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Monitored smoke detection systems vs traditional fire alarms.

Q: What’s the difference between a monitored residential smoke detections system and a traditional standalone residential fire alarm?

A:  For the point of this discussion we are going to assume that the fire alarm is a high voltage (120v) fire alarm which is commonly installed by an electrician.  A standalone fire alarm is often installed when a house is being built and does not require monitoring.

  • They do not have a fire control panel (FCP) thereby making them “dumb”.
  • They do not have reporting or a way to see what is going on from a central point.
  • They are a basic life-saving device.
  • They have an interconnect that will allow all the detectors to ring if one goes off. This allows the homeowner who is sleeping upstairs in their bedroom to hear the alarm if it is tripped in the basement.
  • If a fire is detected in the house, the fire alarm will ring internally to alert YOU ONLY!
  • Nobody is coming to help you if you do not intervene. Your entire house could be up in flames (or worse) if a neighbor does not see the smoke, and call the fire department on your behalf.

In contrast to a fire alarm, a residential monitored smoke detection system is “smart” and will have the fire department dispatched if you are not there or are trapped, as well as offers additional benefits.

  • Both notify the residence of a fire/smoke condition, but with a smoke detection system, there is a control panel (brains) and a keypad/touchpad.
  • If there is a problem, the keypad/touchpad will tell you exactly where the problem is, and what the situation is. For example, “fire first floor bedroom”. You now know to avoid that area.
  • The house siren is ringing to warn you of the situation as well as the smoke detectors (depending on model).
  • Once the system is tripped, central station should call to confirm that everything is ok. If you do not answer, or request them to, they will dispatch the fire department.   This is a major plus as seconds matter with fire.
  • No outside intervention is required.
  • If you are away, your residence is still protected.
  • As soon as smoke/fire is detected, central station is acting.