The Best Ways to Use Fire Alarm Monitoring to Enhance Your Decision-Making

By Andrew Erickson

June 17, 2024

Fire alarm systems are a fundamental part of safety protocols in virtually all facilities. Having detailed information on each alarm is crucial for making effective, real-time decisions. Unfortunately, many current systems fail to provide the level of detail needed.

Recently, I interviewed Digitize engineer and VP of Tech Support, John, regarding this issue. As highlighted in our initial discussion, having the right knowledge is a key component of site management and expansion.

Together, let's pick apart this interview to see how knowledge of both the site and the equipment at the site play a crucial role.

Inadequate Alarm Details

Early in the interview, John mentioned that a major challenge of underperforming fire alarm systems is the need for better information delivery.

"For a lot of installations, people want point-specific information."

Inadequate alarm details can cause confusion and delays in response times. When fire alarm systems lack specificity, dispatchers and technicians may not know the exact location or nature of the alarm.

This lack of specificity leads to inefficient resource allocation and slower response times. Point-specific information is critical in enabling technicians to pinpoint the exact source of the problem, whether it’s a smoke detector on the third floor or a heat sensor in the basement.

Why Other Solutions Involving Legacy Systems Will Fail

Many traditional fire alarm systems fall short because they are not integrated or do not offer detailed data collection capabilities.

"We can deliver point-specific information by collecting that directly off your fire alarm control panels via serial connection to our multiplex polling system, Muxpads, and DGM's. We can also deliver that by collecting dialer alarm communicator data in contact ID format."

Simple alarm systems that only indicate a general area without specifics force technicians to spend valuable time searching for the problem. Older systems may not support modern data collection methods like serial connections or Contact ID protocol. These formats are essential for detailed monitoring and reporting.

Muxpad II
Muxpads enable efficient data collection from various alarm points

Imagining the Ideal Solution

John detailed the qualities and capabilities of the ideal fire alarm monitoring system:

"Imagine if your fire alarm system could provide comprehensive, point-specific details for each alarm. Your technicians would be equipped with the exact location and nature of the alarm before they even arrive on-site, significantly reducing response times and enhancing efficiency."

The ideal fire alarm monitoring system should alert you to the presence of smoke or heat and also specify the exact location and type of alarm. This system should integrate seamlessly with your existing infrastructure.

The best systems use advanced multiplex polling systems and other accessories to collect and transmit detailed information. Technicians are then able to access this data remotely. This remote access allows them to prepare adequately before reaching the site.

System 3505 Prism LX
The System 3505 Prism LX uses top components and circuitry to continuously monitor and display the status of all connected alarms

Why Digitize Devices Are Useful for Mediating Legacy Equipment

Digitize offers a range of solutions that address these challenges head-on. These solutions provide the detailed, point-specific information that facilities need without requiring a complete system overhaul. John highlighted how Digitize solutions provide unparalleled detail and reliability:

"So, if you've got a smoke detector on a third floor at a particular building, that information is already presented to the dispatchers and or technicians if they have their own remote enunciator output or their own Prism as an output, receiving the alarm data."

Digitize systems, such as the System 3505 Prism LX, utilize advanced technologies to ensure that every alarm is accurately and promptly reported. The Prism LX can communicate with various data gathering modules to provide detailed, point-specific alarm information.

Remote annunciators can be used to monitor all activities from different locations. This ensures that dispatchers and technicians have real-time access to critical data.

Digitize multiplex polling systems and DGMs are designed to integrate smoothly with existing fire alarm control panels. This integration capability enables seamless data collection and transmission. This seamlessness ensures that technicians are always informed and prepared, which drastically reduces response times and enhances overall safety.

The DGM-32M is suitable for an installation that will expand later to 32 End-of-Line resistor alarm inputs without relay control requirements

Get Comprehensive Training Programs

Another crucial aspect of Digitize’s offering is the extensive training provided to technicians. These educational lessons ensure that personnel are well-versed in using the advanced features of the monitoring systems. This will significantly enhance their effectiveness.

“We also offer, along with that, training, free training at Digitize. That way, if people need to have additional information and knowledge about the systems that they're currently working on, they can send as many technicians down as they need. Come down and have hands-on training to learn how to utilize these types of features that we offer in our systems.”

By simulating real-world scenarios, these training programs help technicians become familiar with the systems they will encounter in the field, enhancing their ability to respond effectively. Digitize’s support team is always available to assist and provide guidance.

Empower Technicians with Good Tech Support

Support doesn't end with training. John stated that, for those without current Digitize training, the company offers well-rounded support options:

“For those that don't have current Digitize training, they can easily call into Digitize support, and we will gladly walk them through. They become our eyes, ears, and hands, and we can walk them through troubleshooting issues and so forth in the field.”

This level of support ensures that even without extensive on-site training, technicians can receive the guidance they need to manage and troubleshoot issues effectively.

The availability of expert assistance at any time means that problems can be resolved swiftly. This maintains the integrity of the fire alarm monitoring system.

Enhanced Your Alarm Communication Capabilities

A critical aspect of effective fire alarm monitoring is the ability to relay detailed information from the alarm system to the monitoring personnel. John described how Digitize products use the Contact ID protocol format to do so:

"Collecting dialer alarm communicator data in Contact ID format ensures that detailed, point-specific information is relayed efficiently and accurately."

By using this format, Digitize systems collect and transmit data with precision. This precise collection guarantees that each alarm point is clearly identified. This specificity is essential in large facilities where pinpointing the exact location of an alarm can save valuable time.

Contact ID format is a standardized communication protocol that enhances the reliability of alarm data transmission. It allows for the transmission of detailed event codes and zone information. This is crucial for accurate and timely responses.

By leveraging this technology, Digitize ensures that all relevant data is communicated without delay. This minimizes the risk of misinterpretation and enabling faster decision-making.

Get the Versatile Data Collection Methods You Need for Your System

John touched on how Digitize’s versatility in data collection methods sets it apart from other fire alarm monitoring solutions:

"We literally build systems that match the systems that they might encounter in the field, whether they be a multiplex polling system where the fire alarm data comes in through our multiplex Muxpads, telegraph coded systems, very old technology, but still works very well, to dialer communications or some of the newer Ethernet based communication systems that we have, such as our Versalarms."

Our ability to integrate with a wide range of communication technologies ensures that our systems can be customized to meet the unique needs of any facility. Whether it’s multiplex polling systems, telegraph coded systems, or modern Ethernet-based communications, we have the capability to provide comprehensive monitoring solutions.

Multiplex polling systems and Muxpads enable efficient data collection from various alarm points. These systems poll multiple devices on a single communication line. This reduces the complexity and cost of wiring.

This approach is not only cost-effective but also highly reliable. Doing so ensures that all alarm data is collected and transmitted accurately.

Telegraph coded systems, despite being older technology, still offer robust and reliable performance in certain environments. They are especially useful in facilities with existing telegraph infrastructure. They allow for seamless integration without the need for extensive upgrades.

Our Ethernet-based communication systems, such as the VersAlarm, represent the latest in fire alarm monitoring technology. These systems provide high-speed data transmission and support remote monitoring capabilities. This transmission and support make sure that alarm data is always accessible, no matter where you are.

VersAlarm 8 Zone Ethernet Monitoring System

Don't Forget Integration with Existing Systems

Digitize’s solutions are designed to integrate seamlessly with both older and newer technologies. This integration ability provides a unified platform for alarm monitoring and management. This flexibility is crucial for facilities with diverse and evolving needs. John underscores the adaptability of Digitize’s systems:

“We literally build systems that match the systems that they might encounter in the field, whether they be a multiplex polling system where the fire alarm data comes in through our multiplex Muxpads, telegraph coded systems, very old technology, but still works very well, to dialer communications or some of the newer Ethernet-based communication systems that we have, such as our Versalarms.”

This adaptability ensures that the System 3505 Prism LX can work with various existing systems. This provides comprehensive monitoring capabilities without the need for extensive replacements or upgrades.

Upgrade to Superior Fire Alarm Monitoring

The challenges of inadequate alarm systems and inefficient technician dispatching can be effectively addressed with Digitize’s advanced fire alarm monitoring solutions. By offering detailed data collection, versatile communication methods, comprehensive training, and customizable features, we make sure that your facility is well-equipped to handle any fire emergency.

Contact Digitize today to learn more about how our state-of-the-art systems can enhance your fire alarm monitoring capabilities. Our expert team is ready to answer your questions and assist you in creating a solution that meets your unique needs.

Call 1-800-693-0351 or email to get started.

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