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Differences Between ULC Fire and Sprinkler Alarm Monitoring

ULC Sprinkler System Monitoring

Fire Monitoring of Canada is known throughout the fire industry as the “go-to” company for fire alarm monitoring and fire sprinkler alarm monitoring, including compliance with the CAN/ULC-S561 standard which is reference in Fire Codes and Building Codes throughout Canada and in Ontario.  “Fire Alarm Monitoring” is a term which encompasses the monitoring of both fire alarm systems and the monitoring of fire sprinkler systems.  How we go about monitoring these systems is very similar – we must dispatch “fire alarm” signals from these systems within 30 seconds without verification, for example – but the processes that we have to go through in order to make this happen is different between fire alarm systems and fire sprinkler systems.

If a fire alarm system and fire sprinkler system are located on the same premise, the fire sprinkler system should be connected to the fire alarm system, and FMC would monitor the fire alarm system alone. Here are some key differences that need to be considered when looking to have your standalone fire  sprinkler system monitored versus your fire alarm system:

Fire Alarm Signals:

As you mentioned, when FMC monitors either a fire alarm system or a fire sprinkler system, we must dispatch a ”fire” signal within 30 seconds without verification. When monitoring a fire alarm system, FMC wires our alarm monitoring transmitter to a dry contact in the fire alarm panel, which provides a general-level alarm for the site.  We do not know where the alarm is coming from in the building, or what device has activated the alarm.  This is a function of the fire alarm system itself.  This contact has to be provided by your fire alarm service provider.

Fire sprinkler systems are similar, except that FMC would connect to a waterflow switch that can provide specific information as to which riser water is flowing through (though not the exact location of the fire sprinkler activation on site.  This can mean that for a simple fire sprinkler there could be one waterflow on site or many waterflow devices, all depending on the size of the building.  These switches must be provided by your fire sprinkler company.

Trouble & Supervisory Signals:

Similar to fire alarm signals, FMC connects to contacts in the fire alarm system which can provide trouble alarms (issues with the fire alarm system) or supervisory conditions (which come from issues with a connected fire sprinkler system).  FMC has to dispatch these alarms within 5 minutes of receipt.

Fire sprinkler systems are different in that supervisory-type of alarms do not come in from a generic “supervisory” contact like a fire alarm system, but from the specific devices which are having issues.  This can include devices like low pressure sensors or gate valves. Like the waterflow switches above, we require dry contacts to connect our monitoring transmitter, and these contacts must be provided by your fire sprinkler alarm company.


FMC alarm monitoring systems which are connected to fire alarm systems are required to have an annual inspection of the monitoring system once per calendar year.  This inspection is not the same as your annual fire alarm inspection which would be required under CAN/ULC-S536.  The FMC transmitter would be inspected for wiring, battery life, alarm signal transmission among other factors.  FMC will provide a report when the inspection is complete, along with any recommendations for improvement that the FMC alarm service technician finds while on site.

Fire sprinkler alarm systems also require an annual alarm monitoring transmitter inspection, however CAN/ULC-S561 requires that FMC perform additional bi-monthly inspections to check on the flow and supervisory switches only.  This is in addition to your regularly scheduled sprinkler inspections.  As noted in these other blog posts, regular system inspections have been shown to improve system life and reduce false alarms from the system.

As you can see, the monitoring of fire alarm systems and fire sprinkler systems are very similar, with some minor differences in how we go about accomplishing the task of keeping your facility safe.  If you have any questions about your fire alarm or fire sprinkler system and its monitoring, please contact us.  We’d be happy to make a no obligation visit to help you determine how to best monitor your system, and answer any questions  you might have, face-to-face.

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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