Open Protocol Fire Alarm System Myths Explained

An open protocol fire alarm system is a term which is thrown around in the fire alarm industry and creates a misunderstanding of what an open protocol system is. Here, in this article, we hope to clear up some, if not all, the questions.

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18/08/20
Open Protocol Fire Alarm Systems the Myths Explained

What is a protocol?

The protocol is a language used by a fire alarm system for communicating between devices.  When you add open or closed into the term, it means that the system can either be accessed by the specialist installer or accessed by any third-party installer or maintenance company.  Both the open and closed protocols have positives and negatives.  We will now explain both options in greater detail.

What is a Closed Protocol?

The system installer usually locks down this type of fire alarm system.  By doing this, it means the fire alarm system can be left in place and cannot be tampered with by anyone apart from the system in house maintenance team or the fire alarm company. 

It is beneficial if you own a chain of buildings, and you want to use the same fire alarm systems.  It means you can then employ one maintenance or fire alarm company to look after the whole chain of fire alarm systems.  

By doing this, it minimises the risk of the fire alarm systems having faults due to systems being poorly addressed or commissioned. It reduces the time spent during a maintenance visit, or if the system is expanded by someone that does not have access to the relevant protocol for that particular fire alarm system.

Positives of a Closed Protocol system

  • Tamper proof.
  • Minimises the chance of faults related to poorly addressed/commissioned system.
  • One dedicated maintenance/ fire alarm company employed to deal with the system.

Negatives of a Closed Protocol system 

  • A Closed Protocol is limited to fire alarm and maintenance companies that only deal with that particular protocol.

What is an Open Protocol? 

An Open Protocol system is when a fire alarm system is unlocked, and any third-party company is then available to maintain the system. It is excellent if you want full control over your fire alarm system and who supports it. But in doing so, it means that system is open to possible faults being added onto the system by inexperienced personnel. It could be by someone who isn’t correctly trained on that particular protocol when commissioning, creating the cause and effects or adding devices onto the system.

One of the myths regarding Open Protocol is that people think that if you have an open protocol system, you can mix different manufactures devices onto the same system. However, this is untrue. If you have a fire alarm system, any devices to be added to the system must be by the same manufacturer and use the same protocol to talk between devices and the main fire alarm control panel.

Positives of an Open Protocol system

  • Any maintenance/ fire alarm company can be employed to deal with the system.

Negatives of an Open Protocol system 

  • Can be accessed by anyone with the correct access codes.
  • Chance of faults due to a poorly addressed/commissioned system.

Can you use differently manufactured devices on an Open Protocol system?

Matters get confusing around this question. Some manufactures say the fire alarm panel used for the system is open protocol because it accepts devices from other manufacturers to work on their system. Their fire alarm panel will indeed let you do this, but in theory, this is a multi-protocol system.  The multi-protocol systems they are referring to let you use devices from different manufacturers on their fire alarm control panel.  However, once you pick one manufacturers devices and protocol, you have to continue with the same manufactures devices and protocol through the rest of the system. 

If a system is an Open Protocol system, does this mean it has to be installed by the manufacturer?

No. Both open and closed protocol systems can be bought off the shelf from multiple fire alarm manufacturers and third-party suppliers. These systems can also be installed by any competent fire alarm company.

Is a Protec Fire Alarm System Open Protocol?

The simple answer is YES! Protec systems are Open Protocol.  In addition to this and to ease the burden over the client, we have created different access levels in the Open Protocol systems which give the client various options and benefits with how much control they want over their fire alarm system’s and who maintains them.

The levels of the Open Protocol are:

‘Protec Open Protocol’

  • Open access to the entire system via the system access codes and download software.
  • This option provides the most considerable flexibility for installers and maintenance contractors.
  • The client is responsible for ensuring correct system operation, system access available to any company with ‘Open Protocol’.

‘Protec Client Managed Open Protocol’

  • The client has ownership of system access codes for use on their systems.
  • The client’s ‘Responsible Person’ has complete freedom of choice to select a Competent Company to maintain their system.
  • The client’s approved maintenance company can commission amendments and additions to the system once they have obtained access rights from the client ‘Responsible Person’.
  • The client has the flexibility to transfer access rights to another maintenance company at any time they choose.
  • The client is responsible for ensuring the correct system operation by controlling system access.

‘Protec Managed Open Protocol’ 

  • Protec is responsible for ensuring the correct system operation by controlling system access.
  • Reassurance that full responsibility for correct cause and effect operation rests with Protec.
  • System site files downloaded from the site and stored on Protec remote server for emergency access and which can form part of the occupier’s disaster recovery plan.
  • All engineers fully trained and regularly working on these systems.

For more information and further benefits on the Protec open protocol fire alarm systems, you can refer to our open protocol statement here