How to Choose the Best Fire Alarm System

By Andrew Erickson

August 6, 2023

In today’s world, prioritizing safety systems is not just a legal requirement. Safety is a mission-critical part of running a responsible organization.

Selecting the right fire alarm system means you can protect your employees, clients, and assets. Let me walk you through the process of choosing a complete fire alarm solution for your business...

(NOTE: This is a lot of summary information in a short space. I only intended to give you a general overview here. It's expected that you'll work with a certified contractor to dive deep into the many underlying NFPA code requirements here.)

Step 1: Assess Your Specific Business Needs

Begin by understanding the unique needs of your business. Evaluate the premises to begin determining the appropriate alarm system. The system must suit your building size, occupancy, and materials you use or store.

Consider factors like the nature of your business operations, the number of employees, and the layout of the building. This will include both open spaces and secluded areas. Does your business deals with flammable materials? If so, you absolutely need a fire alarm system with early detection capabilities.

On a related note, keep in mind your need to maintain ease of evacuation during an emergency. This will vary based on the general layout of your build itself.

By assessing these factors, you will be able to identify the type of fire alarm system (conventional, addressable, or wireless) that best suits your needs. This careful evaluation is your first crucial step towards buying a fire alarm system that offers optimal protection.

Step 2: Familiarize Yourself with Fire Alarm Systems

There are several fire alarm system types. These include conventional, addressable, and hybrid systems. You must understand the pros and cons of each to identify the best fit for your business/organization.

"Conventional" fire alarm systems are a cost-effective choice. They're designed to indicate the zone of fire without specific information about the exact location. In contrast, "addressable" fire alarm systems can pinpoint the precise location of the fire. That makes them ideal for larger premises.

"Hybrid systems" (as you can imagine) are a blend of conventional and addressable systems.

Step 3: Include Notification Appliances

Notification appliances (ex. sirens, strobes, and speakers) are vital components of a complete fire alarm system. These devices ensure swift occupant alerting during emergencies. During a fire, people can evacuate the premises in a safe, timely manner.

Sirens emit loud, distinct sounds to alert occupants. Strobe lights are particularly beneficial in noisy environments. In such places, sirens might not be heard.

Speakers are more nuanced. They can deliver live, specific instructions to guide people during an evacuation.

Step 4: Consider Compliance and Fire Protection Regulations

Compliance with local fire protection laws is essential. Consult with local authorities or a professional fire alarm company. You must make sure your chosen system aligns with regulations.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes are written to minimize risk. NFPA 72, for instance, provides guidelines for fire alarm system installation, performance, and maintenance. You must ensure your chosen fire alarm system complies with these standards. This delivers maximum safety and can avoid potential legal issues.

Understanding the NFPA requirements will guide you in properly maintaining your system post-installation. That includes regular testing and necessary upgrades.

This comprehensive and systematic approach will ensure that you're not just buying a fire alarm system to "check a box". Instead, you'll be investing in a complete fire safety solution for your business/agency.

Step 5: Evaluate Features and Select a Fire Alarm Panel

Modern fire alarm systems offer advanced features like remote monitoring and integration with other safety systems. Select a fire alarm panel (FACP) that includes these modern functions.

Look for panels that allow you to monitor the status of your system in real time. They should also provide notifications in case of emergencies or system malfunctions. An ideal panel can integrate with other safety systems in your business. You never want to be stuck swiveling between multiple displays. High-quality panels also offer customization options. You'll be able to adapt the system to the unique needs of your business.

Remember, your goal is to achieve complete protection. Your fire panels should be user-friendly. They should be easy to program. They must offer quick notifications to emergency services.

Step 6: Obtain Professional Consultation on Complete Fire Alarm Design

Engaging a professional fire alarm company ensures you get a complete fire alarm design tailored to your needs. A contractor can recommend proven solutions.

At Digitize, we can give expert advice on your fire alarm system design - or point you to one of our partners. Call anytime at 1-800-523-7232 or email

Because we create and sell fire alarm monitoring systems, we have direct experience with fire alarm systems. We can also can connect you with a trusted contractor or distributor in your area. This costs you nothing and simplifies your fire alarm system procurement and installation process.

Step 7: Consider Maintenance and Support

Maintenance and support are crucial for the efficiency of your alarm system. Ensure that regular inspections, updates, and repairs are part of your agreement with any fire alarm company.

Regular inspections help identify potential issues and ensure that all components of the system working efficiently. Updates keep your system aligned with the latest fire safety standards. Timely repairs guarantee uninterrupted protection.

A reliable support system is also essential for any complex purchase.

Step 8: Review Costs and Align with Budget

Even with something like fire protection, cost considerations must always be made. The easy part? Obtain quotes for complete fire alarm systems and compare the value offered by different solutions within your budget. Although you're obligated to buy a system of some kind, there's no reason not to shop around.

Ensure that the budget you have allocated for the fire alarm system aligns with the quotes you've received. While cost-effectiveness is vital, it should not compromise the safety and quality of the system. Also, consider the long-term costs such as maintenance, upgrades, and replacement parts.

Step 9: Installation by Professionals

Proper installation of the alarm system is mission-critical a big fraction of your total cost. Choose a reputable fire alarm company with certified professionals for installation in line with industry standards.

Contact Digitize for Help Finding the Right Fire Alarm Company

At Digitize, we're more than just a manufacturer of fire alarm monitoring systems. We have in-house expertise, and we'll point you in the right direction.

We understand the importance of professional installation and local support. That's why we built our network of trusted local fire alarm companies.

We're more than happy to refer you to a local provider who can assist with installation, maintenance, and support. This way, you can be confident in the performance of your fire alarm system.

To get free help now, call Digitize at 1-800-523-7232 or email

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

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 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and...Read More