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Evaluating Fire Alarm Systems for Commercial Properties

There is a lot to consider when deciding on new fire alarm technology. Whether you are installing a new fire alarm system or adding to an existing system, flexibility is a crucial consideration in order to prepare for future building requirements and/or technology changes. Adaptations and technology upgrades to satisfy changing code regulations can often be the most significant expenses associated with life safety systems after installation.

It is important to learn how your system can handle these adaptations and how much it will cost to upgrade and maintain your new system. Learning the difference between proprietary and non-proprietary fire alarm systems will help you to avoid unnecessary expenses during upgrades or expansions.


Proprietary fire alarm systems are quite common because they can be less expensive for a contractor to install. However, proprietary systems give building owners and managers the least amount of flexibility and are typically much more expensive to maintain when it comes to service, upgrades and expansions. Proprietary systems may cause building owners and managers to remain in a ‘relationship’ with their existing fire alarm provider because they can only obtain necessary parts and programming from that single source. This restriction reduces flexibility and can be a constant source of frustration. Customers who have proprietary systems can be forced to pay exorbitant prices and endure lengthy service delays from proprietary system suppliers because there is no choice on who the building owner can use to service their system. 
With non-proprietary fire alarm systems, equipment can be installed and serviced by a number of different distributors. This allows customers to have more options regarding technology upgrades, replacement parts, and service. Non-proprietary fire alarm systems provide the most flexibility, as they don’t lock building owners and managers to one service provider. Therefore, a Non-Proprietary system ensures a building owner’s ability to obtain fair, competitive pricing for future service, additions, and/or changes to their fire alarm system. Additionally, because customers do have a choice on who to use to service and maintain their system(s), the service company has to perform at a higher level to keep the customer’s business.


Working with a non-proprietary fire alarm system provider will provide building owners and managers an honest approach to fire alarm upgrades and service. Non-proprietary providers must price their services and equipment competitively from the installation to their aftermarket fire alarm services because they don’t have an exclusive relationship with the equipment manufacturer. The customer has the discretion to choose from a group of fire alarm vendors who can provide the installation and/or service, with better pricing. Choosing a non-proprietary fire alarm system allows the customer to compare and “shop” for authorized distributors and for fire alarm services.

Proprietary system providers can take advantage of their single source relationship by providing slower service and response time. The reasoning is simple; a proprietary service provider does not need to service your system in as timely a manner as a non-proprietary system provider because you are “stuck” with them whether their service is good or not. As a result, the response time, ongoing cost, and the quality of service should be better from a non-proprietary service provider in order to keep their customers.


Working with a non-proprietary fire alarm systems provider allows for more flexibility regarding fire alarm installations and service. AFA Protective Systems is an independent, non-proprietary fire alarm systems provider offering assistance with evaluating and recommending the best fire alarm system for your commercial property.

AFA’s featured partner for non-proprietary equipment is Notifier by Honeywell. AFA has been a world-class leader in fire & safety services for over a century. Notifier equipment offers the highest standards of system functionality and reliability. Notifier equipment is especially flexible as all their products are fully backward compatible, meaning a detector bought today will work on a Notifier system installed 15 years ago.

AFA Protective Systems offers nonproprietary fire alarm system evaluations and consultations. AFA wants to become your fire alarm partner by providing professional fire alarm system design, equipment, installation and services including; maintenance, testing, repairs, and UL Listed central station monitoring. Contact AFA today to let us help you determine the best non-proprietary fire alarm system for your commercial property.

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