What Makes FACPs (Fire Alarm Control Panels) So Important? What Other Gear Do You Need?

By Andrew Erickson

February 25, 2023

Fire panels are a key component of any fire safety system and are required by law in many locations. Fire panels, also known as FACP (fire alarm control panel), monitor devices connected to the fire safety system, such as smoke detectors, heat detectors, or manual call points.

FACP sending RS-485 text alarm data to Prism LX via Muxpad

This diagram demonstrates a basic architecture surrounding a fire panel: a mediation device like a Muxpad can collect your fire panel's alarms and send them to your central monitoring master station (Prism LX in this example diagram).

Core FACP Functions: Detect fires and report information to first responders

Fire panels will detect an incident and alert all relevant personnel before it escalates. This helps to minimize the damage caused by a fire, offering life-saving protection for people in the building.

Fire panels are also able to perform other important functions such as display messages that can be used to indicate the position of a fire, control ventilation systems, and allow remote access for maintenance purposes.

How does a fire panel actually work?

Fire panels use sensors spread throughout its monitored area to detect any kind of smoke, heat or flame. When the panel detects an incident, it will trigger a signal that alerts personnel and first responders about the fire. Fire panels can also be programmed to send out messages over public address systems, activate emergency lighting and ventilation systems, and unlock or lock external doors to speed evacuations.

Typically, your FACP will cover either a small building or a portion of a larger building. The key factors in FACP quantity and placement are:

  • Distance between FACP and all required sensors
  • Density of required sensors around the FACP
  • Accessibility of the panel by first responders

If you exceed any of these applicable limits for your building, you need to add another fire panel to cover the area properly.

Fire panels must be installed according to specific regulations so that they can properly monitor their designated areas and protect lives during a fire emergency.

What sensors and initiating devices are commonly attached to an FACP?

Fire panels must be connected to a variety of fire detection and response devices. These can include smoke detectors, heat detectors, manual call points, sprinkler systems, or other similar initiating devices. The FACP will then detect the signals from these devices and activate an alarm in order to alert personnel and first responders of a potential fire emergency.

Detection tools like smoke detectors, heat detectors, and manual pull stations are known as "initiating devices" because they initiate a fire alarm.

Other devices, like sprinkler systems, are part of the automated response to a fire.

There is also a second sub-class of sensors that sometimes tie into your fire panel. These are responsible for detecting activation of a response system. For example, a flow sensor in fire-sprinkler plumbing can detect when a sprinkler is active. Depending on the scenario, that might be your first indication at the fire panel of a new fire.

Correct installation and maintenance are crucial for reliable fire panel operation

Fire panels are an important component of any fire safety system and are vital in helping to protect lives and property. They offer invaluable protection and can be the difference between life and death in a fire emergency. Therefore, it is essential that they are properly installed, maintained and regularly tested.

Adequate maintenance of your existing fire panels or installation of new fire panels can help ensure that your property meets the necessary safety standards. As such, it is important to hire a professional fire panel installer with experience in ensuring compliance with relevant regulations and codes.

If you have a complex with many fire panels, how can you simultaneously watch them all?

Fire panels are your local alarm collector and annunciator. They're great for first responders to pinpoint the evolving location and spread and of a fire emergency. But, how would you know that one of your many buildings has a fire in the first place? You can't possibly be looking at all of your widespread fire panels at the same time.

That's where a fire alarm monitoring system comes into play. A fire alarm monitoring system allows you to monitor multiple FACP systems at the same time from one central station. This makes it easy for first responders and personnel to quickly identify which building or area is having an issue, saving precious time in an emergency.

With the help of advanced monitoring systems, it's now possible to monitor multiple fire panels at once from a single location. This ensures that all potential fire risks are quickly detected and responded to, protecting lives and property.

Should you use a third-party central station or build your own monitoring system?

If you have multiple fire panels and need to monitor them simultaneously, you will likely require a central station. A central station is typically staffed by professional operators who are trained to respond to fire alarms. They can also provide additional services like remote testing of your fire panels and maintenance programs for false alarm reduction.

You may also choose to install and maintain your own fire alarm monitoring system. This is usually the preferred option for larger sites, such as military bases, college campuses, or entire cities.

At that scale, you have the scope to justify an initial equipment purchase. You also will appreciate the long-term cost savings triggered by the elimination of third-party monitoring fees. Having on-premises fire alarm monitoring in-house also means that you have increased reliability and security - especially during a regional communications disruption.

You need to satisfy your fire code obligations by properly choosing and installing fire panels

Without fire panels, fires have the potential to cause widespread damage and loss. Therefore, it is essential that all buildings have properly functioning fire panels to ensure maximum safety.

By understanding their importance and investing in their maintenance, property owners can help protect lives, property and assets. With the right fire panels installed, you can rest assured that your building is as safe as possible against a potential fire.

Digitize can help you efficiently complete your project within your budget

At Digitize, fire alarm monitoring is the only thing we do. We make a centralized fire alarm monitoring server and accessories that are useful in most scenarios.

Whether you need our gear or not, we're happy to help you get your project started on a quick phone call. Digitize engineers have a broad background in core fire alarm monitoring concepts.

To get your project moving faster, call Digitize now at 1-800-523-7232 or email info@digitize-inc.com

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