Why Your Fire Panels Should Also Send SNMP to Your NOC

By Justin Sagalow

October 21, 2022

On this blog, we've spent a lot of time discussing fire alarm control panels, or FACPs. After all, FACPs report to headend monitoring devices like our Prism LX. At the end of the day, that's what we specialize in here at Digitize.

prism lx central display screen

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.

DPS, a telecom company that we have worked with extensively, has exposed us to similar relationships between other devices in other industries. Looking at the way these other devices communicate, and the information they relay, has inspired us. We believe that fire alarm control panels report data that is useful to other teams beyond just employees that use fire alarm monitoring systems.

What is SNMP?

SNMP stands for simple network management protocol. SNMP is a protocol created in 1988. It was originally conceived as a short-term solution to manage disparate elements in growing networks like the Internet. SNMP allows different devices to communicate with each other, which permits functions such as system monitoring.

Nowadays, SNMP is considered the standard protocol for various applications. SNMP allows for the collection of data, as well as the management of equipment, in a network. It does this via a "manager-agent" relationship.

An SNMP manager is a computer that monitors a series of devices on a computer network. Managers collect and process information from multiple remote SNMP agents. "Agents" provide the interface between the manager and monitored devices. This is sometimes referred to as a "management system."

manager agent model

This is a diagram outlining the "manager-agent" relationship in simple network management protocol.

In telecom alarm monitoring applications, agents would be SNMP-enabled RTUs (Remote Telemetry Units). RTUs are able to send traps to the manager when an alarm event occurs. RTUs can also be continuously polled by the manager (using GET requests) for data collection.

SNMP commands

To communicate between the manager and agent, SNMP uses a few basic commands. The commands we'd like to focus on today are "Get," "Set," and "Trap." All three commands are fairly simple.

manager agent model

This is a diagram explaining the standard commands used in simple network management protocol.

A "Get" request is a status update. A manager sends a "Get" request to an agent. The agent responds either with the requested information or an error explaining why the request cannot be processed.

Like a "Get" request, a "Set" command is pretty much what it sounds like. It is a command to change a parameter. After a manager executes a "Set" command, the agent responds. The response is either confirmation that the change has been made or an explanation on why the change cannot be made.

Although the "Trap" command is the least-intuitively named, it is the most straight-forward and most common command. Traps are sent by the agent to the manager when an event occurs. Traps are ideal for reporting fire alarms, as they are prompted by the event itself, rather than a "Get" status request.

What is a NOC?

For those of you who are familiar with Digitize or this blog, you may already know what a NOC is. A NOC is a Network Operations Center. This is a location where a dedicated member, or members, of a company constantly monitors the company's network.

NOCs are the first line of defense against any problems that can impact the network and the services provided by the company.

Where a fire alarm monitoring system would have a Digitize System 3505 Prism LX, a NOC may have a DPS T/Mon LNX central console. The two operate very similarly, interpreting alarms from many protocols and displaying them. Some large municipal organizations even have alarm monitoring systems constructed around a group of DPS T/Mon LNXs and Digitize Prism LXs.

manager agent model

This is a DPS T/Mon LNX unit. The T/Mon LNX is a multiprotocol, multifunction network alarm manager designed as a single-platform solution for all alarm monitoring applications.

FACPs send critical safety information

To state the obvious, fire alarm control panels exist to report alarms from smoke detectors to a monitoring console. When someone installs a FACP, it is because they want to prevent fires.

Similarly, a product like the DPS T/Mon LNX exists to relay information about equipment alarms, temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, and rainfall. You may want to monitor fires in the same way because they are factors that can damage equipment or buildings.

If a company has a T/Mon that monitors equipment alarms and unsafe environmental levels, wouldn't it make sense to include reports about smoke and fires?

It goes without saying that FACPs should still report alerts to a designated fire alarm monitoring station. However, in addition to this, they should also be able to send "Trap" SNMP messages to an existing NOC.

The future of FACPs includes SNMP output

Currently, we have two ways of enabling a FACP with SNMP output capabilities.

The first method is outfitting the outputs of an existing FACP with SNMP capability. We use a type of adapter that the NFPA refers to as a "DACT." DACTs are digital alarm communicator transmitters, and are commonly used as signaling interfaces.

We have designed a LAN-enabled DACT that would attach directly to an FACP output. From there, it will convert FACP signals from a method like telegraph into SNMP, and send it to a NOC.

The alternative for new installations is to purchase an FACP that comes readily equipped with SNMP. This FACP will simultaneously report to a NOC and a fire alarm monitoring system unit, without the need for any DACTs. Our model can receive and act on "Get" and "Set" commands, and send "Trap" commands as needed.

Give us a call to discuss custom monitoring options

Please call us if you are interested in outfitting your FACP with a SNMP-enabled DACT, or purchasing an SNMP-enabled FACP.

If you are interested in setting up your own fire alarm monitoring system or network operations center, Digitize can help you every step of the way. 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 info@digitize-inc.com and we'll get back to you quickly.

Justin Sagalow

Justin Sagalow

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