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How Does A Fire Alarm and Security Alarm Monitoring Panel Work?

Question MArkOne of the biggest point of confusion we run into on a day-to-day basis is a lack of understanding on exactly how your alarm monitoring panel works.  This is true whether or not you have a ULC-listed fire alarm monitoring panel installed in your premise allowing you to have a ULC certificate stating compliance with ULC-S561, or a security system monitoring your business.




Fire Alarm Monitoring


Contrary to popular belief, when a fire alarm activates in your building, FMC does not receive any information about where that alarm is coming from.  We receive a general fire alarm signal from your site, which lets us know that the alarm has activated, but nothing more.  The same can be said for trouble and supervisory signals.  Why is this?


Fire alarm panels are designed to get people out of the building they are installed in and monitoring panels are designed to get the fire department to the site as quickly as possible.  Fire monitoring panels use copper wire to connect to alarm contacts (outputs) in the fire alarm panel, that when activated connects to another dry contact in the monitoring transmitter (input).


Alarm contacts in a simple fire alarm system (outputs):



Alarm contacts in a fire alarm monitoring panel (inputs):


In order to get specific knowledge of specific locations of alarms in your building, a contact would need to be provided for each specific device.  This is not a viable solution, both from the fire alarm panel point of view and from the monitoring panel point of view.  Therefore, when we get an alarm, we won’t be able to tell you where it’s coming from. However the annunciator in your building will be able to let you, and the fire department, know.


If FMC is monitoring your sprinkler system directly, we will receive specific riser water flow information, as well as specific information related to pressure and gate valves.  However, we won’t know where along the sprinkler riser the sprinkler has activated.


Alarms are then transmitted to FMC’s monitoring station via various communications methods.  You can watch an explainer video on that process here.


Security Alarm Monitoring


Security alarm monitoring is a very similar process to fire alarm monitoring, particularly with hard wired alarm systems.  In these systems, wired outputs (door contacts, motion sensors, glass break sensors, etc.) are wired into zones on the monitoring transmitter, which are labelled appropriately, and alarm when activated.

Security systems are able also transmit their zone information wirelessly.  In these cases, wireless door contacts, motion sensors and other devices send information to the monitoring panel in a much similar fashion to a wireless handset phone in your home.  These devices are secure and supervised, and are programmed to provide the appropriate zone information.


Keypads, which are installed at points of entry and exit to your business, arm and disarm the alarm system through codes or access cards.  This means that the keypads are not the “brains” of the monitoring panel, but rather an extension of the main control panel, which is installed elsewhere.


Similar to fire alarm monitoring transmitters, when alarms are received, security alarm systems can send information to our monitoring station through different methods of communication, depending on what’s available and what level of security your require.


If you have any questions about how your system works – whether or not you’re a client of our or not, please do not hesitate to Contact Us.


Testimonial & Case Study

  • "Fire Monitoring of Canada impressed us with their efficient, professional manner – an approach that not only inspired confidence, but resolved existing service issues with another alarm service provider." - Administrative Coordinator
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  • "Their monitoring & service personnel are knowledgeable, helpful and responsible." - Facilities Manager
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  • "The FMC technician was exceptionally professional in the performance of his duties. He was very organized, focused, safety minded" - Asset Manager
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