Buying Guide for Fire Alarm Monitoring Systems
By Andrew Erickson
March 25, 2023
Whether you're looking for a complete fire alarm system installation or want to switch to a new monitoring service, finding the best fit for your business is an important decision. Fortunately, there are plenty of options out there. As an employee at Digitize, I thought it would be useful to take a look at the process of purchasing a monitoring system and lay out the most important aspects of a fire monitoring product.
What Should I Consider?
There are several main aspects to consider when purchasing a monitoring system.
Let's talk about the factors and features you should keep in mind when purchasing a fire alarm system. Try to keep these points in the back of your head while you're comparing products.
Match your system purchase to your specific requirements
Security systems range in form and function depending on size, type, quantity and location of buildings that will be integrated.
For instance, installing and maintaining a system for an industrial or commercial property is inherently going to be larger in scope than a residential one, involving full risk-assessments, fire code considerations and regular inspections. Not to mention that the type of business itself will impact how the final design will be implemented.
Know the price (but decide based on total cost of ownership)
No one wants to be paying more than they should for their fire alarm system. It's a good idea to get quotes from multiple companies and compare. Be aware that pricing can fluctuate based on more variables than just scale.
There is also often money to be saved by working with a semi-custom manufacturer who can make small design changes that save you a lot of labor time, especially during the initial install.
Reliability and performance are key
Fire protection is one of those things you should never have to second-guess. It's crucial that whichever system you purchase is always armed and has failsafes in place to handle events like power outages.
Speed is another factor to take into account; your system should be able to contact emergency services as soon as possible in the case of a fire breaking out. Plus if features like advanced automation and accessible monitoring apps are important to you there are available options that will include them.
What is the past of your organization? What is its future?
If you already have an alarm system in place and you're just looking to improve the monitoring structure, bear in mind that a legacy system may not be fully compatible with some companies' more recent products. You should also take into account possible future expansion; ensure that the product you're buying can handle additions at some point with minimal cost and time.
Who's Out There?
Now that I've outlined the handful of points that are important to focus on when comparing product options, let's take a look at some of the major companies that are producing these systems today.
ADT sells products geared towards both residential and commercial properties. I browsed through their fire safety line to see what options they cover:
Our comprehensive fire service offerings include everything from installation to sophisticated monitoring services, testing, inspection and maintenance from specially trained and certified technicians.
One of the services they mention is legacy system support which I was happy to see. Digitize has been around for over 45 years. As a software engineer here, I get the opportunity to work on legacy alarm systems regularly.
CPI is a company with a heavy presence in North Carolina and South Carolina, so you might have heard of them if you're in that area. Here's a snippet from their website:
Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, CPI Security was founded in 1991 on an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for helping and protecting others. What started as a company of 10 employees and 300 customers has grown into one of the nation's top 10 largest security providers with over 750 employees.
Along with monitoring systems, here are some other related products they list:
- Smoke detectors
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Flood detection sensors
- Medical pendants
Cintas is a company that offers a variety of workplace products both within and outside of the alarm systems field. From their website, they describe themselves like this:
Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, our Fortune 500 company serves more than one million businesses in all types of industries. Our diverse customer base ranges from small manufacturing companies to mid-sized hotel chains to major corporations with thousands of employees, and we're known for providing them with a seemingly endless array of products and services.
They mention that their fire alarm monitoring device doesn't use phone lines while communicating with a monitoring station. This is a more recent development in alarm technology and making use of an IP communicator in place of traditional phone line relaying comes with several benefits.
SummitFire is another company that provides fire alarm monitoring products with headquarters in St Paul, Minnesota. I pulled this from their site:
We have working relationships with our local AHJ's (Authority Having Jurisdiction / Code Inspectors), this ensures a smooth installation and sign off to get you open and ready for business.
It's important to make sure that whichever company you decide to work with, any design is in compliance with the jurisdiction's fire code.
Jumping over to the west coast you can find Bay Alarm, a company that started in Oakland. Here's what they have to say about themselves:
Through our commitment to quality and service, we've grown from a two-person operation run out of a kitchen in Oakland, California, into the largest independently owned security business in the United States. We're now a third-generation family-owned business, trusted by more than 155,000 commercial businesses and residents in California, Arizona, and Washington.
Be sure to spend the right amount of time when deciding on a fire alarm monitoring system. Fire protection is extremely important no matter the structure and putting in the extra effort to find the best fit for you will pay off. This system should be customized to suit your needs, efficient, reliable and future-proof, all at a good price. Digitize specializes in fire alarm monitoring systems and as someone who's team works hands-on with our products, we're constantly considering these metrics during the design process. I hope this guide helps you in purchasing a monitoring system, and please feel free to reach out to our team with any further questions about choosing the fire alarm monitoring system that's right for you.
To speak with Digitize now, call 1-800-523-7232 or email 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