Who is the Best Fire Alarm Monitoring Company?
By Andrew Erickson
August 4, 2022
If you're responsible for fire alarms in your large building, campus, military base, or community, then you know how important a good fire alarm monitoring company. A monitoring station receives alarm signals from your fire panels and dispatches accordingly.
To comply with regulatory requirements, you'll see many companies promote themselves as being "UL Listed" or "UL Approved". This provides a layer of extra safety, since you know that the company you've chosen meets requirements for reliability 365 days a year.
Even though I work for a manufacturer of in-house monitoring gear, it’s absolutely true that a central station can be the right choice in some scenarios.
Let's take a look at five popular choices (in no particular order), then also discuss an alternative that could save you a lot of recurring budget dollars.
AvantGuard has been monitoring fire alarms for over 40 years. They serve the entire United States and Canada with redundant central stations.
Oddly enough, they started operation in 1977, the same year as Digitize. In 2021, they celebrated the milestone of having 1,000,000 subscribers.
"We save lives, protect property, and inspire peace of mind." That self-description from the AvantGuard team correctly captures the essence of fire alarm monitoring. Lives are on the line. Property is also at risk, and it likely has sentimental value that goes beyond simple replacement cost.
In service of protecting that, AvantGuard "are poised to monitor any event or signal, any time, with speed, accuracy, and exceptional service."
RapidSOS does not exclusively focus on fire alarms, but it's definitely something that they do.
The basic premise of RapidSOS, as shared on their website, is to provide a graceful exchange of data between products and first responders. As a manufacturer of a "smart" fire alarm system, for example, you can use the RapidSOS API to send real-time data to dispatchers.
All of this aims to take advantage of modern technology developed since phone-based dispatched was established decades and decades ago. "In an emergency, critical data from devices, sensors, or profiles is integrated with the RapidSOS platform and then shared immediately with public safety."
Instead of relying on panicked humans to articulate what's wrong, why shouldn't modern devices do that on their own?
A.C. Daughtry Security Systems
"As a member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), A.C. Daughtry installs fire security systems for commercial and industrial properties."
A.C. Daughtry has focused on the lack of traditional reporting (dialers) in the era of modern high-speed internet and mobile phones. They have established and AES radio reporting network to offer a flexible and wireless option.
They also emphasize that they are "UL-864 approved for commercial fire alarm communication."
A commercial fire alarm monitoring solution like this actually flips the script on how you think about fire response. Instead of needing to call for help, the central station is informed automatically. Instead of requiring you to report the fire, your fire alarm monitoring service can notify you staff members about the incident.
"Detecting a fire early can mean the difference between losing everything and keeping loss and damage to a minimum." That pretty much sums up the goal of all alarm monitoring systems.
The leverage exists in the massive difference between an immediate response and a delayed response.
Cintas notes that modern technology can trigger a response within 1-3 seconds. This is much faster than a traditional method (that probably includes a dial delay). Traditional fire protection systems required up to 45 seconds to report an alarm.
To help you save budget, Cintas also offers their radio-based CintasNet. Because this doesn't involve a POTS phone line or a wireless data subscription, you can eliminate these recurring costs from your budget.
The heading on AFA's homepage of "Central Station Monitoring" leaves little doubt about their focus. In fact, they speak of being proud as "the nation's oldest central station alarm monitoring company."
In addition to central station, AFA offers internet & cellular monitoring and supervision services.
The supervision services break down into detection of problems with your fire sprinklers, boiler, elevators, and/or industrial processes. Flooding can also be detected.
In a nod to current technology, you're able to manage your account online from a smartphone or computer.
You can eliminate recurring fees by monitoring your fire alarms in-house
I've shared with you some good options for fire alarm monitoring companies. I freely admit that they (and others like them) can be the best choice for many scenarios.
The downside of any paid service, of course, is that fees go on forever. When you evaluate the one-time expense of purchasing a centralized system like the Prism LX, you just might find that the math works out in your favor. That's a great reason to get a free quote from a Digitize sales engineer.
This is especially true when you can train and use your existing staff. Monitoring fire alarms isn't incredibly different from monitoring other types of alarms, after all.
I'll help you build an in-house system with 100% compatibility
Something that central station operators do as part of their service is build compatibility with many different brands and eras of fire panels. If they're going to ingest data from every part of your facility, that's a hard requirement. It's a concrete part of what makes the best fire alarm monitoring company the best.
When you bring monitoring of your fire alarms in-house, that's something you need to do yourself. While you could get stuck guessing if you pick the wrong vendor, I won't make you do that if you choose Digitize.
Our Prism LX has evolved over decades to achieve compatibility with dozens of FACP brands. We have many different far-end devices that bridge gaps between modern and legacy (telegraph, serial, dial, radio) alarm equipment.
When you choose Digitize, you're a "client" rather than a "customer". We're professionals, and we won't let you fail.
Give me a call to discuss your options
Your best next step is to give me (or any other Digitize engineer) a call. We'll help you quantify the cost of a one-time purchase vs. recurring service fees paid to a monitoring company.
With that information, you can make an informed decision for your organization.
Give me a call at 1-800-523-7232 or email me at email@example.com
Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 16 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and...Read More