How to Monitor Incompatible Fire & Security Panels: An Airport Case Study

By Andrew Erickson

May 16, 2024

Effective alarm monitoring is critical for maintaining safety and operational efficiency in facilities like airports. Recently, a client from an airport in the Midwest asked us about upgrading their existing fire alarm control panels (FACPs) and integrating security alarm systems.

Email thread with Digitize airport client

In this email thread (discussed throughout this article), our client asked our Engineer (John E.) about how to monitor multiple FACP models with a single head-end receiver.

The discussion highlighted the complexities and necessities of modernizing their monitoring infrastructure to ensure comprehensive safety coverage. Here's a detailed look at this email conversation - and how Digitize's solutions can address these specific challenges:

The Problem: Multiple FACPs from Different Brands into One Head-End Receiver

Our client, a Building Maintenance Low-Voltage Electrician at the airport, initiated the conversation with a specific need:

"I was finally able to go take pictures of the panels we had around here. The list is as follows: Simplex 4010ES, Simplex 4100ES, Notifier NFW2-100, Simplex 4005, Notifier NFW2-100. These are all in different buildings but we have fiber everywhere to complete a 10g network."

The client's challenge was to upgrade these fire panels to communicate with a central head-end receiver, enhancing their ability to monitor point-specific alarm data.

Addressing the Communication Gap

John Ermatinger, a Digitize engineer, responded with potential solutions that leverage existing infrastructure and advanced monitoring technology:

"We have serial interfaces for the Simplex 4010ES and the 4100ES panels. We do not have serial interfaces for the Notifier NFW2-100. These may be currently monitored by the Simplex 4100 or 4010?"

John highlighted the importance of using serial interfaces for newer panels to obtain detailed alarm data, while older panels could still be monitored using relay contacts. This approach ensures that the airport can maximize the functionality of both their old and new systems without needing a complete overhaul.

Small Accessory Boxes Make Older FACPs Compatible with New Transport

The Prism LX system's data gathering capabilities (unifying all alarms in one place) are further augmented by its support for various data gathering modules (DGMs) and remote annunciators. These components play a crucial role in expanding the system’s reach and functionality.

For instance, the Data Gathering Module (DGM) series can monitor numerous end-of-line (EOL) inputs. The DGM-32/64 is one good example:

"The DGM-32/64 is a data gathering module (DGM) that monitors dry contacts. The DGM units communicate with the System 3505 Prism LX head end via Isolated RS-422/485, audio modem, RS-232, Fiber Optics cable, or Ethernet."

This module ensures that all status changes are promptly reported to the Prism LX, providing a real-time overview of the facility's alarm conditions. The ability to supervise up to 64 zones with built-in surge protection and ground fault detection makes it ideal for large and complex installations like airports, hospitals, and industrial sites.

Exploring Security Monitoring Options

The client's inquiry about security alarm panels added another layer of complexity:

"Also, can your units monitor security alarm panels? We have a DSC security panel at a building where there is also a fire alarm and it would be great to be able to monitor those signals as well."

John confirmed that Digitize's solutions can indeed accommodate this requirement:

"We do offer a dialer alarm receiver that is monitored by the Prism LX head end. This could also be used to receive point-specific alarm data from FACPs with dialer transmitters. The dialer receiver may also be used to monitor a security panel dialer transmitter."

This response illustrates how Digitize's Prism LX can serve as a versatile central monitoring solution, capable of integrating both fire and security alarm systems. The use of dialer receivers enables the airport to gather detailed, point-specific data from various panels, enhancing situational awareness and response capabilities.

Implementing the Ideal Solution: Prism LX

One of the core features of the Prism LX system is its ability to integrate seamlessly with various types of fire alarm control panels (FACPs) and security systems.

Prism LX hardware device

The Prism LX is a central head-end device to collect alarms from FACPs of different manufacturers and generations.

For this scenario, the ideal solution involves leveraging the Prism LX system with its various input options to achieve full compatibility with a wide range of FACPs (fire panels) from many different technological eras. As John Ermatinger pointed out in his communication with our client, the Prism LX system supports multiple inputs:

"The Prism LX can have any combination of, or all of the options, Multiplex Data Gathering Modules, Muxpad II, serial FACP, AlarmLan, VersAlarm, and Dialer receiver inputs."

By implementing this comprehensive solution, the airport can ensure all their FACPs and security panels communicate effectively with the Prism LX head end. This setup provides a unified platform for monitoring, allowing dispatchers to receive precise alarm data and respond more efficiently.

Real-Time Monitoring and Control

The Prism LX also excels in real-time monitoring and control through its Remote Annunciator interfaces. These interfaces allow operators to monitor and manage alarms from multiple locations within a facility. The 23.8-inch Remote Annunciator, for example, offers:

"Programmable color and sound schemes for events, historical data, and data export functions. The Remote Annunciator links to the System 3505 / System 3505 Prism LXs using a standard Ethernet connection."
Remote Annunciator screen

The Remote Annunciator displays alarms collected and unified by the Prism LX. These alarms often originate from multiple brands and models of FACPs that might ordinarily be managed separately.

This feature is particularly beneficial in large facilities where different departments or zones need to be monitored separately but reported centrally. By using remote annunciators, dispatchers and security personnel can receive timely notifications and detailed alarm data, enabling quicker response times and more efficient incident management.

Practical Applications in the Industry

Our client's inquiry about integrating both fire and security alarm systems at an airport highlights a common challenge faced by many large facilities. You must ensure that different alarm systems can communicate with each other and report to a central monitoring unit for effective safety management.

For example, the airport's existing setup involved standalone units that were previously monitored via phone lines but are now integrated into a card access system.

By upgrading to the Prism LX system, the airport can achieve a more streamlined and reliable alarm monitoring solution. This setup not only enhances safety but also reduces the complexity and cost associated with managing multiple disparate systems.

Your Next Step: Moving Forward with Digitize

The case of a US airport demonstrates the transformative potential of the Prism LX system for alarm monitoring. By leveraging advanced data gathering modules, remote annunciators, and flexible integration options, facilities can significantly enhance their safety and operational efficiency.

If your facility faces similar challenges, now is the time to explore the benefits of upgrading your alarm monitoring systems with Digitize. Our expert engineers are ready to assist you in designing and implementing a solution tailored to your specific needs.

Call Digitize today (1-800-973-5232) to learn how the Prism LX system and other Digitize gear can provide comprehensive and reliable monitoring for your buildings.

Call us now at 1-800-693-0351 or email to get started. Our team of experts, John included, is here to help you achieve the highest standards of safety and performance.

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