What is a Fire Alarm Monitor Module?

By Justin Sagalow

October 21, 2022

A fire alarm system is made up of many similar-sounding and similar-looking subcomponents. To distinguish each part of your standard commercial fire alarm system, the fire safety industry utilizes color-coding and text labels.

While these efforts make a difference, these systems all just consist of an assortment of metal boxes, circuit boards and wires. It's not hard to imagine an uninformed customer having difficulty differentiating a fire alarm control panel from a monitoring device.

To add even more complexity, both an FACP and a monitoring headend unit could be reasonably described as repositories for data relayed by initiation devices. They may even contain similar parts. If you are attempting to familiarize yourself with the parts of a fire alarm system, you may come across the words "monitor module."

On the internet, there is a lot of confusion regarding what monitor modules are and how they fit into the layout of a fire alarm system. Many of the requests for clarification appear to come from prospective customers.

Today, we're going to demystify the role of the monitor module in a fire alarm system. Along the way, we'll try to include helpful information that will hopefully help you make a confident, informed purchase.

monitor module

This is an example of a monitor module. This would be placed on a non-addressable device to send signals to an addressable FACP in a monitored fire alarm system.

A crash course in monitor modules

Monitor modules are used in fire and security systems all around the world. Depending on the purpose of the system in question, a monitor module can be a few different things. Usually though, "monitor module" refers to a device that receives signals from fire alarms.

A monitor module is a small piece of equipment that connects to your fire alarm control panel. They are usually kept in a standalone electrical box located near the FACP. From here, the module is able to act as an intermediary between FACPs and conventional detectors and initiating devices.

These modules respond to regular polls from fire alarm control panels and report the status of their assigned initiating devices, enabling the FACP to collect alarm data.

We suspect that the confusion around these modules online is probably due to people associating their function with the FACP directly. Like most aspects of fire alarm and fire alarm monitoring systems, fire alarm control panels are the sum of their parts.

How do monitor modules work?

Monitor modules are typically intended for use in addressable, two-wire systems, where the individual address of each module is selected using the built-in rotary switches. They receive signals from a circuit of dry-contact input devices, such as conventional heat detectors, waterflow devices, and pull stations. They may also power and monitor a circuit of two-wire smoke detectors.

fire alarm pull box

This is a conventional pull box. It is a good example of a non-addressable initiation device that relays a signal to an addressable fire alarm control panel via a monitor module.

As stated earlier, these modules are usually designed for use by fire alarm control panels, but they may have other functions. Most commonly, they may also find use as a commercial proprietary or commercial central station burglar alarm accessory. For this reason, it is important to read the installation and maintenance instructions for most popular monitor module models.

On most monitor module user guides, there are typically warnings about assigning more than one purpose to a monitor module. Connecting fire alarm initiating, supervisory, or security devices to the same module jeopardizes the efficacy of each system involved. You should have dedicated modules for each system you elect to monitor (in the same way you have dedicated alarms for smoke, humidity, and security monitoring).

Who are some reputable monitor module manufacturers?

Many fire alarm control panel manufacturers currently make monitor modules. These modules may be proprietary and only work with specific FACP models produced by the same manufacturer.

Honeywell produces most of the UL-listed fire alarm control panel monitor modules currently on the market. Notifier, Fire-Lite Alarms, and Silent Knight are all companies that produce fire alarm monitor modules that have been incorporated into the Honeywell family.

Edwards Fire Safety also produces their own UL-listed monitor modules. Similar to Honeywell, these input modules are designed for use with Edwards fire alarm control panels.

You should only connect modules to listed compatible control panels. If you're unsure if your monitor module is compatible with your fire alarm control panel, consult your installation and maintenance instructions along with any available online company resources.

These guides will commonly include schematics and mounting, wiring, and setup information. There is also almost always a specifications section that lists information such as the input voltage, minimum and maximum operating temperature, and minimum and maximum humidity level.

Digitize helps you monitor your FACP without breaking your budget

Now you have a functioning fire safety system with a variety of initiation and notification devices reporting to FACPs via monitor modules. Your next step is thinking about the best - and most cost-effective- way to monitor your new fire alarm system.

prism lx central display screen

This is an image of a Prism LX central display screen. For those who wish to monitor their fire monitoring system instead of hiring a third party service to do it, the prism lx is one example of a readily available server on the market.

At Digitize, we do our best to set you up with all of the equipment and training required to safely and effectively monitor your own fire alarm system. By building you a custom alarm system and teaching you how to take control of your alarms, we’ll help you improve fire safety, reduce wasted expenses, and get fast ROI.

Having trouble finding what you’re looking for on the market? Give us a call at 1-800-523-7232! One of our dedicated specialists will work with you to design a product custom fit to your specifications. We're here to build the exact monitoring equipment you need, whatever it may be.

Call us at 1-800-523-7232 or email us at info@digitize-inc.com and we'll get back to you quickly.

Justin Sagalow

Justin Sagalow

Justin Sagalow is quite uniquely qualified for his Marketing Writer Position at Digitize. Arriving at Digitize with experience in law, finance, and editorial positions, Justin's skillset allow him to effectively communicate how best Digitize can address each client's individual needs. From his...Read More