Fire Monitoring of Canada (FMC) are entering our 30th year of business in 2018. In those 30 years, we’ve answered a lot of questions, and led the way as it relates to ULC fire alarm monitoring in Canada. Over those 30 years one question that we get asked on a regular basis from our customers – new and existing – is “what kind of information can you give me from my fire alarm system or fire sprinkler system?”.
This question comes from people who are new or experienced when it comes to fire alarm monitoring, and it seems that there’s a lot of confusion about the types of information we at FMC receive (or any other ULC fire monitoring company receives, for that matter) for fire alarm monitoring systems and fire sprinkler systems.
Signals from Fire Alarm Monitoring Systems
In general, a ULC fire alarm monitoring system that is being monitored sends three types of signals: fire alarm, fire trouble and fire supervisory. Each of these signals come from relays on your fire alarm system that activate when that condition is present on the fire alarm system. As a result, a ULC monitoring company like Fire Monitoring of Canada only receives general level information about what’s going on in your building. So we will only get a general fire alarm condition, a general trouble condition and/or a general supervisory condition. This is a function of the ULC monitoring equipment and how fire alarm systems are set up to report. When we call you about one of these signals, if you need to know more specifically what is going on in your building, you will need to go and look at the fire alarm panel or annunciator in order to get this more detailed information. So what are each of these signals? Here’s a quick run down:
Fire Alarm: This signal means that the fire alarm system has detected a fire in your building, either through a heat detector, smoke detector, manual pull station or some other device. In these cases, a ULC monitoring company will call the fire department within 30 seconds or use OPEN ACCESS™ to notify them electronically. We cannot call the premise first to try and verify the alarm prior to calling the fire department.
Fire Trouble: This signal means that there’s an issue with the fire alarm system that may not cause it to operate correctly. When one of these signals are received, a ULC fire monitoring company must call a keyholder within 5 minutes.
Fire Supervisory: If you have a fire sprinkler system connected to your fire alarm system, then this signal will let a ULC monitoring company know there’s an issue with that system. Like a trouble condition, when received, a ULC fire company has 5 minutes to notify a keyholder that this has activated
Signals From a Fire Sprinkler Monitoring System
Signals from a fire sprinkler system are similar to a fire alarm system in how a ULC fire monitoring company reacts to them, however these signals can be more granular or specific than a fire alarm system. Where a fire alarm system gives a general fire alarm condition, a fire sprinkler system gives a waterflow alarm. These signals let the ULC fire monitoring company know that a sprinkler head has been activated and that there’s water coming from that sprinkler head. While the ULC fire monitoring company does not know which sprinkler head has been activated, they do know which riser has the water flowing in it, which can be more specific than a fire alarm system. Some sprinkler systems can be quite large, with multiple risers for various sections of the building.
The same can be said for low pressure and gate valve signals – signals which on a fire alarm system show up as a general supervisory condition. On a sprinkler system Low Pressures and Gate Vales show up as specific to the area that they are connected to, so the ULC company can tell you specifically which riser has a pressure issue, or which gate valve is showing as closed. The same can be said for other, ancillary devices, such as fire pumps. Like the fire section above, here’s a quick run down of each of these signals:
Waterflow Alarms: These alarms tell the ULC fire monitoring company that water is flowing through the sprinkler system in an attempt to douse a fire. In the instance where these signals are received, the ULC fire monitoring company must notify the fire department within 30 seconds, either through traditional means or via OPEN ACCESS™, without premise verification
Low Pressure: A condition where the sprinkler sends an alarm to the ULC fire monitoring company alerting that the pressure on the sprinkler has dropped to a level where it may not function properly. When one of these signals is received a ULC monitoring company must notify the keyholder within 5 minutes.
Gate Valve: A signal which tells the ULC fire monitoring company that a valve on the sprinkler system has been closed, which would prevent water from flowing through it. When one of these signals is received a ULC monitoring company must notify the keyholder within 5 minutes.
This is the type of information that we at Fire Monitoring of Canada receive as a ULC fire monitoring company, and how we need to react to each one of them as dictated by CAN/ULC-S561. If you have any questions about your specific fire monitoring situation, fire alarm system or fire sprinkler system, please do not hesitate to contact us, we’d be happy to discuss your specific needs.