Monitor Your Gamewell Flex 500, 600, 630, 650 (and similar) Fire Panels via Printer Port
Gamewell is a major manufacturer of fire alarm control panels (FACP) that are useful for commercial, municipal, and military installations.
In a modern install, it's expected (and required!) that you will monitor all of your fire panels as a single cohesive system. But how do you do that?
This diagram demonstrates how a mediation device like a Muxpad can take advantage of RS-485 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).
Let's start with a brief overview of Gamewell panels, then dive into specific monitoring techniques...
Overview of Gamewell fire panels
Gamewell Flex 500, 600, 630, and 650 fire panels are part of the Gamewell series of fire alarm control panels. These panels offer a wide range of features and capabilities to meet your specific needs.
The overall design is modular rather than excessively fixed. This allows you to use "building blocks" to create the customized system you need. You're able to select precisely which I/O modules are best for your specific building, monitoring needs, and local fire code requirements.
Exactly how you configure all of those options is beyond the scope of this article (although you can always call Digitize at 1-800-523-7232 for assistance with ANY fire alarm system question).
What we're going to look at today is: after your fire alarm system has been designed and installed, how do you collect alarm data from it remotely? Will you get enough detail to make speedy dispatch decisions during emergencies where seconds saved can save lives?
You can monitor Gamewell panels using a Muxpad and Prism LX
A Muxpad will allow you to monitor your Gamewell FACP via its standard RS-485 output (or RS-232 output in some cases). You then use the Prism LX to monitor the parameters of your fire alarm system such as zone status, battery condition, panel alert levels and more.
When you consult the user manual for most Gamewell units, you'll find that these devices have the "built-in ANN-BUS 4-conductor communication circuit" that can be used with the "printer interface module."
That's where the Muxpad comes in, as Digitize designed it to be compatible with Gamewell. Effectively, your fire panel just believes it is reporting to a text printer or annunciator. In actually, the Muxpad is more advanced than that. It will collect and interpret text-based alarms and forward everything to the central repository device (your Prism LX unit).
How do you know if your fire panel is compatible with Muxpad?
Whenever I'm determining Muxpad compatibility for any fire panel, whether made by Gamewell or anyone else, I crack open the user manual.
I'll then perform a simple "Ctrl + F" (Find) search on the PDF document for "RS-485" and "RS-232". That will usually lead me right to the necessary information.
Let's use the manual for the Gamewell Identiflex 630 as an example. The term "RS-232" occurs 13 times in this 226-page PDF file. The tenth time states the following:
The display events selection will prompt the CPU to output its complete history log to the RS-232 port. The history log will contain all information regarding the system status changes for the previous 1000 events or since the last time the system SmartStart(TM) feature was invoked.
This is your clue that your fire panel does, in fact, have the ability to send detailed alarm messages (ideally in real-time) out via its RS-232/RS-485 port.
What if my panel doesn't have an RS-485 or RS-232 port that outputs alarm text?
Now, even if your FACP doesn't have any mention of RS-232 or RS-485 communication, it's still possible to monitor that panel with a Muxpad or a similar Digitize product.
In this case, you'll be looking for electrical contact closures (commonly called "digital outputs") in the user manual. These perform a similar function to text-based alarms, just with much less specificity.
By connecting a Muxpad to a handful of digital outputs on your fire panel, you'll indeed get an alert back at your central monitoring station when you have an important alarm event in that building. You simply will not know exactly WHAT sort of alarm you're dealing with until the first responders arrive to examine the panel's on-board LEDs or LCD display.
Fortunately, most of the Gamewell models I've examined from the last several decades of manufacturing history have the necessary RS-485 or RS-232 port to actually communicate alarms in full detail to your Muxpad and Prism LX.
Who is Digitize, exactly? Why should you trust the Muxpad?
Digitize is an engineering and manufacturing firm that specializes in fire alarm system monitoring and remote data collection. We have been designing, manufacturing, and installing remote fire alarm systems since the early 1970s.
The Muxpad is a product of Digitize's extensive research into how best to collect and analyze data generated by sensors and their supervising building fire panels. It is one of the most reliable and versatile data collection solutions on the market today.
The goal with Muxpad is to take one more to-do item off of your busy plate. You'll mount it on the wall next to your fire panels, wire up a few connectors, power the unit, and get on with the rest of your busy job.
Furthermore, Digitize is decidedly NOT a "bare bones" equipment seller. We design, manufacture, and support all of our systems in the United States with an "all-inclusive" model. If you need 100% turn-key service, that obviously requires some additional charges. For a basic purchase and a reasonable amount of support time on the phone, however, you won't have to reach for your wallet after the initial PO.
Digitize headquarters is in New Jersey, less than an hour's drive from NYC (massively depending on traffic, obviously!). Our family of companies spans the continental United States, so we can visit you for pre-sales discussions or post-sale support almost anywhere.
Call Digitize for engineering help with monitoring your fire panel via serial/printer RS-485 / RS-232 port
The technology background you need to make sense of this stuff can feel overwhelming. Fortunately for you, we engineered our Muxpad device specifically for compatibility with every device listed in the title of this article.
Obviously, you should never base an important life-safety decision solely on a tutorial article you read online (even if it was written by yours truly!). You really must talk to an expert before making a confident decision for your orgnization.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org