NFPA Requirements for Self-Monitoring of Fire Alarms
By Justin Sagalow
October 9, 2022
We've taken a lot of time on this blog to discuss the advantages of monitoring your own fire alarm system. In previous posts, we’ve reviewed who our usual clients are and what type of businesses typically inquire about our products.
We have never, however, dedicated a full-length article to identifying the ideal consumer for our fire alarm monitoring systems.
We want to help you determine if you're a good fit for self-monitoring. The better we know our target market, the better we can continue to serve their needs.
At the end of the day, our goal is to best point anyone seeking alarm monitoring advice in the right direction. We can appreciate it if that direction isn’t ours. Regardless of what you decide, we're here to help.
What is self-monitoring?
Self-monitoring is deciding to oversee your own fire alarm monitoring station. We have numerous articles on this site dedicated to what a fire alarm system consists of and looks like. We also have many resources outlining how a fire alarm system works.
To recap: In a commercial fire alarm system, detectors throughout a building or group of buildings report to various control panels. These control panels relay a programmable array of information to a fire alarm system head end unit. This unit is constantly monitored by a person or team of people. This dedicated team reviews alerts as they appear and responds accordingly.
The alternative to this is hiring a monitoring company or monitoring service to do this for you. These UL-listed monitoring centers are manned 24/7. Although they relieve you of certain responsibilities, they often charge exorbitant fees in the form of multi-year contracts.
Single-family and two-family homes don’t require alarm monitoring
Single-family homes typically lack the complex fire alarm systems found in large-scale residential buildings and commercial developments. Therefore, they do not require monitoring, whether self-monitoring or otherwise. Instead, a home usually has small initiating devices and notification devices. In other words, something like a smoke detector will simply beep loudly to warn you of the danger.
This is an image of a generic smoke detector. This is an example of an initiating device and notification device, as it detects smoke and produces a loud noise, but does not contact a municipal fire department or emergency service.
Although the specifics vary by state, smoke alarms are essentially required in homes all across the country. In almost every state, single-family homes are required to have UL-listed smoke alarms installed in every bedroom. These usually must also be installed in accordance with NFPA 72 and contain battery-back ups.
As a homeowner, you do have a choice of whether or not you want phone line alarm monitoring. If you do, a telephone line is installed in your home and connected to your smoke detectors. In the event of a fire, detectors send signals to a control panel in your home. This panel will contact your municipal fire department using these phone lines.
In a typical one family home, it wouldn't make sense to monitor your own fire alarm system. The presence of initiating and notifying devices should sufficiently function as adequate protection.
Residential buildings may require alarm monitoring
Not all residential buildings are required to have monitored fire alarm systems. The NFPA has plenty of up-to-date resources that outline which structures require fire alarm monitoring on the internet. For your convenience, I have taken the time to succinctly report the current NFPA regulations. These are determined by the NFPA based on the size and intent of the residential building.
Residential facilities with permanent sleeping accommodations for 16 or less residents do not require fire alarm monitoring. Therefore, if you own or manage a small residential facility, you most likely would not benefit from using a proprietary supervision monitoring system.
However, if you are the owner or manager of a large residential facility, apartment, hotel or dormitory, you are someone who might consider monitoring their own fire alarm system. This is especially the case if your facility consists of multiple buildings. If you are unsure of how your establishment would be classified by the NFPA, please refer to the NFPA 101 guidelines.
If you are required by law to monitor multiple fire alarm panels, you may want to think twice before hiring a monitoring service. In many situations, monitoring services will determine their fees based on the number of alarms and sensors being monitored. Proprietary supervision monitoring systems, like the System 3505 Prism LX, can save your facility a significant amount of money in the long run. When deciding if this makes sense for your establishment, it is important to consider the staff that you have available to monitor the central unit.
This is an image of a Prism LX central display screen. For those who wish to monitor their fire monitoring system instead of hiring a third party service to do it, the prism lx is one example of a readily available server on the market.
Commercial buildings (almost) always require alarm monitoring
Owners and operators of commercial buildings commonly elect to monitor their building's fire alarm system themselves. Commercial fire alarm systems are fairly complex. Depending on the size of the building, or group of buildings, these systems may require multiple fire alarm panels to accurately monitor all detectors. In addition to this, it is very common for commercial alarm systems to include sprinkler systems and other security system devices.
The National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, along with the International Business Code and the International Fire Code, have published explicit guidelines regarding commercial fire alarm systems. These guidelines, backed by the law, leave building management with four approved methods of fire protection system monitoring.
These four methods are auxiliary, proprietary supervision station, remote supervision station, and central station monitoring. For more details on each of these methods of monitoring, please refer to our article on requirements for fire alarm system monitoring. Proprietary supervision station monitoring, otherwise known as self-monitoring, is a popular option for its customization options and long-term affordability.
This is an image of a generic office building. Per the NFPA guidelines, this would be classified as a commercial building, and would be subject to NFPA commercial alarm system and alarm monitoring system requirements.
Sometimes, a commercial building has existing fire alarm infrastructure that predates or lacks the ability to be monitored. In certain situations, the existing system may be sufficient. However, if this system is ever updated or replaced, the property owner will be required to meet current NFPA 72 standards and begin monitoring their system.
Give us a call to start planning your fire alarm monitoring system
If you're looking to start monitoring your own fire alarm system and you don't know where to start, don't worry – we're here to help. Digitize has a long history of providing reliable fire alarm monitoring services and coming up with innovative custom alarm solutions.
Give us a call at 1-800-523-7232. We'll be happy to discuss your options and find the best solution for your needs. Alternatively, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get back to you quickly.
Justin Sagalow is quite uniquely qualified for his Marketing Writer Position at Digitize. Arriving at Digitize with experience in law, finance, and editorial positions, Justin's skillset allow him to effectively communicate how best Digitize can address each client's individual needs. From his...Read More