Off-Premises Signaling and Supervising Stations

When discussing fire alarm systems, the term “premises” refers to the physical location being monitored by the system, including all buildings, structures, and inhabited spaces. Off-premises signaling is a critical aspect of a fire alarm system because it allows signals from the system to be sent to a constantly attended location such as a monitoring center.  The monitoring center can then notify the fire department or other emergency services of an issue, as well as provide critical information about the fire, such as its location.

With off-premises signaling in place, the property receives 24-hour monitoring and supervision. When a fire or emergency is detected, the off-premises signaling system contacts the relevant authorities to ensure a proper response to the crisis, including law enforcement, the fire department, or utility companies to assist with emergency shut-offs. In addition, the system will inform the appropriate maintenance personnel if the off-premises signaling system is notified of a non-emergency, such as an inoperable valve or changes in temperature or humidity.

Fire alarm systems send signals off-premises through either a Public Emergency Alarm Reporting System or a supervising station alarm system.  Either way, a transmitter is required at the protected premises to send signals to a receiver at the supervising station or public communications center.

Types of Public Emergency Alarm Reporting Systems

A Public Emergency Alarm Reporting System (PEARS) is a communication system that reports emergencies to the authorities. The system, which is typically run by a public agency, is used as an alternative to telephone communications in areas where there are no other means of communication, such as in rural areas or during natural disasters. PEARS is also used to supplement existing emergency reporting systems, such as 911 to provide more comprehensive coverage. PEARS is not part of the fire alarm system per se; however, remains an essential part of the communication chain between the fire alarm system and emergency dispatchers.  

Cities and large towns often construct a central communications center to serve as the heart of their public emergency communication services.  In small towns, communications are often routed directly to the fire department or police station.  NFPA 1221, Standard for the Installation, Maintenance and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems governs the installation and operation of PEARS.

Private Off-Premises Signaling

The most common arrangement for most businesses and locations is to utilize a private firm to handle off-premises signaling.  Private monitoring is typically achieved via a supervising station alarm system integrated with the organization’s on-site fire alarm control units and devices.

Three Types of Supervising Station Alarm Systems

A supervising station alarm system is a type of security system that uses a central monitoring station to respond to alarms. The system is designed to provide a higher level of security than a traditional security system by providing a 24-hour monitoring center that can quickly respond to any triggered alarms. Supervising station alarm systems are further divided into three specific types. They are:

  1. Central Station Service Alarm Systems
    A central station service alarm system is a type of security system that uses a central monitoring station to receive and respond to alarms. This type of system is typically used in commercial and industrial settings, providing a higher level of security than a traditional security system. Central station service alarm systems are generally more expensive than other security systems, but they offer a higher level of protection and peace of mind.Central station service alarm systems can also provide other services, such as testing, reporting, and recordkeeping. These services are necessary for some states per code or can even be a requirement for certain insurance companies.
  2. Proprietary Supervising Station Alarm Systems
    A proprietary station service alarm system is a monitoring system that is installed and operated by a company or organization to protect its assets. These stations are owned by the organization and are purpose-built to provide supervision and controls for fire safety systems. The system typically includes sensors that detect unauthorized entry, fire, or other hazards and an alarm that alerts security personnel to the threat. Proprietary systems may also have video surveillance and access control features to further secure the premises.Large corporations, such as retailers and manufacturers, often use proprietary supervisory station alarm systems to centralize monitoring for multiple locations in one place. Employees supervise inspections, testing, and maintenance at this centralized location, while keeping records on equipment safety and monitoring safety systems.
  3. Remote Supervising Station Alarm Systems
    A remote station service alarm system is a system that uses a central monitoring station to receive signals from multiple alarm systems located at different sites. The central station then dispatches the appropriate responders to the alarm site. Businesses and organizations with multiple locations often use this system, as it allows them to respond to alarms quickly and efficiently at any of their sites.A remote station service alarm system is used to monitor and report on the status of equipment located at a remote site. The system typically includes sensors that detect various conditions, such as power failure, excessive temperature, and water leaks. The sensors are connected to a central controller that continuously monitors the status of the equipment and sends alerts to a monitoring service if any problems are detected.

CFC provides central station monitoring services to thousands of customers across Florida, partnering with our UL-listed central station partners to provide peace of mind to organizations who desire best in class service.  The vast majority of our customers have transitioned to cellular communication, which provides signals that are reliable, easy to transmit, and affordable to maintain.  Please contact us towards any of your monitoring requirements – We would appreciate the opportunity to work with you.