Like most building systems, fire alarm technology continues to evolve and improve each year. For large systems, networked fire systems offer many user benefits, including improved performance, increased safety, and a lower total cost of ownership.

Here are a few more.

1. Superior survivability

A networked system (distributed intelligence) provides superior survivability compared to a single control panel. System control panels can function in a stand-alone mode but also communicate intelligently with other panels, so no one component can take out the entire system – making them more resilient. The degree of performance and survivability is directly dependent upon both the design of the control panel itself, as well as the interconnect wiring classification (between control panels, detection devices, notification, etc. – see NFPA72-2016, chapter 12.).

2. Reductions in central monitoring costs

The return on investment for a networked system is based on the potential large reduction of annual monitoring contracts and NFPA-72-approved transmission channels. With standalone systems, each system generally requires two phone lines (or an alternate transmission channel) and a central station monitoring agreement; whereas a networked system requires only one monitoring agreement and approved transmission channel(s).  For example, a 12-building campus could see a reduction in annual costs from $19,200 per year to $1,600 per year, based on historical data (actual savings varies).

3. Network dashboard

Having a centralized dashboard provides better system status, command, and control for large campuses and buildings. Administrators have the ability to check the status of any intelligent device on the entire system instantaneously. For example, administrators can enable and disable intelligent devices and adjust the sensitivity of intelligent smoke detectors, among other things.

4. Data and reports

A networked fire alarm provides historical system logging, reports, and control of all connected devices. Administrators can pull historical reports, view previous adjustments to the system, and review historical alarm, trouble and supervisory logs. For example, this information can be helpful in seeing which detectors have historically gone into alarm and why; then the detector’s sensitivity can be adjusted to minimize nuisance alarms.  This can be done over the entire network.

5. Mass notification capabilities

A networked alarm system which includes emergency communication has the capability to serve as or integrate with mass notification systems, which allow administrators to deliver critical messages to designated groups of people via in-building voice announcements, outside-building voice announcements, emails, text messages, on-screen computer pop-up displays, or other messaging platforms.