How You Can Monitor Your Mircom, Notifier by Honeywell, or Simplex Fire Panel via Printer/Serial Port
By Andrew Erickson
January 14, 2023
The older your fire panels are (up to a point!), the more likely they use 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.
Let's review specific fire panels from:
This diagram from the manufacturer's user manual shows a fire panel connected to a printer or UL-listed terminal. This is an interface we can leverage to connect a modern Muxpad mediation device. This example is from an Autocall panel, but the same logic applies to many similar models from other manufacturers.
How to monitor your Mircom FX-2000 panel via RS232 port
As the Mircom FX-2000 user manual indicates, this FACP comes equipped with an "RS-232 Port for remote system printer or CRT terminal".
There's not much more than mention that that about either "printing" or "RS-232" in the manual (except for some printable button labels!), but I can explain to you what you'll do.
Digitize engineered the Muxpad product to be compatible with the Mircom FX-2000. You'll just need to install it next to your fire panel and then connect it with a cable. You'll then have a way to report alarm data back to your central monitoring location.
NOTE: As I write this, we're currently working with Mircom to learn precisely what outputs will be available on the new FX-4000 model. If you have this FACP, please call us at 1-800-523-7232 to get the latest information on the FX-4000.
How to monitor your Notifier 640, 1010, 2020, 3030, or NCA-2 Networked fire panel (by Honeywell)
According to the Notifier 640 user manual, Notifier fire panels are capable of sending messages "to the History buffer and installed printers, CRT-2 terminals, and FDU-80 annunciators." A sample message listed in the user manual is:
"TROUBL PULL STATION INTENSIVE CARE UNIT[end of line] EASTERN WING INVREP 03:14P 041408 2M147"
As we look at monitoring this Notifier panel with a more modern alternative to a printer, this instruction from the same NFS 640 manual is instructive:
NOTE: Before printing, make sure your control panel is connected to a compatible printer and the printer is configured according to the manufacturer’s specifications, and that the correct baud rate is selected at the panel.
These same compatibility notes apply equally to a mediation device like the Muxpad. Baud rate and similar connection parameters and things we had to think about when developing the Muxpad. That's why multiple Notifier models are on its list of compatible FACPs (fire panels).
The Muxpad is able to route alarm data from each of your fire panels to a new or existing central collector like the Prism LX.
Although this Notifier 640 model's PDF user manual didn't have much to say about specific printers, you will find more information in the manual for the Notifier 3030.
The Notifier 3030 manual lists both a "PRN Printer" and a "Keltron Remote Printer (Model VS4095)" for connecting to its "EIA-232 connection for printer":
The PRN provides a printed record (80 columns on standard 9" x 11" tractor-feed paper) of all system events (alarm, trouble) and status changes within the system. The control panel can be configured to time-stamp the printout with the current time-of-day and date for each event. The printer can be located up to 50 feet (15.25 m) from the control panel.
Notice that there is a stated maximum communication distance here of 50 feet. That is likely to still apply when you connect a mediating collector device like a Muxpad (so check your manufacturer's documentation for details).
The VS4095 is a two-color (red and black), 40-column, 24 VDC printer that can print up to 50 messages in 90 seconds. This printer connects to the EIA232 TB5 on the CPU and to the +24V screw on TB3 of AMPS-24/E, and mounts in a separate cabinet next to the control panel. The VS4095 meets UL fire and security requirements for an ancillary device; it is not ULC-listed.
How to Monitor Your Simplex Fire Panels: 4010, 4100, 4100U, 4120, and 4020 (standalone and networked)
We'll refer to the "Simplex 4010 Fire Alarm Applications Manual" for some reference material here. As usual, you can general expect models from the same manufacturer to be consistent for several technology generations.
This is especially true for FACP technology, since fire safety has a lot of deserved rules and regulations from the NFPA. Ultimately, though, fire panels separated by several decades of engineering evolution might have substantial interface differences.
The Simplex documentation refers to "RS-232 ports for printer and maintenance PC." You'll use one of these ports for connecting your non-printing mediation device to collect ASCII text output and route it to your central alarm collector.
Again, a mediating collector device like the Muxpad may be able to take existing fire panels with this type of interface and route fire panel messages to a central collector like the Prism LX. However, you should always check your fire panel's manufacturer documentation first.
Also note that the Simplex 4010 manual mentions "limit switches and/or remote reset devices" while discussing printer port connection compatibility. This may imply either wiring in additional hardware or else configuring fire panel settings for printer port communication.
It's best to check fire panel manuals and FACP manufacturer documentation for more details on compatible devices, wiring requirements, and fire panel configuration instructions related to printer port monitoring.
Finally, note that fire panels like the Simplex 4010 may be able to connect with "modern computers" via their EIA-232 serial ports. This means fire panel messages might also be able to be monitored via software that's compatible with the fire panel's interface protocol, such as FireFinder for the Simplex 4010 model fire panels.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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