How to Monitor Your Edwards, FCI, Gamewell, or Hochiki Fire Panel via Printer Port (ASCII)

By Andrew Erickson

January 8, 2023

One of the most common ways for alarm data to be emitted from a fire panel (FACP) is via a traditional printer port. While this used to literally result in a printed paper record, it's now much more popular to display the ASCII text (raw or processed) on your fire alarm display screen.

Diagram of Edwards EST3 fire panel operation

This diagram from an Edwards user manual shows HVAC monitors, fire dampers, and water level monitors connected to an Edwards EST3 fire panel. There is also a printer connection, which we can use to connect a Muxpad mediation device.

Today, we'll review specific fire panels from:

  • Edwards (EST)
  • FCI
  • Gamewell
  • Hochiki

How to monitor your Edwards EST, IRC, or iO fire panel

Several FACP models from Edwards (either standalone or networked) may similarly be monitored using a serial-port capture device like the Muxpad:

  • EST-2
  • EST-3
  • IRC-3
  • iO64
  • iO500
  • iO1000

I'll use the EST3 Base Platform as our example here, but you will find that all of the models listed above are compatible with the Muxpad device. As listed in the EST3 data sheet:

EST3 is a modular control platform uniquely designed to meet the needs of applications ranging from standalone single panel fire alarm systems to multi-panel networks with unified fire alarm, security, access control and Mass Notification functions. Each function uses many of the same components, simplifying system layouts.

As you can see in this partial diagram (only the 1st Floor is shown), the system can span multiple floors with "Remote Floor Panel" devices. Ultimately, all of the data returns to the Central Monitoring Station for local display and printing.

It's here that we can replace a legacy printer with a Muxpad. This will capture all of the ASCII text data that would ordinarily be printed and forward it to your central Prism LX alarm collector for display. That gives you all of your alarms in one place, rather than requiring independent and disconnected central monitoring stations for each building or cluster of buildings.

How to monitor your Gamewell Flex 500/600/630/650 FACP (with or without annunciator)

The Gamewell fire alarm system family is similarly compatible with the Muxpad. Specifically, these models can be connected:

  • Flex 500
  • Flex 600
  • Flex 630
  • Flex 650

These devices have the "built-in ANN-BUS 4-conductor communication circuit" that can be used with the "printer interface module."

If your Gamewell FACP has this configuration (which is very common), it's possible to connect a serial port capture device like the Muxpad.

The Muxpad will capture all of the fire alarm data from the fire panel and forward it to your central monitoring station. This way, you can monitor all fire alarms in one place--even if they come from multiple buildings in an area-wide networked fire protection system.

In addition, the fire panel can be connected to an annunciator. This will provide visual alarm signals for each fire alarm zone in a building or network of buildings. The Muxpad eliminates the need for a separate printer interface module, required by fire panels for proper isolation. Instead, all alarms are forwarded to one central monitoring station--allowing for efficient fire alarm monitoring.

How to monitor your Hochiki FireNET Plus Analog Addressable Fire Alarm System via RS485 port

I found a manual on Hochiki's website for FireNET Plus panel (created 2008, updated 2016). It shows us all of the tech details we need for how to monitor it via printer port.

Front panel of Hochiki FireNET FACP

This Hochiki FireNET FACP (fire panel) has a printer port for connecting a Muxpad mediation device for collection and central reporting of fire alarms.

First, you'll notice that there is an option for printing the event log, which is quite similar to what we'll be using:

9.2 View / Print Event Log
The View Print Event Log menu command allows the user to view the systems 500-event memory log. Any condition outside of normal operation of the system generates an entry into the event log. The event log is very useful tool for troubleshooting system problems or verifying certain activities such as Fire Drills actually took place.

Of course, we want the same data in real-time as fire alarms occur. That will involve the same serial/printer port(s) used for printing a historical event log.

Looking at the port listing, we see the "COMMS Bus" that is "RS485 to I/O boards and serial annunciators". One of the original devices intended to use this port is the "FN-LCD-S Serial LCD Annunciator (RS-485 Bus Device)" accessory. As the manual states:

'The FN-LCD-S Serial LCD Annunciator duplicates the indications of the FireNET Plus fire alarm control panel. The FN-LCD-S connects to the control panel via the RS485 serial bus that is designated “COMMS” on the control board. Up to 15 FN-LCD-S annunciators may be connected via the COMMS bus to a single FireNET Plus control panel.'

That's exactly where we'll plug a different device in to transport alarms from this fire panel (FACP) to join with all of our other alarms from our other fire panels.

Much like I've described for other fire panels in this guide, you can use a Muxpad to collect alarms from your Hochiki fire panel and consolidate them at your central Prism LX.

This leverages the remote annunciation RS485 port that already exists for a more advanced all-in-one fire alarm monitoring system.

Just make sure that you don't ignore the general guidelines in the Hochiki install manual when you're installing your Muxpad device:

RS485 bus devices can be mounted either in the main control panel enclosure or in an accessory cabinet (FN-ACC). When mounting remotely in an accessory cabinet the distance from the panel to the RS485 bus device must not exceed 4000 feet. A suitable communications cable for RS485 applications must be used for the RS485 bus devices.

Use a Muxpad to conveniently monitor your fire panels (FACP)

The Muxpad is a versatile device that allows fire system installers to monitor their FACP via printer port (ASCII). This eliminates the need to connect multiple fire panels to a network of independent printers, saving time and money on installation costs.

Furthermore, this approach provides greater fire alarm visibility in larger fire protection systems. Imagine having a single alarm list on a computer console vs. having dozens of individual printers to watch. In the end, fire safety is improved and fire risk reduced while saving budget dollars.

Call Digitize for engineering help with monitoring your FACP via serial/printer port

As you can see from all of the technical data I've assembled in this guide, this stuff can be pretty complex. Fortunately for you, we engineered our Muxpad device specifically for compatibility with every device listed in this article.

As always, it's best to actually speak with an expert before continuing with your project planning. To get started, all you need to do is call us here and ask to speak with one of our fire protection system engineers.

Call Digitize at 1-800-523-7232 or email us at

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