Real-World Challenges and Solutions for Fire Alarm Monitoring Projects

By Andrew Erickson

June 28, 2024

Recently, two of our Digitize engineers, Andrew and Jim, conducted an on-site visit for a client working on multiple projects. During this visit, Andrew documented various observations, client interactions, and system evaluations. His notes provide valuable insights and firsthand accounts of the challenges and solutions identified during the projects. These excerpts offer a real-world perspective on the implementation and effectiveness of the fire alarm monitoring systems.

As we review this site visit together, we'll learn about some specific projects and challenges within the industry. We'll also discuss how to overcome them with advanced alarm monitoring systems.

The System 3505 Prism LX
The System 3505 Prism LX from Digitize

Completing a Dual-NIC Card for Alarm Redundancy

During their visit, Andrew and Jim showcased the Prism dual-NIC PCB. A device like this is required for a significant project at a reputable university. The primary LAN is fiber-based and the secondary LAN utilizes point-to-point UHF. Our client emphasized the importance of completing this semi-custom device development:

"The university is ready to go as soon as that's ready."

This dual-NIC configuration ensures continuous monitoring by providing a fallback in case the primary network fails. Such redundancy is vital for institutions, where uninterrupted fire alarm monitoring is a non-negotiable requirement (and a requirement of fire code!).

The Prism dual-NIC PCB enables seamless switching between networks. This makes sure that no alarm goes unnoticed even if one network experiences downtime.

This is Huntsman Hall at the University of Pennsylvania, a reputable university that utilizes Digitize solutions

Why the University Needs Redundancy

One of the primary challenges discussed was the need for a redundant network at the Operation Center. Our client explained the limitations of their current alarm system:

"The problem with current system is: two redundant networks. They have two at Op Center. They want to have a redundant network."

Redundant networks are essential for ensuring that fire alarm systems remain operational during network failures. The Prism LX system, with its capability to integrate multiple networks, offers a robust solution.

Naval Decommissioning Projects Involve Extensive Fire Alarm Monitoring Rules

Another point of discussion was the client's naval vessel decommissioning project. This project has been on the radar for 7-8 years. Our client highlighted the unpredictability and complexity of such projects:

"This project has been on our radar for 7-8 years. Decommissioning is a complex job. Whether we get contacted by private-sector yards is hit-or-miss."

This unpredictability requires fire alarm monitoring systems that are not only reliable but also flexible and scalable. Their casualty control system has proven to be a valuable asset in such scenarios. The system provides the necessary supervision and control during extensive and complex operations.

Navy vessel
Navy vessels must be monitored against fires when in drydock or otherwise offline for maintenance

Overcoming Funding Challenges for Critical Upgrades

The conversation also touched upon the impact of COVID-19 on funding for essential projects. Many projects that are still heavily needed are approaching the end of their operational life. These suffer from years of neglect due to diverted emergency funds. Our client acknowledged this reality:

"COVID stole emergency funding for projects that are still 'heavily needed', approaching end-of-life (EOL). ~5-7 years of abuse before they really become a problem."

Digitize's solutions (such as the System 3505 Prism LX) offer cost-effective and scalable options that can be deployed even in financially constrained environments. These systems ensure continuous monitoring and alerting, crucial for maintaining safety standards despite budget limitations.

Be Sure You Get Timely and Quality Product Delivery

The client expressed satisfaction with the recent improvements in Digitize's product delivery and quality. This positive feedback highlights Digitize's commitment to continuous improvement:

"Lately, we've had very minimal issues with Digitize product delivery (quality & timeliness). Happy with recent speed of Digitize delivery & warranty decision to allow delay of warranty start for Japan project."

Timely delivery and high-quality products are essential for maintaining trust and reliability in the industry. This client also noted our willingness to delay our standard warranty start date for a device that, although it had left Digitize, was still being held awaiting the customer's final order completion.

Enhancing User Experience with Practical Solutions

Practical feedback from users is invaluable for continuous product improvement. One specific issue raised was the ease of handling and installation of the Prism systems. The client mentioned:

"Occasional loose screws when we get shipment, including card-slot holders on Prism. For the most part, Digitize stuff is pretty solid."

Digitize takes such feedback seriously. They use critiques to continuously improve the design and usability of its products. By addressing these practical concerns, we make sure that our systems are not only reliable but also user-friendly. This minimizes the risk of installation errors and ensures smooth operation.

The Future of Local and Centralized Monitoring

Looking ahead, the client forecasted a potential industry shift towards a combination of local and centralized monitoring:

"In the next decade, we may see a swing back to having local monitoring IN ADDITION TO central station."

This trend underscores the need for flexible systems like the Prism LX. The device can seamlessly integrate local and centralized monitoring setups. Such systems provide the wide range of coverage needed to ensure rapid response and minimal downtime in emergency situations.

Imagining a Head-End with AES Support and a Good UI

Innovation is at the heart of Digitize's product development. During the conversation, new product ideas were discussed that could address specific client needs. One interesting concept was a limited version of the Prism that supports AES only, with a user-friendly interface. The client suggested:

"If there was a limited version of Prism that supported AES only & had a good interface."

This idea underscores the importance of tailored solutions that cater to specific market segments. By developing specialized versions of our products, Digitize can offer cost-effective solutions that meet the unique needs of different clients. This flexibility creates an increase in market reach and customer satisfaction.

Become a Digitize Distributor - or Get Alarm Gear for Your Own System

Digitize’s innovative solutions (like the Prism dual-NIC PCB) address the evolving needs in fire alarm monitoring. By continuously improving quality, Digitize ensures that their systems remain reliable and effective, even in the most challenging environments.

For more information on how Digitize can enhance your fire alarm monitoring system, contact us today. Our expert engineers are ready to assist you in crafting a solution that meets your unique needs.

Call 1-800-693-0351 or email

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