What is a Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP)?

To turn on quick response in the event of a fire and notify all using devices, the Fire Alarm Control Panel plays a vital role.

If you think about it, what is a Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP), it’s a device that controls and monitors all the roles of a fire alarm system.

As it is a broad matter, I’ll explain all about the FACP including its meaning, types, parts, workings, and so on. Let’s Get Started!

Fire Alarm Control Panel

What Is an FACP in Fire Alarm Safety?

The FACP stands for Fire Alarm Control Panel in fire alarm safety. It’s also known as FACU (Fire Alarm Control Unit), FAP (Fire Alarm Panel), or FIP (Fire Indicator Panel).

Well, it is a vital part of fire alarm safety. An FACP is the brain or head of a fire detection and alarm system, as it controls all attached devices.

The FACP’s main job is to check the alarm input devices (smoke or heat detectors). When it finds signs of fire or smoke, it immediately sends signals to turn on the alarm output devices (horns or lights). This way, it alerts everyone about the fire danger.


Also, the FACP doesn’t only get signals from the connected devices and it also gives the electrical power for them to work. Here the connected devices can be initiating devices (waterfall gears or smoke detectors) and notification appliances (bells or strobe lights).

By and large, the FACP comes in 4 basic types, which are coded, conventional, addressable, and multiplex panels. However, in modern days, conventional and addressable panels are used in buildings. Let’s give you an overview of these different types of FACPs.

1. Coded Panels

It is the earliest type of FACP that was built between the 1800s – 1970s. The coded panel is similar to a modern conventional panel but each zone will be connected to its own code wheel.

For example, the alarm in Zone 1 will make a sound using code 1- 2 – 4 via bells or horns in the building. Then again, Zone 2 will make a sound 1 – 2 – 5 with the same tool based on the settings of the FACP.

In most cases, the sound of the alarm goes in 4 sets using a specific code until one resets the initiating pull station, or the unit itself gets reset. Although this type of FACP is no longer being used, you can still find some college campuses or old hospitals using the coded panels.

2. Conventional Panels

It is a point-wired style in the fire safety system. In this kind of panel, one or more circuits are routed via the protected space or building area. And each circuit is connected to one or more initiating devices.

The conventional FACP usually wires the connected devices in a parallel style. As all alarm devices work at the same time, it gets hard to find the exact spot where the fire or smoke is sensed. For that, it’s required to inspect the location based on the alarm announcement.

  • The range of conventional control panels is from 1 – 100 rooms or zones (for small schools, stores, hotels, or apartments).
  • 1 or more zones usually have some initiating devices in an area or building floor.
  • The wiring needs to be attached in a supervised manner (Class A  or B with a proper EOLR). In which the Class A wiring style uses 2 wires with an EOLR and the Class B wiring style uses 4 wires with an EOLR.

3. Addressable Panels

Known as the intelligent system, this panel is more accurate than the conventional one. It uses one or more circuits or SLC loops that emit throughout the space or building area. Plus, each circuit contains one or more initiating devices.

However, the initiating devices attached to circuits don’t work at the same time. Instead, all of them work one after another.

Thanks to this, the devices (smoke or heat detectors) attached to the FACP can give signals to the unit when detecting smoke or heat source, even if one or two wires break. That’s why the addressable panels are better than the conventional ones.

  • Based on the amount of SLC in fire alarm systems, addressable panels are determined.
  • Each SLC can provide space for 100 addressable devices.
  • Each point on the SLC loop has a unique address where attached.

4. Multiplex Panels

It is a transition point between older conventional systems and modern addressable systems. It was widely used from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s in large buildings and complexes.

The multiplex FACP can control more than a building’s fire alarm system like HAVC, security, electronic door locks, and so on. While it is the brain of the system, the panel can communicate with devices in different zones at the same time.

For example, if Zone 1 and 2 detect fire, the smoke or heat detectors will send signals to the main panel,  and then the main panel can while the main panel can control both at once.

Comparing the Addressable and Conventional Panels

As I’ve talked about the types of FACP, it’s time to share the differences between addressable and conventional panels. Let’s begin:

Image: new-courses.justice.eku.edu
AspectConventional FACPsAddressable FACPs
Cost To Add and CareCostly to add and maintain due to extensive wiringCheap to install and care for
Finding IssueCannot pinpoint the exact area of faulty wire or circuitCan signal the exact area of faulty wire or circuit
Extension AbilityLimited room for expansionGreat potential for expansion
CompatibilityIdeal for small to midsize buildings, occupancies ranging from 10 to 100 peopleIdeal for large buildings with multiple units, such as apartment complexes or condominiums, that can typically accommodate occupancies of 100 to 300 people or more
Status DataLimited system status dataProvides comprehensive system status data

How Does Fire Alarm Control Panel Work?

A fire alarm control panel (FACP) works simply. It detects signals from devices that sense fire or smoke and then sends alerts to devices that notify people about the fire.

Suppose there’s a fire or smoke and it reaches devices like a smoke or heat detector. When this happens, these devices quickly send signals about the fire to FACP.

Then, the FACP gives signals to devices like horns, alarms, or lights to activate. Once the signals reach these devices, they turn on and people know that an event of fire occurs and can REACT.

Types of Signals Fire Alarm Control Panel!

The FACP is made to receive 3 types of signals from the connected initiating devices. Based on the situation, these are the signals that the unit will get:

  • Alarm: It means a fire is detected in a place or zone.
  • Supervisory: It indicates an off-normal state in the system.
  • Trouble: It is an alert that signals a power loss or issue in the system.

The Parts of the Fire Alarm Control Panel!

An FACP has 5 main components to work (analyze input devices and give signals to activate output devices). These are:

Image: ifsta.org

1. Main Power Source

The FACP needs to run in the main power supply and notify the alarm if the power supply is stopped. In most cases, the main power supply comes from the premise’s main power connection.

2. Secondary Power Source

All FACP systems use a secondary power supply. It needs to run so that the devices connected to the FACP work even if the main power supply doesn’t work.

3. Initiating Devices

The initiating devices linked to the FACP sense the fire or smoke in a zone and then give an alert. Here are some initiating devices:

  • Manual pull stations
  • Smoke and heat detectors
  • Waterflow devices

4. Notification Appliances

The notification appliances are the main source that informs people by making audible, visual, textual, or tactile signals. Here are some of the notification appliances:

  • Audible: Horns, bells, or speakers.
  • Visual: Strobe or flashing lights.
  • Textual: Text or symbols to signal about a fire occurring.
  • Tactile: Alert of fire via the sense of touch or vibration.

5. Auxiliary Devices

Some building codes require special devices to keep their people safe in the event of a fire. These are:

  • Shut off the HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) system.
  • Turn off fire doors or smoke dampers.
  • Turn on special fire suppression systems like pre-action and deluge sprinkler systems.

The Fire Alarm Control Panel Requirements!

Depending on the building and construction, the FACP needs to be installed in the right way. For that, some requirements need to be followed to add FACP. These are:

Clearance for an FACP

According to NEC (National Electrical Code) Section 110.26 (A), it shows working space requirements for adding FACP. These are:

  • At least 36″ (3’0″) thick or deep in front of the panel.
  • At least 30″ (2’6″) wide or the width of the panel box (choose one which is bigger). Confirm that the door can be open at 90 degrees.
  • At least 6′ 6″ or 78″ long (from the floor, grade, or platform) or the height of the panel box (pick one which is greater).

Note: Ensure no obstacles including fire sprinkler pipe.

Room Requirements of an FACP

Based on NEC and NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) rules, there are some steps that you need to take in the room where you’ll add the FACP. These include:

  • At least 7.5 feet high from the finished floor. [NFPA 70 (2017) 110.26 (C:1)]
  • The zone needs to have electricity for lights and air conditioning. [NFPA 70 (2017) 110.26 (D) and NFPA 72 (2016) 10.3.5]
  • Ensure sprinkler protection unless the room is only for electrical equipment and dry-type machines, equipment won’t burn for 2 hours as rated, and the room contains no flammable storage. [NFPA 13 (2016)]
  • The sprinklers at mechanical risk must be protected with guards. [NFPA (2016) 6.2.8]
  • It’s required to add a cabinet labeled as System Record Documents. [NFPA (2016)]
  • No storage is allowed to insert inside the room. [NFPA 70 (2017) 110:26(B)]

Note: Based on NFPA 70 (2017) Article 250, you need to ground and bond per valid section.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the importance of FACP?

To tighten the safety of the building and prevent the loss of people, the FACP is a vital thing. It not only ensures the protection of life but also alerts all when the detectors detect fire.

2. Can FACP be repaired?

It depends on what type of FACP it is. Most modern FACP components can be repaired only via expert help.

3. Where is a Fire Alarm Control Panel located?

There’s no specific rule for FACP to set in an area. However, the best area to put FACP is either on the opposite or close to the door so that there’s room for walking.

Wrapping Up

A Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) is an essential thing that all small to large buildings would require to ensure the safety of their people. Hope this informative guide helps you know all about the FACP and get the needed details. I’ll catch you in the next guide!

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