Fortress Security manufacturers their own proprietary control consoles. The SO2 is the lowest priced of the three Fortress control panels. The SO2 performs well according to most user reviews. The panel can manage a reasonable number of sensors suitable for small to medium sized homes. It is a simple, easy-to-use panel without most of the frills offered by competitors’ units.
Most home security companies in the United States rely on Honeywell or GE compatible products. The panels for these systems have a lot in common with the Fortress consoles. There are some differences, however.
A detailed explanation of the SO2 system and features will highlight the similarities as well as the slightly different way Fortress panels function.
The SO2 communicates with a landline or VoIP connection. Most panels today have cellular options built-in. For cellular, Fortress users must upgrade to the GSM or Total Security system.
You can have up to 32 zones and connect up to 99 wireless sensors. This is more than adequate for the average home, condominium or apartment.
The systems use AC power and have a robust, 72-hour backup battery in case of power failure.
The system permits up to six different phone numbers to dial in the event of an alarm. Since the console uses a phone line and has no text or email ability, the numbers will be dialed one at a time, in the order programmed.
When you order an SO2 package from Fortress, all the sensors and detectors are preprogrammed. If you later order additional products, the basic programming will also be provided by the company but you will have to follow a few extra steps to initialize the component(s).
The panel dimensions are 6.18 inches X 4.33 inches and slightly over 1 ½ inches thick. You can mount it on a wall, or it will rest on a shelf on its small, rubberized padded feet.
You will find the connection adaptors, on/off switch and microphone on the left-hand side. The on/off switch turns off battery power. There are two telephone connections and one adaptor for the Fortress plugin siren. The microphone on the side allows you to record a message to play whenever an alarm is triggered and phone dialling initiated.
If you are using a VoIP connection, you need to plug in the VoIP instrument to the phone connection on the console.
The top of the console has a telescoping antenna. The AC power connector is also on the top of the console,
The SO2 has a place for seven wired zones but for most DIYers; this will likely not be something you need to consider using.
Front Display and Keyboard
The push button or tactile face on the front has a small LED screen at the top. The LED will be on whenever power is present. It will display the number and zone of any alarm triggered and provides visual feedback whenever you program something. The panel displays the zones using two digits (01-32).
The telephone-style keypad has the standard 0-9 numbers along with a star and pound key. There are also four function keys: out, home, disarm and return.
The default passcode is 1234.
If the phone line is cut or inoperable, a beep will sound at regular intervals. Wireless frequency, including VoIP interference, will also cause the system to alert.
You have the option of enabling a chime instead of a beep for zones one through eight when the system is in disarmed mode. Emergency zone sensors and detectors, like a smoke detector, will still trigger an instantaneous alert.
The internal alarm siren will sound anywhere from one to ten minutes depending on user requirements and programming. Fortress external sirens that can be bought as accessories automatically cut off after three minutes.
Once you receive your system in the mail and plug it in, there are two steps necessary: changing the passcode and programming at least one phone number. You can enter a 10-digit North American code. If you are using the system in a foreign country, the panel will also allow you to input more or fewer digits depending on the local requirements.
An optional third step would be recording a message that would be played back whenever the system dials a phone due to an alarm activation. Recording a message is simple and requires pressing the number six and the pound sign. You can speak for up to ten seconds.
Testing Sensors and Detectors
Even though the system is preprogrammed, you likely will want to test each sensor and detector. Testing them requires different steps depending on the sensor or detector and is clearly outlined in the manual and demonstrated on the video links on the website.
You likely will want to prepare a chart showing the number and location of each sensor and detector as this model console only displays numbers. The easiest way to do this is use three columns: device, zone, and location. Fill out the chart and then tape or place the chart by the SO2 control panel.
The number of beeps will tell you whether or not a programming instruction was a success or failure. Two beeps means that you have successfully completed the task, or the system has timed out the function. Four beeps means you were unsuccessful, or an alarm has been tripped.
SO2 Console Arming and Disarming
To arm the system, you press and hold the “out” or “home” button for three seconds on the SO2 panel. If you are using a key fob, you press and hold the “home” or “away” icon on the fob for two seconds.
To disarm the sensors, you must first enter your passcode and press “disarm.” On the key fob, you press and hold for two seconds the “unlock” icon.
You can also arm or disarm the panel using your phone and pressing certain keys in the sequence outlined in the manual.
Telephone Arming and Disarming
To arm or disarm the security system by phone, you call the number connected to the SO2 panel and listen for a beep. You then must enter your passcode. The system will beep each time you press a key.
Once the passcode has been accepted, you press one to immediately arm the system. Pressing two will immediately disarm the system.
There are four types of zones that you must familiarize yourself with prior to connecting any components:
Zone Type 1: This is the default zone type the triggers all sensors or detectors connected to it when the system is armed and will not trigger these sensors when the system is unarmed. The majority of the zones, 09-32, are Type 1 zones.
Zone Type 2: This zone type will allow you to program the alarm delay from 0-90 seconds. The factory default is 30 seconds.
Zone Type 3: This zone type triggers an alarm whether or not the system is armed. This zone should be used for panic alarms, smoke detectors, gas detectors and water sensors.
Zone Type 4: This can be considered a safety zone or a zone where any malfunctioning sensor can be attached. This allows the system to bypass that particular component without affecting the normal functioning of the other zones.
Zone Type 5: This zone type only functions in the “away” mode. Motion detectors typically are attached to this zone.
The Fortress SO2 provides simple, user-friendly management of the SO2 line of home security products. The bells and whistles provided by most home alarm companies are missing. You must use a landline or VoIP line also. However, the system works and works well.
If you are looking for a basic home security product that will provide you with functionality and requires little operational know-how, then the SO2 likely is the perfect system.
If you are someone who enjoys the latest tech gadgets, including touchscreens, cellular phone connections, and smartphone management, then the SO2 should not be your first choice. The other two models by Fortress are likely a better choice.