What Is a Fire Alarm Monitoring System?

March 3, 2021 8:05 am

Fire Alarm Monitoring Explained

Fire alarm monitoring refers to the rapid communication between your home’s fire alarm system and your security provider’s central monitor station. When your alarm senses smoke or a fire, it sends a signal to the station, alerting the appropriate authorities and dispatching them to your house.

In addition to sending notifications about smoke or fire, a fire alarm monitoring system can also transmit various other useful signals to the central station.

  • Fire trouble: Your alarm can indicate it is not performing optimally or suggest repairing your system to ensure it works properly in the event of an emergency.
  • Fire supervisory: The alarm sends this notification when it senses your home’s fire protection system needs a reset.
  • Low battery: This signal indicates the alarm panel’s battery is operating at a less-than-optimum voltage.
  • Power failure: The system sends this alert in a power failure — a critical notification for fire alarm monitoring service.

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How Does Fire Alarm Monitoring Work?

Monitored smoke detectors are connected to a central fire monitoring station that can notify the fire department anytime, whether your system is ready and even when you’re away from home.

For example, imagine an unattended candle starts a fire in your home. If this happens, your fire alarm monitoring system detects the smoke and the alarm goes off.

If this happens in a house with traditional, non-monitored fire alarms, you will have to quickly gather your family and ensure everyone evacuates as fast as possible. Then, if you happen to still have phone access, you’ll have to call the fire department and ask for help.

However, in a home with monitored fire alarms, the situation is very different.

  1. Once your smoke detector detects smoke, the monitoring center will call you right away and give you a mobile alert.
  2. If they confirm a fire or the monitoring center can’t get through to you, someone will contact the authorities in your area.
  3. You get your family together and quickly leave the house.
  4. As you are evacuating, the fire department is starting its response.
  5. If the monitoring center team can’t reach you, they will call the rest of your emergency contacts.
  6. The firefighters arrive at your house.

Without a fire alarm monitoring system — in which you’re the only one doing the monitoring — the action stops abruptly early on. When the alarm goes off, everything is up to you. When you hear the alarm — assuming you do — you evacuate your family from the house and contact the fire department as soon as you have phone access.

Even if you hear the alarm immediately and get everyone out within seconds, the fire department will still arrive later than if you had a monitoring system installed. Even if the difference is only seconds, every moment is crucial in a fire.

If you’re asleep or in a place where it’s harder to hear the alarm, it will take you even longer to respond. And if you’re at work or on vacation, you may not know about it until it is far too late.

person checking their home smoke detector

Why Is Fire Alarm Monitoring Important?

As you already know, functioning fire detection devices are essential and properly placed smoke alarms are your family’s first line of defense. When shopping for one of these devices, you can choose between monitored and non-monitored.

Non-monitored smoke alarms can be useful for warning people of a fire and providing them with more time to escape. However, they’re only beneficial if they’re functioning correctly, you’re at home and you’re alert. In many situations, traditional smoke detectors are not sufficient, such as if:

  • You’re not home when the smoke alarm detects the fire.
  • Your pet is home alone.
  • You’re a heavy sleeper.
  • The fire alarm is not working properly and does not detect smoke or fire. Monitored smoke detectors alert monitoring centers to any malfunctions.

A non-monitored smoke alarm can only notify whoever’s in your house when an emergency occurs. While a neighbor might eventually notice smoke and flames and call 911, this will likely not happen until considerable time has passed.

Fire Alarm Monitoring Requirements for Commercial Buildings

To determine the fire alarm monitoring system requirements for your commercial building, refer to the building’s occupancy classification and local municipal codes. Your building’s location will determine whether you should find this classification in the International Building Code (IBC) or the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 101 Life Safety Code.

Overall, fire alarm system requirements differ between new and existing buildings and occupancy types. There are no monitoring requirements for buildings or structures where fire alarms aren’t required. According to Section of NFPA’s 101 Life Safety Code, for buildings that do require fire alarm systems, they must be able to send an alert of a fire alarm to a local fire department or brigade automatically whether by a:

  • Central supervising station
  • Remote supervising station
  • Proprietary supervising stations
  • Auxiliary systems

If you still aren’t sure which fire system is necessary, you can work with Lexington Alarm and find the right solution for your building.

Related Article: How to Prevent Fires in the Workplace

New Commercial Buildings

Generally, new buildings should have fire alarm monitoring systems for their occupants’ safety. New commercial building types that benefit from or are required to have monitored fire alarm systems include:

  • Factories or assembly buildings
  • Industrial and storage occupancies
  • Shopping centers
  • Educational facilities
  • Daycare facilities
  • Residential board and care facilities
  • Ambulatory health care Facilities
  • Hotels and school dormitories
  • Detention and correctional facilities
  • Apartment buildings

Existing Commercial Buildings

According to the NFPA 101, fire alarm system monitoring isn’t always required for certain commercial buildings and circumstances — like if the jurisdiction authority deems it impractical. Other times, a commercial building may not need a fire alarm monitoring system until the building owners update their existing alarm system. However, if possible, we recommend installing an alarm monitoring system for the safety of your occupants.

4 Benefits of a Professional Fire Alarm Monitoring System

Though fire requirements and codes do not require you to install a monitored fire alarm, you and your family could benefit from investing in these useful devices. Below, we’ll discuss the four most significant benefits of a monitored fire alarm system.

  1. 24/7 fire protection: If a fire starts while you’re in the house and awake, taking care of it is easy — smother it or douse it with your fire extinguisher. But what if a spark from a lamp or an old furnace ignites a fire while you’re away? The alarm serves no purpose in this case.
  2. Swift emergency response: Monitored fire alarm systems to notify the appropriate authorities immediately when they detect smoke. They send a signal to the monitoring station, which then simultaneously sends notifications to your fire protection company and the fire department. They also notify designated company employees.
  3. Possible insurance discounts: The risk of losing possessions to a fire is considerably less with a fire monitoring service. If you provide your insurance company with proof of monitored fire alarms in your home, you might be eligible for lower premiums.
  4. Burglar deterrent: By having a sign in your yard or sticker in the window, you’re letting thieves know you have a home monitoring system. Burglars will steer clear of your house, and knowing your home has a direct link to law enforcement naturally discourages criminal activity in general.

Options for Fire Alarm Monitoring

An effective fire alarm monitoring system relies on qualified monitoring personnel. The response team at an on- or off-site supervising station receives the fire alarm signals. Then, they skillfully dispatch the signals to the appropriate emergency responder, whether a municipal fire department or fire brigade.

There are several kinds of monitoring to choose from, and the type of supervision you choose will depend on your situation:

  • Central supervising station: A central supervising station is an off-site, 24/7 supervising station that must meet the UL 827 Standard for central supervising stations. This common type of fire alarm monitoring system and services often include more than just monitoring. They are performed by a UL-listed provider and include installation, testing, maintenance, record keeping and a runner service.
  • Remote supervising station: A remote supervising station is another 24/7 off-site monitoring system, but the building owner handles the alarm system’s installation, updates and maintenance. They also do not have a runner service. Remote supervising stations are an excellent choice for premises that don’t require a central supervising station.
  • Proprietary supervising station: This 24/7 on- or off-site supervising station is owned and operated by the protected building or premises owners, such as in the case of large shopping centers or hospitals. Services, including the alarm system’s installation, maintenance and record-keeping, are the sole responsibility of the protected building’s owner, who can outsource them to a company.
  • Auxiliary systems: An auxiliary system is connected to and alerts a public alarm system, such as a municipal fire department, when triggered. They work similarly to central supervising stations. The transmission occurs via a fire alarm box connected to public circuits.


Contact Lexington Alarm for Monitoring Services Today

contact Lexington Alarm for monitoring services

At Lexington Alarm Systems, we use the most cutting-edge technology to protect your home from fires. Our priority is to provide a custom smoke alarm system for your home and we will handle the installation, UL monitoring and testing. We also have compliance code experts on our team with compliance safety licenses, meaning you can rest assured that your system will be code-compliant.

Use our reliable smoke detector systems to keep your family and property safe from fire and CO2. Fill out our contact form and we will be happy to evaluate your property and security needs to produce a quote for your fire alarm system. You can also reach us by calling 781-275-4200. We look forward to helping you keep your home and family safer!

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