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FAQ – Fire Alarm Monitoring

Fire Alarm FAQs - Fire Alarm Receiving Centre

We get lots of questions. Here are some answers. If you don’t happen to see what you’re looking for, please contact us.
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What does it mean to be monitored?
A fire alarm panel controls all of the activities that occur within a building. The devices that are located throughout a building such as sprinklers, smoke detectors, heat detectors, pull stations and bells, all send and receive signals to and from the Fire Alarm Panel. When a smoke detector activates, meaning smoke is present, a signal is sent to the fire alarm panel which then makes the bells in the building ring. The bells are what occupants in the building hear and are what everyone recognizes as a sign telling them to exit the building. Fire alarm systems are great at doing what they are meant to do, which is alert occupants that a fire has been detected. This is the point at which the fire alarm system stops. The occupants of the building have been notified, but the fire department has no way of knowing that this fire alarm system has detected a fire unless someone places a phone call to 9-1-1. This is where the fire monitoring panel takes over. Once the fire monitoring panel detects that the fire alarm panel (this happens electronically) has activated a device, it immediately sends a signal to a Signals Receiving Centre (SRC) and an operator will place a call to the appropriate Fire Department, or in the case of OPEN ACCESS™ the signal will be electronically re-transmitted to the fire department the very instant it arrives at the SRC. Fire monitoring panels allow monitoring companies such as FMC to act as a watch dog 24 hours a day / 7 days a week / 365 day a year.
Do I need to be monitored?
If your building meets one of the following conditions it must be monitored for fire: If it is six stories or over If the capacity is over 300 people If it has a liquor license (LLBO) If it contains combustibles If it has a sprinkler system Or if the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) requests that the building be monitored.
What is ULC?
The Underwriters’ Laboratories of Canada (ULC) is an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization. They provide thorough and unbiased product evaluation. The ULC is accredited by the Standards Council of Canada, under the National Standards System, and is internationally recognized..
Do I need a ULC certificate?
A ULC certificate is a document issued by the ULC in care of your monitoring service provider that is to be displayed at your fire alarm monitoring panel. It states that the installation, equipment, and method of communication adhere to applicable ULC standards. A ULC certificate is the only proof that your building is being monitored in accordance with applicable ULC standards.
What is a ULC certificate?
A ULC certificate is a document issued by the ULC in care of your monitoring service provider that is to be displayed at your fire alarm monitoring panel. It states that the installation, equipment, and method of communication adhere to applicable ULC standards. A ULC certificate is the only proof that your building is being monitored in accordance with applicable ULC standards.
What is the difference between a Fire Alarm Panel and a Fire Monitoring Panel?
The fire alarm panel controls all of the activities that occur within a building. The devices that are located throughout a building such as sprinklers, smoke detectors, heat detectors, pull stations and bells, all send and receive signals to and from the Fire Alarm Panel. When a smoke detector activates, meaning smoke is present, a signal is sent to the fire alarm panel which then makes the bells in the building ring. The bells are what occupants in the building hear and are what everyone recognizes as a sign telling them to exit the building. Fire alarm systems are great at doing what they are meant to do, which is alert occupants that a fire has been detected. This is the point at which the fire alarm system stops. The occupants of the building have been notified, but the fire department has no way of knowing that this fire alarm system has detected a fire unless someone places a phone call to 9-1-1. This is where the fire monitoring panel takes over. Once the fire monitoring panel detects that the fire alarm panel (this happens electronically) has activated a device, it immediately sends a signal to the Signals Receiving Centre (SRC) and an operator will place a call to the appropriate Fire Department, or in the case of OPEN ACCESS™ the signal will be electronically re-transmitted to the fire department the very instant it arrives at the SRC. Fire monitoring panels allow monitoring companies such as FMC to act as a watch dog 24 hours a day / 7 days a week / 365 day a year.
What kind of equipment do I need?
If there is a fire alarm panel installed in the building, a fire monitoring panel and communication link to the Signals Receiving Centre (SRC) will need to be installed. Our customer service representatives will be pleased to provide you with recommendations and a quote on how to best configure a monitoring system tailored to your specific needs.
How long does it take to install a fire monitoring system?
The installation time differs for each installation and depends on many factors. Physically installing the monitoring panel and associated equipment can take a day or less, but provisioning the communication link can take up to three weeks (many take approximately 24 hours), depending on location and the type of service required. Our customer service representatives can provide you with more detailed information based on your specific needs
How do you send monitoring signals from a building to your Signals Receiving Centre?
A communication link between a monitored premises and the FMC SRC (Signals Receiving Centre) can consist of either an “Active” or “Passive” connection and/or some combination of both methods. An Active connection means that the communication link is monitored on a continual basis, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. If communication between the monitored premises and the FMC SRC is interrupted for any reason, the FMC SRC is notified within seconds of the interruption and the FMC operator can take immediate action. A Passive connection consists of a communication link that is not monitored on a continual basis. When a fire alarm monitoring panel using a passive connection has data to send, it will establish a link with the SRC, transmit it’s data and then disconnect. Passive connections are programmed to send a test signal into the SRC only once every 24 hours, and in the event an interruption in communication occurs, it can take 24 hours or longer for the SRC to be notified. When monitoring over a “Passive” connection, CAN/ULC-S561 requires that 2 non-redundant forms of communication are used. Current methods of communication for this method include Analog Phone (POTS) lines, Cellular, and Internet (IP).
Can Fire Monitoring provide monitoring to my fire alarm panel or sprinkler system with cellular only?
Yes! We have recently been able to provide "active" cellular monitoring at a reasonable cost. This system actively supervises the cellular connection every 90 seconds to ensure communication. This is fully certifiable by ULC. FMC tested this service for over 18 months to ensure it's reliability, and are confident in the level of service it provides.
Do I require anything else in order to meet CAN/ULC-S561-03?
You may be required to provide FMC with an unswitched and unburdened 120VAC electrical circuit for the purposes of powering the FMC fire monitoring transmitter. This is a requirement of CAN/ULC-S561, and the FMC transmitter cannot share power with your building’s fire alarm system. You may require your electrician to provide FMC with this connection.
I have a Fire Monitoring Panel. Can I have your company monitor it?
FMC can monitor many different types of panels, but not all. The reason for this is that not all fire alarm monitoring panels are compatible with all Signals Receiving Centre (SRC) equipment, and not all equipment is non-proprietary. Our customer service representatives can advise you as to whether or not we are able to monitor your specific fire alarm monitoring panel. FMC only uses non-proprietary monitoring equipment in its installations.
Does FMC install and monitor Burglary/Intrusion Systems?
FMC does install and monitor burglary/intrusion systems. FMC has many years of experience installing, monitoring, servicing, and supervising commercial and industrial burglary/intrusion systems. FMC is also experienced in CCTV, access control, intercom and many other types of security applications.
How do I pay (monthly, bi-monthly, annually)?
Fire Monitoring of Canada Inc. terms are prepaid annually meaning that you are billed for a 1 year term in advance. Custom billing arrangements can be made by contacting our customer service representatives, and may be subject to administrative fees.
What if I have a false alarm? Do I pay extra for that?
False alarm procedures are unique in many municipalities. When a call is placed to a fire department and a customer then calls to indicate that the alarm was a false activation, the Signals Receiving Centre (SRC) operator will then contact the fire department to advise them. In most cases the fire department will still send one truck to investigate, but the fee (if applicable) is determined by the municipality not by FMC. However, if the building subscribes to OPEN ACCESS™ service where available, many fire departments will forgive a certain number of false alarms in a twelve month period. Should your building be monitored using OPEN ACCESS™ certain municipalities will allow for a higher number of free false alarms in a twelve month period, as opposed to buildings who are being monitored using non-direct methods. Please contact your local fire prevention office for more information.
If I’m testing my Fire Alarm should I notify anyone?
When testing a fire alarm system you should ALWAYS notify the fire monitoring provider. The Signals Receiving Centre (SRC) operator will then mark the account as being “on test” in the automation system, ensuring that the fire department is not dispatched when an alarm is triggered. Likewise, you should ALWAYS call your fire monitoring provider once you have finished the fire alarm system testing to have the account marked as being “back in service”. Failure to notify the fire monitoring provider when you have finished testing may result in a valid fire alarm signal not being delivered to the fire department.
Why should I use FMC?
At FMC our focus is first and foremost fire alarm monitoring. We are dedicated to providing early notification of fire alarm signals to fire departments and to raising the bar on fire alarm monitoring standards and practices. Currently the time it takes to deliver a fire alarm signal to the local fire department can be measured in minutes, and our mission is to eliminate that delay altogether. Allow FMC, the experts in fire alarm monitoring, to deliver your building fire alarm signals electronically, directly to the fire department.