What is a Monitored Fire Alarm System?

By Andrew Erickson

December 4, 2022

A monitored fire alarm system is one that is monitored by a third-party monitoring company (or by your staff directly). The monitoring center will be notified if the fire alarm system detects smoke or heat, and they can then contact emergency services to respond to the situation.

This type of fire alarm system can provide peace of mind knowing that your property is monitored 7x24x365. It also, oddly enough, will make you compliant with the essentially universal requirement to monitor the fire alarms in any significantly large building.

Boston fire dispatch center

Monitoring your own fire alarms, as shown here from this archival photo from City of Boston, is one of two primary ways of establishing a monitored fire alarm system.

In monitored fire alarm systems, a control panel ("FACP" or "Fire Alarm Control Panel") is installed and monitored. This control panel will have multiple sensors ("initiating devices") connected to it that are triggered in case of a fire or smoke. When this happens, the central station or your own monitoring center can be alerted - and they will then contact emergency services such as firefighters who can respond quickly.

Backup power and communications are important

Monitored fire alarm systems are also connected to a backup power source to ensure that they work even in cases of power outages. This can be done by connecting the FACP to an emergency line, or through internal battery backups within the FACP itself.

Backup communications are also required. Historically, this started with telegraph and telephones. If you've been in fire system monitoring for more than a few years, you'll remember dedicated phone lines for alarm dialers.

As fire panels evolved to incorporate LAN networks, we saw phone lines become the redundant backup communication method in the event of a network failure. Only now are we starting to see this requirement for a landline phone relax. Modern wireless networks and even mesh radios are becoming more commonplace.

Mesh networks provide self-healing connectivity on large campuses

Mesh networks provide a reliable, self-healing way to monitor fire alarm systems. Mesh networks are able to reach most places on a large campus and can be monitored directly from the monitoring center.

You're starting to see more equipment options that are compatible with mesh radio networks now. In some cases, you're merely attaching your equipment to existing third-party networks. In others, you're using private radio frequencies to form your own fire alarm monitoring network.

Monitoring fire alarms is only one aspect of the fire code that you must follow

Overall monitored fire alarms provide extra levels of safety for both buildings and its occupants. They are monitored constantly and provide a quick response time in case of emergencies. This monitoring can greatly reduce the risks associated with fires - and help to save lives.

The monitored fire alarm system is only one part of a comprehensive fire protection plan for your property, however. It is still important to have other safety measures such as fire extinguishers and sprinklers installed, as well as ensuring that personnel are trained in fire safety.

The various NFPA codes demand your compliance with active fire alarm monitoring, the design of the building for ease of egress, and the placement of sprinklers and extinguishers. You may choose to either demonstrate the performance of your system (not typical) or simply follow the established formulas based on the sizes of your buildings.

Be sure to select the right provider

Ultimately monitored fire alarm systems provide an extra level of protection to ensure that your property and those within it remain safe – both physically and financially.

If you're looking for monitored fire alarm system, then make sure you choose a reputable provider with experience in monitoring such systems. This will ensure that you have a monitored system that is reliable and effective in case of an emergency.

Choosing a good provider is important when choosing a third-party central station, because switching is at least as annoying as switching any other recurring service.

There is broad industry compatibility between third-party services and FACP panels at this point, but it's still a hassle if you discover later that your monitoring company isn't good enough.

You need to be extra careful when choosing to monitor your own fire alarms, as this requires that you buy dedicated equipment. If you get this choice wrong, you can't simply switch some recurring monthly fee to another company.

prism lx central display screen

If you want to monitor your own fire alarms instead of hiring a third-party service to do it, the Prism LX was built to do that job for you.

There are great companies out there manufacturing fire alarm monitoring equipment (at Digitize, that's our singular focus, after all). Just be careful, since no industry is without its lackluster offerings that you really shouldn't purchase.

Call Digitize today to upgrade your monitored fire alarm system

If you're in need of monitored fire alarm systems and monitoring services, we built Digitize to be your best option.

No matter your requirements, start by giving Digitize a call. Even if your planned purchasing takes you in a different direction, you can benefit from our industry experience with an initial phone call.

Call Digitize now at 1-800-523-7232 or email us at info@digitize-inc.com

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