Picking An NFPA 72 Compliant Fire Alarm Monitoring Manufacturer

By Ziad Alezabi

January 11, 2024

Your infrastructure, whether it be a municipality, army Base, healthcare facility, etc. needs certain fire code safety measures to be compliant with fire safety standards. You need to find a manufacturer that produces equipment that adheres to this fire safety code.

It ensures that you are receiving equipment that has been tried and tested and won't fail you when there is an actual emergency. Having fire alarm monitoring system equipment that complies with NFPA 72 prevents loss of life, injury, and asset loss.

Proprietary Fire Alarm Monitoring Vs. Central Stations

Even though you might see trends of people picking central stations instead of proprietary fire alarm monitoring solutions, it is often time for the wrong reasons. Vice President of Operations at Digitize James Sutton has 40 years of experience in both engineering and administration. He has been on his fair share of sites and puts it into perspective perfectly...

A lot of towns in the country don't do their monitoring this way. More people probably move away from doing things this way because it involves costs. As a politician in a city, if you can contract this service out and it looks like you saved money for your municipality, then that makes you and your constituents look good.

Fire departments might not want the responsibility any more or the budget might be shrinking, and I doubt anybody's budget is growing. Therefore it might be cost-effective for them to try and narrow down some of their scope of operation to allocate those costs towards keeping their staff employed.

Alarm data being sent to PRISM vs Central Station

In current times, nobody is seeing their budget allocation grow. Understandably, costs need to be trimmed wherever possible. Fire safety, however, is a life and asset protection matter. It is not a place where you want to cut costs.

Central Stations Compromise Your Security

There are many reasons to be deterred from picking a central station over a proprietary fire alarm monitoring system. One of those reasons is putting your network's security at risk. A while back James Sutton was asked why people shouldn't pick central stations. He made an insightful yet often overlooked point...

The better way to frame this would be to ask why they should choose us. There is a huge security risk in choosing a central station. You're not sending data in your closed network, you have to send it to god knows where -- it could go anywhere.

You're not sure of who collecting the data and how it's being reported. Just because it worked last week is it gonna have the same level of competency this week? Because if the people at the central station change due to them not hiring the best people, they could not be up to standard. They have a great guy at the central station today, what about the guy during tomorrow's shift?

Aside from putting your network and information at risk, central stations are nowhere near as reliable as your own proprietary fire alarm monitoring system along with your trained in-house team and well-maintained system. James Sutton has pointed out how time-sensitive proprietary monitoring systems are when compared to central stations...

Also, is the connection of this remote central station as good as it should be? Usually, the problem is that local communities that have central stations and a municipal monitoring system as well usually would be already on their way to the alarm, and halfway there the central station would chime in and give them their alarm.

A lot of the time it's also sending incomplete data. If the data isn't incomplete, then it probably wasn't accurate enough to make a decision. A question back to the central station is -- where is it located? They don't live in your state probably, they're just working off of a screen and seeing what's collected on their screen.

Did you know that NFPA 72 actually demands cybersecurity by laws, codes, and standards? However, NFPA 72 Chapter 11 doesn't actually speak about protecting your network from outside invasions. Instead, it gives you certain guidelines that it requires from you when you're installing your fire alarm monitoring system.

While you might see this as a reason to go with central stations in order to cut out all the headaches, you will only be putting your safety and security in someone else's hands. Oftentimes times the person receiving your alarms is not even in your state, as mentioned by James Sutton.

NFPA 72 Cares About Maintenance

NFPA 72 Chapter 14 talks about the guidelines for proper inspection, testing the fire alarm monitoring equipment, and maintaining your existing system. Contrary to popular belief, these rules are not just there to make everyone's lives harder. They are in place to ensure that you get a safe and reliable alarm reporting system that can save lives and assets.

A big reason that people have chosen to hand over all their fire alarm monitoring responsibilities to central stations is that they do not want to be held accountable for anything that goes wrong. On the contrary, however, having an in-house trained staff to properly test and maintain your fire alarm monitoring system ensures your safety.

Again, your livelihood is not something to cut costs on. Here is a harrowing story from one of the founding members of Digitize, John Ermatinger about what could go wrong if you put the wrong people on the job...

I will say a certain major city transportation department had many older panels. This is going back 20 years. They had what was called a remote display and it had a simple acknowledge button.

It had little LED indicators on it, alarm, trouble, restore, and one button to shut the thing up. Because all it did was beep, beep, beep. And it was annoying. If you had to sit there in front of this thing beeping all day because of all the legacy trouble panels, they kept pushing the button.

And somebody found out that, hey, if we tape the button down, it automatically would beep. And just automatically beep. Well, they had an actual fire. And a building was burnt, and gutted because of it. So be careful what you wish for.

By now you probably have a few questions. On the one hand, you shouldn't pick a central station because it does not offer full reliability and can even put you in danger of exposing your network while your information travels, oftentimes to an entirely separate state.

On the other hand, having in-house solutions will cost you more while not offering you the same peace of mind and guarantee that a central station does. What do you do? You pick a tried and tested manufacturer with a proven track record.

Picking The Right Manufacturer To Keep You Within NFPA 72 Guidelines

While you may be in charge of the fire department at your facility, base, campus, or municipality -- you don't necessarily need to know the NFPA 72 handbook from cover to cover.

An easy way to avoid all this is to find a fire alarm monitoring system manufacturer that already has all of their fire alarm monitoring equipment listed. While this may cost more upfront, it guarantees you that all of the devices that you receive will keep you within compliance.

In addition to finding a manufacturer that offers listed equipment, they need to offer you and your in-house team proper training on how to inspect and maintain your alarm monitoring system.

When asked about the biggest vulnerability in municipality fire alarm monitoring systems, James Sutton had this to say...

The main vulnerability is if you have a competent dedicated person who's responsible for it who's trained and knows what they're doing, the system is going to run pretty smoothly and everybody is going to be happy. Versus, for example, I've been to sites where there is no dedicated person that's responsible for it. The training level at these sites and the level of competency of the people maintaining it is questionable.

It leads to the panels not necessarily performing as well as they should be, which leads to the management questioning whether or not they want to continue this because it's costly and it's not performing well. It all has to do with the people who are on-site and hands-on with the panels.

As you can see, a lot of the time when an administration decides that a proprietary fire alarm monitoring system isn't cost-effective enough, it's actually the result of poorly trained staff that fail to maintain their equipment properly.

James Sutton had extra criteria about what makes a great manufacturer. This not only helps you create the right fire alarm monitoring system lineup, but it also helps you propose it to the company you want to sell it to, or your higher-ups even...

I want to know, how good was it to work with you? What were you like with other customers? Was it easy to work with you? Was it easy for us to figure out what I needed to fix my problem? Did you actually help me fix my problem? Did you deliver on time? Did you support your devices after you got it installed and up? What about your documentation? If I had a couple of irritating problems, did you actually come back in and fix those for me or did you forget about me once you put your equipment in? Would you train my people?

Digitize Can Solve Your Headaches And Money

Another thing that is not mentioned enough -- is that a good fire alarm monitoring system manufacturer will save you money in the long run. This can be achieved through integrating your older system with a newer one as you would need to.

This saves you from having to rip out your old system and throw it out. A lot of people actually end up getting a longer life span out of existing equipment. with Digitize's PRISM LX head-end unit, you can bridge older technology in your monitoring system with newer technology.

Jim Sutton had this to say about why Digitize is the optimal solution for anyone in the market to improve or install a fire alarm monitoring system...

It gives them the approvals that they need according to the NFPA 72 guidelines to install the required equipment. If you want to collect and report your fire alarms, you'll need to use approved equipment that has been demonstrated that it does so reliably.

You don't want to use something that came from an unrecognized source that's unproven and then count on it to respond with life-saving procedures, only to find out that you never even collected the alarms required.

that's where we come in because we have a proven track record and we've got all of the required testing approvals that show that we're an acceptable piece of equipment to collect their alarms.

We provide a one-stop solution for them to put in a piece of equipment and bring in different types of alarms into one package. We bring all of their equipment and alarm types into one panel where they can have one central source of information. We deal with universal telegraph alarms.

This is not to mention that you can actually save money by having your own in-house solution. Central stations have a subscription fee that is paid no matter what. However, if you have a proprietary fire alarm monitoring system that is properly inspected and maintained, it can save you tons of money as opposed to a subscription.

If you have any more questions that you would like help with, please feel free to reach out for help. I will point you in the right direction no matter what.

Call me at 1-800-693-0351 or Email me at info@digitize-inc.com

Ziad Alezabi

Ziad Alezabi

Ziad Alezabi is a seasoned marketing writer renowned for his expertise in crafting compelling content and strategic marketing communications. With a rich background in the industry, Ziad has contributed significantly to various projects, delivering engaging blog articles, impactful videos, and...Read More