How to Enhance Your Alarm System for a Low Cost

By Andrew Erickson

May 3, 2024

You must maintain an up-to-date fire/security alarm system to ensure the safety and security of building inhabitants. You also protect your continuity of operations.

Do you continue to rely on outdated systems that lack the flexibility and integration capabilities necessary for modern environments?

Upgrading your alarm system can seem like a big task. Still, with careful planning and the right tools, upgrading will significantly enhance your facility's responsiveness and efficiency.

Let's explore the benefits of upgrading your alarm system. You'll also learn how to successfully implement these changes without overspending. This isn't a time to skimp on quality equipment, but you also don't want to waste your budget dollars on overpriced gear.

Fire alarm system upgrade
Upgrading your fire alarm system will enhance your facility's responsiveness and efficiency

When Should You Upgrade Your Alarm System?

Before we discuss how to upgrade, you must first understand why we might need an upgrade. You bought your existing system at some point in the past. Each passing day is a chance that some new requirement will exceed your current system's capabilities. That often makes an upgrade necessary. Some possible alarm system limitations include:

  • Legacy Connectivity: Many legacy systems do not support modern communication protocols, limiting their ability to integrate with new technologies.
  • Poor Scalability: As you grow, your infrastructure needs to expand along with you. Older systems may not scale easily, cost-effectively, or at all.
  • Decreased Alarm Reliability: Aging alarm systems are more prone to failures, which can increase maintenance costs and risk of undetected incidents.
  • Compliance Issues: Regulatory requirements evolve. Older systems might not meet new safety standards.
  • Age / Mortality: All equipment has a useful life. It's excellent if your gear lasts so long that it simply wears out. You just need to recognize when this has happened and you must now invest in a replacement.

Recognizing these challenges is the first step towards making an informed decision about upgrading your alarm system.

How Do You Assess Your Current Equipment?

You should start by conducting a thorough assessment of your existing alarm system. Your evaluation should include:

  • Inventory of Existing Equipment: Catalog all components of your current alarm system, including sensors, panels, and communication devices.
  • Performance Analysis: Review the system's performance logs to identify any recurring issues or failures.
  • Feature Assessment: Determine which features your current system lacks that are essential for your operations.
  • Integration Capabilities: Check if your existing equipment can integrate with other security or operational systems.
  • Compliance Check: Ensure your system meets all current regulatory requirements.

Your assessment will provide a clear picture of your system's capabilities and limitations. This should guide your decisions on what needs upgrading.

How Do You Plan Your Alarm System Upgrade?

Upgrading your fire/security alarm system involves several steps that need careful planning:

  • Setting Goals: Define what you aim to achieve with the upgrade. Common goals include improving system reliability, enhancing monitoring capabilities, and integrating with other systems. This should be driven by the analysis you did above. Something must be missing, or you really don't need to be upgrading at all.
  • Choosing the Right Technology: Select technology that aligns with your operational needs and budget. Consider the long-term benefits of investing in scalable and flexible solutions that can adapt to future requirements. To the extent you can, try to anticipate where regulations (ex. fire codes) are going in the foreseeable future.
  • Building a Budget: Establish a budget that includes the initial dollar costs of hardware and software, installation, training, and future maintenance. Consider your existing system might be costing you more in repairs and maintenance than what a new system would cost over a fairly short time.
  • Developing a Timeline: Create a realistic timeline for the upgrade, considering potential disruptions to operations. Plan for a phased rollout if necessary.

What Alarm Devices Should You Choose?

Alarm systems are composed of many different device types. These include:

  • Manual Initiating Devices (ex. pull handles for fire alarms)
  • Automatic Initiating Devices (ex. smoke/heat detectors for fire alarms, PIR motion detectors for burglar alarms)
  • High-Definition Cameras
  • Communication Devices (ex. mesh radio boxes, DACTs)
  • Remote Monitoring Capabilities (reporting to a central station or monitored in-house with your own central alarm collection server)

How Do You Choose Surveillance Cameras and Store Video Files Effectively?

Choosing security cameras is a detailed science. You certainly want to work with an expert to choose the right one.

In general, remember that good image quality is crucial for identifying intruders or reviewing incidents. Image quality is a "chain" that starts with the camera optics/sensor and also requires good bandwidth/cabling and storage capacity. You wouldn't want an important moment to be lost to pixelation or compression artifacts.

Also, look for cameras with "smart" motion detection, night vision, and reliable storage options.

For monitoring and storage of surveillance video, let's look at one example. The Computer Graphics Response Management System (CGRMS) allows viewing feeds from high-definition cameras to enhance site management.

This system allows for real-time monitoring with detailed graphical representations. These include floor plans and live video feeds, which enable precise situational awareness.

CGRMS (available from Digitize) is also a great example of how you should integrate alarm data (ex. "fire on floor 9, zone 7") with video feeds. That's because CGRMS integrates your surveillance cameras with Digitize's alarm system data.

This enhances your fire/burglar/security monitoring capabilities by providing clear visual verification of alerts. It also improves the overall efficiency of your incident response.

This reduces false alarms and ensures that security personnel can react faster and more effectively to genuine threats. The incorporation of video can substantially increase your ROI by giving you even better remote monitoring. Your benefits can include:

  • Eliminating risks more effectively
  • Preserving assets
  • Potentially lowering insurance premiums through enhanced risk reduction (talk to your insurance company)
The System 3505 Prism LX
The System 3505 Prism LX from Digitize

How You Will You Remotely Monitor Your Alarms?

One key piece of advice: Choose systems that allow for remote monitoring via smartphones or computers.

This feature allows you to keep an eye on your campus/facility - even when you're away. This protects assets and gives you "soft benefits" like peace of mind without additional costs.

As one example, Digitize gear has a variety of remote monitoring capabilities:

The System 3505 Prism LX is equipped with options like the D-LAN with SIPPDD Ethernet Configuration Card. It enables seamless communication across multiple devices and locations, allowing for centralized monitoring of complex systems through a single interface.

The Remote Annunciator adds to this by offering detailed, on-site event logs and alarm history which can be accessed remotely. This ensures that all information is readily available for swift decision-making.

These products boost ROI by improving the responsiveness and effectiveness of your fire/security systems. Enhanced remote monitoring reduces the need for physical inspections and personnel on-site.

Being able to respond remotely increases system uptime and reliability. This will lead to significant savings in operations, further enhancing security and reducing potential losses from security breaches.

Aim for "One Pane of Glass"

Choose systems that can integrate various components into a single manageable interface. Integration will reduce costs and simplify your operations.

Consider integrating fire and CO detectors, CCTV, and intrusion alarms.

At Digitize, we build integrated system solutions for precisely this reason. We always work to help you streamline and enhance your alarm monitoring capabilities.

The System 3505 Prism LX is a central hub that can be paired with various input/output modules and remote devices. This creates a cohesive and highly customizable alarm management ecosystem.

The Prism LX system also supports integration with the Remote Annunciator and the D-LAN with SIPPDD Ethernet Configuration Card. The Remote Annunciator allows for distributed monitoring and control. The D-LAN with SIPPDD Ethernet Configuration Card facilitates communication across multiple networked devices without congesting the network.

This Job is Tough. Digitize Will Help You.

Upgrading any significant alarm system is tough work. You should always start by talking to an expert.

At Digitize, we keep engineers on staff so we can modify devices as needed and release new equipment that suits the evolving fire/security alarm industry. The side effect of this is that we have engineers you can speak with any time you like. You only have to give us a call.

Get Quality Installation Service and Support

Digitize (and our nationwide network of installers) provides professional installation services to ensure that your system is set up correctly. Their ongoing support and maintenance services keep your system running smoothly, reducing the risk of downtime.

Certified technicians who are familiar with the intricacies of alarm systems handle the installation process. These technicians ensure that they correctly install each component . They also make sure the alarm system is fully functional from day one. This includes a:

  • Comprehensive site inspection
  • System design consultation to meet specific security needs
  • Detailed walkthrough of the system's operation to the client

After installation, we will support you. With Digitize alarm equipment, you get:

  • Technical support for any issues
  • Regular maintenance checks to ensure the system's reliability (varies based on your local distributor/installer and your maintenance contract)
  • Software updates to keep the system up to date with the latest security features and compliance standards (included with Digitize maintenance agreement)

Get Training to Ensure a Smooth Cutover

Transitioning to a new system involves re-training your staff. That's why Digitize offers comprehensive training programs.

These training programs are specialized and can be tailored to the specific needs of your organization. Training will help you and your staff use your alarm equipment to the fullest from day one.

Your Next Step: Call Digitize Now for Expert Guidance

Upgrading your alarm system is an investment in the safety and efficiency of your organization.

Calling Digitize is an excellent next step - whether you end up using our equipment or not. We'd love for you to discover the benefits of our proven gear, but we happily admit that we're not the right fit for every situation.

If you just have one (or a few) buildings, we'll point you in the right direction to launch your project. If you have a school campus, a military base, or another large set of buildings, there's a great chance that Digitize gear can help you.

To get started now, call a Digitize engineer 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