner of your window, you’ll see the location of that field in panel programming via a keypad.  If you look in the very bottom left-hand corner of your window, you’ll see a description of that same field.  Depending on your version of Compass, you can also search for those fields by looking under Tools>Search or just Search!.  Finally, Compass also gives you a handy field to record the MAC number of any AlarmNet devices you may have on site.

Speaking of AlarmNet Devices…
We’ve already discussed the fact that you should know what product you’re calling about when you call for support.  If you’re calling about an AlarmNet device then you should also have the City/CS/Sub and/or the MAC number of that device.  The number of AlarmNet devices in the field along with the services offered are only going to increase so I encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with these devices as well as AlarmNet Direct.

Stay tuned for my next blog when I’ll discuss specific problems that generate the most calls to our center.  Again, I want to empower you and give you the tools to troubleshoot as effectively and efficiently as possible.  It will save you time, it will save you money and it will also help keep your customers not only happy, but loyal.  Happy teching!