How to Monitor Your Mircom FX-2000 & FX-4000 Fire Panels
By Andrew Erickson
January 22, 2023
Mircom is a significant manufacturer of Fire Alarm Control Panels (FACP). They've been making the FX-2000 model for many years. Newer models include the FX-4000.
This diagram demonstrates how a mediation device like a Muxpad can take advantage of RS-232 ports designed for printers to collect alarm data, process it, and send it to your central monitoring master station (Prism LX in this example diagram).
That's why it naturally made sense for us to build support for Mircom's panels into our Muxpad and (by extension) our Prism LX. That enables you to build an NFPA-compliant in-house ("proprietary") fire alarm monitoring system within your organization. This is equally valuable whether you're a municipality, university, military base, or some other kind of facility.
Let's take a look at the basics of Mircom and its FX-series fire alarm panels. You're welcome to use this general tutorial for any reason. I know that it's quite likely you don't actually need Digitize equipment at this very moment.
After we cover the fundamentals, I'll show you more precisely how a mediator like Muxpad can interact smoothly with your Mircom FACP. It's quite possible that it will be the "glue" you need to build a comprehensive alarm monitoring system.
Overview: Mircom FX-2000 fire panel
Mircom itself describes its FX-2000 FACP as follows:
Mircom's cost-effective FX-2000 Intelligent Analog Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) is a flexible and easy-to-use analog system. The FX-2000 base panel consists of: one intelligent analog loop controller capable of supporting 99 analog sensors and 99 addressable modules that can be wired in Class A (Style 6 or 7) or Class B (Style 4).
The FX-2000 includes many different functions, some common and others less common, including:
- A modular design that can support a large overall system when required
- Maximum of 99 analog sensors, plus an additional 99 addressable modules, per analog loop
- Options for power supply: 6A or 12A
- Qty 4 of Class A or Class B NAC circuits (1.7A per circuit)
- Fault isolators (per addressable loop)
- RS-485 interface for remote multiplex annunciators (remember this one, as we'll use it later).
- Form-C relay contact closure outputs to indicate the presence of any Alarm, any Trouble, and any Supervisory condition.
- Multi-level password security
- 4 lines x 20 chars LCD display (this is a common size for an FACP display screen)
The Mircom FX-2000 is available in multiple chassis formats to fit in different available placements. You'll see the final 2 digits of the "2000" part number change to reflect this, as in: "FX-2003...", "FX-2009...", or "FX-2017...".
Connecting to your Mircom panel via relay closure common outputs
Of course, there's nothing stopping you from using relay outputs (Alarm, Trouble, and/or Supervisory) to monitor your FX-2000. That's one reasonable way to ensure that you always know when something needs attention. Devices like the Muxpad are capable of collecting alarm data in this way.
Relative to more modern methods of data collection, however, relay outputs are quite limited. That's really just because you need one relay per unique item you want to receive. The relay is binary (it's either latched or open).
For most panel manufacturers, including Mircom with their FX-2000, that means "OR'ing" many (usually all) alarm inputs into a common shared output. That's tremendously better than no monitoring, since at least you'll know that you have SOME alarm. You just won't know WHICH alarm until you can actually read the alert on the FACP itself.
Consider how that compares with actually receiving a complete text description of the precise alarm point right from the first alert. With that information, you can make dispatch decisions that eliminate critical seconds of wasted time in what is commonly a life-and-death scenario.
Fortunately, there is a way to do this...
Connecting to your Mircom panel via RS-485 or RS-232
An RS-485 or RS-232 serial port (depending on the specific device design) allows your FACP to output actual ASCII text. Historically, this type of connection (the port type has evolved over the years) was used to drive output from a physical printer. That paper record, in fact, is still required by some fire codes today.
Later, printing started to be handled only in one place (since a single paper record is easier than multiple within one facility). At that point, the same type of text-based data output was useful for connecting an LCD-screen accessory.
When a fire panel has an RS-485 port today, that's something we can sometimes connect to an intelligent parsing device like the a Muxpad to collect, interpret, and forward alarm data.
According to the MX-2000 user manual, it has an "RS-485 Interface for Remote Multiplex Annunciators." Deeper in the manual, you'll learn that the last Annunciator in your daisy chain (if any) is where you must connect any subsequent device.
Further on, however, you'll see that the RS-232 port on the MX-2000 is where you should be connecting a printer-equivalent-text-processing device like the Muxpad.
Digitize engineers have added support for the Mircom MX-2000's text output format inside the firmware of the Muxpad. That makes it pretty straightforward to connect a Muxpad and start monitoring human-readable alarm data from your Prism LX central console. As required by code, the Prism LX is where you'll get an automatic printed record.
We expect a very similar configuration to be available for the MX-4000. We're currently communicating with the Mircom team to understand what outputs are going to be available from that newer FACP.
As long as a panel has text-based (ASCII) output, it's relatively simple for Digitize to add support for a new format when possible. Of course, if the MX-4000 ends up outputting the exact same text format as the MX-2000, the Muxpad should be compatible immediately without any modification required.
You should never make a final project decision related to FACP design without talking to an expert
Listen. This stuff is challenging. No matter how much I learn about fire alarms, FACPs, or the NFPA codes - there is always much more for me to learn.
That's doubly true when alarm monitoring isn't your only job. In all likelihood, you have nineteen other things that you need to be doing.
Contact Digitize to discuss your project
It's one thing to learn the absolute basics about alarm monitoring on my blog here. It's quite another to learn about the finer points about a specific application like monitoring the MX-2000 and MX-4000 fire panels we've discussed here.
At this stage in the process, your best (and fastest, and easiest) move is to just speak with an engineer at Digitize. We've done this kind of thing a ton, so we can help you finish your project as quickly and code-compliant as possible.
Call Digitize at 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