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Monitored vs Standard Fire Alarms

Posted by Duncan Machray on May 18, 2018 2:00:44 PM

Monitored vs Standard

Fire safety is a concern that many still take lightly, yet the effects of a fire in either a commercial or domestic property can be devastating. A major fire in a business premises can result in both the loss of lives and result in the business having to cease operations. Taking fire safety seriously and ensuring that your building is protected to the highest standards can prevent unnecessary devastation. Statistics released by the government suggest nearly three quarters of businesses that are involved in a major fire incident never reopen again, or cease to exist within three years. This highlights the importance for advanced fire safety precautions in a business setting.

The government also suggests that a significant majority of large fires (67 percent), happen when buildings aren't in use. This signifies the need for businesses to implement and follow strict health and safety procedures when it comes to protecting staff, assets, and their organisation in general.

All businesses are legally obliged to ensure that regular fire risk assessments are undertaken to identify potential hazards. In addition to this, all businesses should have fire alarm systems installed in the building. Health and safety managers have a large responsibility when it comes to fire safety, so making sure that the alarm system that is installed in your building is suitable for your business needs is essential. Our Engineers are NSI gold standard and install fire systems in line with the British Standards. It can be difficult to determine the benefits of a choosing a monitored or standard fire alarm system, so here are some points to consider:

Standard Fire Alarms

Standard alarms have been used by businesses for decades, but this doesn't necessarily mean that they're the best option. A standard alarm system works by detecting heat or smoke in the building and sounding an alarm to alert business staff, or anybody nearby. This is usually sufficient during operating hours or in the day-time, but as these systems rely on people to hear the alarm and respond accordingly, it can be an issue at night, if there is nobody nearby, or if nobody hears the alarm. In these instances, smoke will be the only visible alert which means damage will usually already be significant and that the fire may have spread to nearby buildings. 

On Site-Monitored Alarm Systems

Monitored alarm systems are a more reliable alternative to a standard system as they ensure that in the event of a fire, somebody will always be notified. An on-site monitored system will send an alert to a paging device if a fire is detected. The paging system allows the holder of the paging device to phone the emergency services to ensure a quick response. These devices have very low on-going costs, and provide a much more reliable alarm system than an unmonitored alarm. 

Using a paging system also ensures that a responsible individual will be in charge of alerting the emergency services, as only a dedicated fire marshal will be notified in the first instance. This prevents any unnecessary false alarms, that can have an impact on business operations. A pager system will notify the fire marshal with an alert, specifying the exact location of where the alarm was detected. The fire marshal can then respond to the alert and check for false alarms before alerting the emergency services and evacuating staff from the building. The system also allows the fire marshal to cancel an alarm if it turns out to be false. Another benefit of a monitored system is the ability to improve maintenance services with system 'Fault' monitoring.

The downside of just having a pager system is that pager devices will not work away from the site. This means that the business is still vulnerable out of hours, as no alerts will be sent. This is not very reliable and results in no action being taken if a fire does occur. However, cloud based systems such as one that we operate do send notifications to a mobile phone that is off-site if an alarm is triggered. These systems provide further reassurance, but do rely on the mobile phone having signal or a Wi-Fi connection in order to receive the notifications. 
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Off-Site Monitoring

Off-site monitoring follows the same principle of on-site systems in regards to monitoring the property when it is vacant. However, they do come with ongoing monitoring costs as the system will send an alert to an off-site monitoring station. The monitoring station is then responsible for making a call to the key-holders of the site and the fire brigade. Monitoring services are offered by providers such as Redcare, and they will ensure that the line is monitored constantly. An off-site monitoring system connects through an existing phone line and allows the monitoring providers to respond to alerts within seconds. These systems are beneficial if an on-site system is not appropriate for your business needs. An off-site system takes the sole responsibility for responding to a fire away, unlike an on-site system which means if a pager alert is not heard, the emergency services won't be called. An off-site system will ensure that the emergency services will always be called and that you won't have to rely on a pager alert or mobile notification. Another benefit of an off-site system is that it will usually save you money on your insurance premiums.

Price Difference Between the Two Systems

Due to the nature of an off-site system providing 24 hour remote monitoring they do have higher on-going costs than on-site systems, but can save you money on insurance premiums. An on-site cloud system is more expensive than an on-site pager system due to the cost of cloud storage and online management of the system. The cheapest option is a standard on-site pager system.

All three types of systems can be affordable solutions, but the exact costs vary depending on your business needs. 


Contact Fire & Security offer a comprehensive range of services including conventional fire detection systems, addressable fire systems, wireless fire alarms and high sensitivity detection systems (including optical beam smoke detectors). We can create bespoke solutions dependent on the premises requirements. In addition to our fire alarm detection solutions, we provide: flame detection systems, oxygen reduction (fire prevention) systems, as well as gas suppression systems and air sampling systems. 

Book a consultation or get in touch to learn more about a bespoke solution for you. We can talk you through your options and create a tailored fire alarm system to meet your needs, however complex they may be.


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Topics: CFS, Fire Prevention, Risk Assessment, Fire Alarms