How To Interface Your Existing Fire Alarm Monitoring System With Newer Devices

By Ziad Alezabi

January 22, 2024

I was recently in contact with a client in the military. Military bases are cost and safety-sensitive, meaning you don't want to put any life or assets at risk of damage. To ensure the safety of your assets and personnel, it is important for your fire alarm system to function properly. Additionally, having redundancy is crucial in case the main monitoring equipment malfunctions.

My client needed an alarm monitoring system to monitor their facility's fire alarm control panels. They also needed CCTV footage before and after any alarms were tripped. Additionally, they needed to monitor their current fire alarm alert system.

The FACPs (Fire Alarm Control Panels) throughout the military base were already being monitored by DACTs (Digital Alarm Communicator Transmitters). These transmitters reported to DACRs (Digital Alarm Communicator Receiver) at the police station.

My client's system did not display their alarm information in a user-friendly manner to the Dispatcher.

Why You Need User-friendly User Interfaces In Military Bases

The main issue in military bases is the frequent change of personnel in charge of fire alarm monitoring systems. Military personnel either transfer to a different location or take another job. A high turnover rate is natural when it comes to military positions.

Military bases often hire civilian personnel to handle this problem. However, they still prefer military personnel who are actively serving for these positions.

A fire alarm monitoring system will degrade no matter where you keep it. When the system starts degrading, your monitoring systems will start to degrade in general.

When a whole system stops working, people often look to the monitoring system in front of them first. If a fire alarm monitoring system is difficult to use and understand, personnel that aren't used to it will have a hard time.

The fire alarm monitoring system should have a user-friendly interface. This will make it simple for everyone to use.

Top Things To Consider When Looking At Fire Alarm Monitoring Communications

I knew that my client's equipment needed to be communicated via:

  • Supervised, bi-directional polling multiplex communicational protocols ensure constant checking of integrity and functionality for your communication between devices. Bi-directional polling serves the purpose of allowing your devices to communicate both ways. This comes in helpful when a device that is in a loop and fails. In this case, the equipment would be able to find another way around.
  • Local Access Network (LAN) and Wide Access Network (WAN) are two types of networks to consider. The LAN lets devices communicate within a building. The WAN lets devices communicate in larger areas such as campuses or military bases.
  • An RF Wireless, spread spectrum, dual frequency, mesh, ethernet alarm transceiver: Radiofrequency (RF) provides reliable and secure communication. Spread spectrum technology on the other hand ensures that your devices efficiently transmit and receive data.
  • Combining both of those with a dual-frequency capability channels data across two different channels. This lowers the chance for any interference. It can also increase the rate, strength, and reliability at which your devices can transfer data back and forth.
  • RS-485, multi-mode fiber with a flux budget of 18 dB (decibels), single-mode fiber, audio modem, and/or radio equips my client with reliable long and middle distance data communication.

    This can be achieved through an optical fiber that allows for high-speed data transfers over medium distances. It would be backed by single-mode fiber which gives you long-distance data transmission.

    With an 18-decibel budget, you set a strict limit for how much signal loss tolerance you allow when transferring data. When all else fails, my client has radio communication, which allows data transfer to be flexible.

Communication is the name of the game of fire alarm monitoring. The data being collected is useless if your equipment doesn't communicate well with each other and other desired destinations.

Good Data Annunciation Saves Lives and Assets

You must communicate information shown by Fire Alarm Control Panels (FACPs) during alarms, troubles, or supervisory alarms. Good fire alarm monitoring system manufacturers allow you to collect precise, quick, and reliable information.

  • Precise addressable alarm, trouble, and supervisory information using the exact text provided by the FACP.
  • Printing, displaying, or in general annunciating the building ID and user-defined instructions for each alarm point.
  • Remote annunciate (RA) to the "Alarm Dispatch Center" and other required locations.

Addressing My Client's Custom Needs

In addition to everything else, I knew that my client needed CCTV footage before and after alarms. You can do this with a programmable digital recording device, like a CGRMS Dispatcher Interface. This would come along with the dispatcher's log and user-programmable and downloadable event history reports.

I also knew that my client wanted Text-2-Cell/Email features. You can access all your alarm information on your phone or computer. Good fire alarm monitoring system manufacturers will also allow you to customize the message you receive. This makes understanding the messages and/or emails you receive easier.

Good Manufacturers Will Give You Multiple Solutions

A good fire alarm monitoring system manufacturer understands that you know your infrastructure more than anyone. They also know that everybody's needs are different, meaning that they shouldn't give you just one solution.

I offered my client 4 different configurations for his choosing:

Configuration 1 - Prism LX (master station) in 2 locations

Consists of dual AlarmLAN-networked System 3505 Prism LXs. This comes with DDI-12e DACRs, existing systems interface, and dual CGRMS with three Workstations. This configuration will provide the ability to receive 1600 DACTs via IP and/or phone line, Digitize-to-existing System Interface, and CGMS Dispatchers Interface at both the Police Dept. and the firehouse on base.

An additional CGRMS Workstation will be located at the new Fire House. The Dual AlarmLAN Network provides fail-safe operation i.e. if one system fails to operate the other system can provide all the alarm information to the dispatchers.

second configuration of my clients system set up proposal
(Configuration 1 diagram): Remote annunciators, CGRM Workstations, and CGRMS servers on both ends communicate via LAN/WAN across and inside buildings on the military base. The Prism LX master stations are able to interface to the older system.

Configuration 2: Dual-redundant Prisms in two locations

Consists of dual-redundant AlarmLAN-networked System 3505 Prism LXs. This comes with DDI-12e DACRs, my client's existing systems interface, and Dual CGRMS with three Workstations. This configuration will provide completely redundant systems with the ability to receive 1600 DACTs via IP and or phone line.

Digitize, the existing system, and CGMS Dispatchers interface at both the Police Dept. and the firehouse. An additional CGRMS Workstation will be located at the new firehouse.

The Dual Redundant AlarmLAN Network provides redundant fail-safe operation (ex. if one system fails to operate the other system can provide all the alarm information to the dispatchers).

second configuration of my clients system set up proposal
(Configuration 2 diagram): Dual-redundant Prisms at Police Dept and Old Fire Dept that remotely annunciate via text-2-cell. Prisms are backed up by their own SEBB-24s for each headend unit. CGRMS servers and all other devices can communicate via LAN/WAN like in configuration one. iLNX interfaces with FACPs at any site.

Configuration 3: Add (200) iLNX FACP interfaces to replace existing DACTs to create interface between Prism LX & FACPs

This configuration expands AlarmLAN to include two hundred (200) iLNX FACP Interfaces to replace the existing DACTs. The iLNX creates the interface between the System 3505 Prism LX and the Fire Alarm Control Panel. It also provides the System 3505 Prism LX with all the FACPs, RS-232 addressable and EOL nonaddressable alarms, troubles, and supervisory conditions.

In addition, this configuration includes a FORM C relay that can be controlled from System 3505 Prism LXs (requires relay control option). It enables communication to the System 3505 Prism LXs via supervised, bi-directional polling multiplex technology over the customers' Intranet LAN or WAN.

The iLNX can also communicate via Wireless Ethernet Mesh Dual Frequency Radio (aka MeshSentrys)

second configuration of my clients system set up proposal

Configuration 4: Add CGRMS CCTV, Access Control modules & MeshSentry network w/ Hazardous Conditions Enclosures & Antennas. Wireless MeshSentry Ethernet communication from Police Dept. to Fire Dept & other locations.

This is the top-of-the-line configuration which includes all configurations #1, 2, and 3. It also adds CGRMS CCTV capabilities, Access Control Modules (ACM), and a MeshSentry Network with Hazardous Conditions Enclosures and antennas containing approximately 8 Nodes.

These units will establish the beginnings of a Base-wide Wireless MeshSentry Ethernet communication network backbone from the Police Department to the Fire Department and other locations to be determined.

This network backbone will allow the alarm information to be communicated via supervised and encrypted Ethernet to the Fire Department, Police Department, and other vital areas. Additionally, the MeshSentry Nodes can carry CCTV and other critical data.

Let Your Budget And Situation Decide For You

Understandably, anybody who wants to install fire alarm monitoring solutions for a small start-up operation would not opt for the fourth configuration. The good thing about being provided multiple solutions is that you can see which of them fits your budget, and if you want to mix and match between a few of them.

Always look out for fire alarm monitoring system manufacturers that provide you with in-depth illustrations in their proposals. This proves to you that one, they clearly understand your infrastructure, problem, and the direction you need to be headed in. Two, it proves that they have a good practice of creating well-made and in-depth documentation. This is crucial for proprietary fire alarm monitoring in-house training.

Since my client was inquiring about fire alarm monitoring system upgrades for the military, budget constraints were not a problem. He ended up choosing the fourth configuration, which provided him with all of the other three configurations anyway.

With MeshSentrys making Ethernet communication possible across all the available sites, my client was left with a newly improved and reliable fire alarm monitoring system that left room for future upgrades.

My client was also provided with user-friendly ways to display, annunciate, and print information. This was supplemented by in-depth product documentation alongside Digitize's 40 years' worth of expert technical support and site-visit option.

Digitize puts your budget and needs first. Whether you are a distributor looking to upgrade your fire protection lineup or an end-user such as someone responsible for a military base's fire department, Digitize promises you the required flexibility to adapt to your infrastructure.

If you have any more questions or would like to inquire about doing business, even if we can't reach a compromise, please reach out to me and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

Call me at 1-800-693-0351 or Email me at

Ziad Alezabi

Ziad Alezabi

Ziad Alezabi is a seasoned marketing writer renowned for his expertise in crafting compelling content and strategic marketing communications. With a rich background in the industry, Ziad has contributed significantly to various projects, delivering engaging blog articles, impactful videos, and...Read More