Starting A Fire Alarm Manufacturing Company?

Might be thinking the impossible here, but…

Is it possible to start a Fire Alarm Manufacturing Company that is entirely run by fire alarm enthusiasts? I mean, It would take a lot of Money and Years to get going, but it could be a consideration.

The reason I brought this up is because many major fire alarm companies aren’t perfect and iv’e seen on recent searches in TFP that there is a lack of a market of residential FA systems and there are more and more flaws on modern Fire Alarm devices. For example, a lack of backwards compatibility with older systems, proprietary software, a lack of Xenon strobes in the near future due to LED Replacements, Expensive unit and install costs, and strobe synchronization. Those are only some flaws I have found, there are many more out there…

I think that there should be a way for Fire Alarm Enthusiasts to have a say in the design and manufacture in today’s Fire Alarm products. We could change the way of Fire Alarms Entirely, if we worked together.

So in conclusion, if we started a Fire Alarm Company that is run by enthusiasts and designed by enthusiasts, It could change the way of fire alarms.

Any thoughts?


I’m an enthusiast & I hope to start my own fire protection & life safety company in the future (albeit a division of my larger main company which would be in several different industries), with the focus being on both manufacturing revolutionary products (some of which no other companies have thought of as of now) & providing service to both customers & enthusiasts alike (including commercial systems for the residential market which as you said there’s a lack of).

When it comes to a “lack of xenon strobes” as you put it: xenon has been the standard ever since Wheelock came out with the first fire alarm strobes in the 1970s, but ever since the early 2010s LED strobes have been taking over from xenon & in all likelyhood will completely replace xenon in the near future. I have no personal problem with LED strobes as they function exactly like their xenon counterparts, but with so many advantages: less current draw meaning you can have more devices on a circuit (& I think the current draw is the same no matter the candela setting as well), longer life, no clicking, smaller device size, & possibly even improved brightness.

I agree with you on everything else however, including the proprietary business models that some companies like Simplex have adopted, which in my opinion is not the way to go for several reasons. If my company ends up producing panels they most certainly will all be like Silent Knight’s for instance: fully programmable from the keypad & with freely-available software.

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That’s what I meant, Since more and more companies are moving to LED strobes, In the near future, Xenon Strobes will be less likely to be around since those company’s have shifted entirely to LED strobes.

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As I said, that’s not really a problem though since LED strobes operate exactly like their xenon counterparts, except with numerous advantages (the latter is why they’re slowly replacing xenon).


Totally want to do that. Even made mock data sheets.

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I’m going to start a poll to gain user feedback about the idea…

  • I Don’t want to start/be a part of a company.
  • Favor to create my own company.
  • I wish to create the enthusiast run company that MrFireAlarm Said.

0 voters

Choose Wisely!

What do you think you’ll name the company?

Keep in mind: if someone found this topic they could steal your ideas for company names & use them themselves, along with getting trademarks on them. This is why I’m planning on keeping my company’s name mostly a secret until I’d get it trademarked so that no one else could use it.

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It is possible, but unlikely… Deleted reply just in case.

Coming from the business side of things (since that’s my area of education), when starting a company, you have to consider a few important things. A key component of a business model is your unique value proposition (UVP). What is your organization going to do that distinguishes it from the competition? What gives your target market a reason to choose you over the competition? Your UVP is key when litmus testing your proposed business model.

Another key consideration that is closely connected with your UVP is to determine who your target market segment is? Who is your company going to sell to and how do you increase your market hold? This ties into how your company will compete for business against competitors such as Honeywell or Johnson Controls. In that regard, a new market entrant is likely to face intense competition and would struggle to compete for market share. Are you selling to enthusiasts or are you trying to sell to the broader market of installation contracts?

An important thing to note about the fire alarm production market, from my analysis, is that the market is likely in a stage of maturity, meaning that innovation in product development is slower than decades prior and increasing market capture is more difficult. How much major change in this technology has really taken place in the last 10 or 20 years? It always seems like the life safety technology industry is playing a game of catch up when it comes to innovation (i.e. LED strobe technology has taken a long time to reach mass market, while LEDs have largely been refined for the better part of a decade).

As we have also seen in the past 20 years, many of the fire alarm manufacturers of the past have consolidated (see Honeywell, JCI, etc.). This makes for some rather large conglomorates that have proportionally immense levels of capital. I think that the strategy of “reinventing the wheel” by rereleasing end-of-life technology (like xenon strobes) is unlikely to have much success in capturing market share in a mature market.

Another factor to consider is the foundational basis of this organization. You mentioned that you want to build the company using the development efforts of enthusiasts. Keep in mind, these are life safety devices you’re designing. It takes many years of education and experience to develop refined product engineers that develop goods that can pass UL listings. Could we develop a competent line of notificaiton appliances? Sure, but being an engineer takes a great deal of predicated research for a reason. Given the choice, AHJs would be more likely to permit installations using well-engineered and certified products from reputable sources. There’s a good reason why the knock-off SpectrAlerts are not installed in public buildings in the United States.

All in all, I would have a hard time believing that this business model is likely to succeed in practice. It’s an interesting idea for thought, but is rather impractical when applied.

One final note, a terribly relevant statistic to keep in mind is that 90% of startups fail. Only those with solid business plans and strong UVPs come out against the odds.


Okay, let’s get this out of the way real quick - sure, if you only ever want to create fire alarms with the sole purpose of being for the hobbyist market, that’s not entirely unheard of. But let’s think about things for a moment.

The purpose of a fire alarm system is to alert occupants of a building to the presence of a fire, and to initiate evacuation. How this is done is largely up in the air, but it is defined by a few different organizations:

  • NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association. They hold committees that, as a consensus, write codes and standards for fire protection and life safety, not just fire alarm. NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, doesn’t tell you when you should install a fire alarm system, but rather how.

  • ICC, the International Code Council. They write the International Building Code and International Fire Code, among others. These codes are designed to provide a level of safety for the building, and dictate which other systems (sprinkler, fire alarm, clean agent, etc) if any are required for your particular building.

  • AHJ, which isn’t an organization, but rather an acronym for the Authority Having Jurisdiction, in essence the office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure, like a fire marshal. These guys have the final say in what can or cannot go in a building, and are in charge of enforcement of the adopted codes and standards for their particular jurisdiction.

  • Listing agencies, like UL or FM, will inspect and test any and all equipment to a particular standard, and if it meets that standard, will receive a listing or approval that basically says the product will perform its duty as intended, when tested under the standard. Both NFPA code and ICC codes require all fire alarm and life safety equipment to be listed by a listing agency. If it isn’t listed, usually by UL or FM, it CANNOT be installed in a building if the building wants to be code-compliant.

So what is the responsibility of fire alarm manufacturers? Their job is to manufacture fire alarm equipment for buildings that do a number of things:

  1. Meet UL or FM listing. If they do not receive a listing they cannot be used. Period.
  2. Perform the job they are designed to do. If it is an audible or visual device, it must meet the audibility characteristics of NFPA 72 Chapter 18. If it is a visual device, it must meet the requirements of Chapter 17, and so on. Ultimately, their job is to keep people safe.
  3. Be worth it to the customer, usually the installation company or dealer who will buy, resell, and then ultimately install the system in the building. This is where cost vs. performance comes in, and this is why you tend to see these “proprietary” systems that have features that are exclusive to some manufacturers.

Why is this last part important? Well, think of it like this. Say you are an installation company, and you want to provide to your clients a system that has a fast response time, can tell you the exact point of alarm, can network with other panels maybe on a campus, and maybe you even want to control individual signals rather than just an entire circuit in a monolith. You’re going to be steered one way or another to a certain manufacturer over another. Simplex, EST, Notifier and Siemens are a bit like Apple in this regard, in that they want you to buy into their product ecosystem and use their exclusive features which may not be supported by everyone, but in exchange you will use their features because maybe another manufacturer doesn’t quite work for the job.

Now, some other counterpoints:
Backwards compatibility for older systems. In what way? Do you mean incompatible SLC protocols? There’s no one standard for them, and every manufacturer will be a little bit different, but from what I’ve seen they’re at least backwards compatible with older versions of the protocol. A modern FlashScan system is still compatible with CLIP, and so forth.

Proprietary software. I mentioned this earlier about product ecosystems, but I should also mention that fire alarm systems are life safety systems and are intentionally designed to not be accessible to the general public. This is for security and is a good thing, much to the chagrin of some people. The fact of the matter is that unless you are a tech, fire alarm equipment is NOT designed for you to mess with!
That someone can’t just download Simplex software off the internet and program their own Simplex system they bought from eBay is because you, the hobbyist, are NOT the target demographic here.

Xenon strobes. Let’s be frank here, this is sort of a non-issue. Xenon strobes are still around, and that they are being phased out in favor of LEDs really comes down to saving power. LEDs draw far less current than xenon and overall provide the same illumination. It’s simply a better way to meet the NFPA 72 requirement for illumination without having to install as many expensive NAC panels. This is just the same as when the industry moved on from incandescent lamps to xenon strobes: more illumination, less current draw. There’s no reason to hold onto an obsolete technology when you have the most up to date.

Strobe synchronization. While it is true that you can’t mix and match, say Wheelock with System Sensor and have them sync together, it’s very unlikely that scenario will occur and if it did, there are ways around it, like that Potter NAC panel that can cross-sync. Ultimately, unless both brands of signal are in the same notification zone/visual area, they don’t really need to be synchronized with each other anyway.

I think that there should be a way for Fire Alarm Enthusiasts to have a say in the design and manufacture in today’s Fire Alarm products. We could change the way of Fire Alarms Entirely, if we worked together.

Why? What product design experience does a demographic that is largely made up of young, relatively inexperienced, amateurs have, that outweighs years upon years of practical in-field experience that major installers, engineers, and technicians have? So that an alarm maybe looks cooler? So that it can sync with a panel you bought on eBay? What does that have to do with the furtherment of the field of life safety? How does it make people safer? Does it benefit the industry, or does it only benefit you?

So sure. Maybe you only want to make devices that are specifically for hobbyist use. Alarms that aren’t designed to be used in a real building. Basically, glorified toys. Sure. But… what if an installer were to see your device, selling for CHEAP! and decide to buy it to install in his building in a pinch? Now, your unlisted, “hobbyist” device is in a real building and it will not provide the same level of protection as if he bought a real alarm and did it right. So now you may be held liable if your unlisted alarm is the reason the fire didn’t get reported or was the cause of the fire!

Think it doesn’t happen? How many times have you seen those cheap Chinese fake BG-12s in buildings?

I think something like this sets a dangerous precedent, because who knows if your company is gonna be maligned by people using your products for what they weren’t intended for?


Thanks for the information @Johann and @Robert_A !

This is going to be a great consideration to make. I now need to Re-Develop my Business plan.
I do see what you are saying, if there were a company built like this, it would not really end well. The fact of pointing out the flaws of what I had claimed is very useful, this gives me a general Idea with what I am dealing with.

True, I did not clarify well but Xenon Strobe Devices would inevitably be obsolete, but what I meant is to continue Xenon Strobe Devices for as long as their still favorable in the market, which wont be long. Reinventing the wheel is a bad idea, LED’s look like the way to go from here on out.

The broader market area eventually once products start rolling out. Like @Robert_A Said, these devices aren’t glorified toys, these are Life Safety devices that are able to keep people safe in an emergency.


I See your point, and I have not been clear. Proprietary systems do have their advantages, but I had Plans for Partial Proprietary Systems, So a system that is under the “Commissioned” stage cannot be messed with except for the company that Installed it. (Company transfers are considered here too.) And the system becomes “Decommissioned” when the equipment is replaced. Decommissioned systems can be messed with by anyone using correct software (That has a cost.) , Decommissioned systems are NOT meant to be installed in a building anymore, As it can be changed by anyone with the panel’s pass-code.

Actually, I have already been doing research for how these organizations (UL and FM) specify the requirements of Fire Alarm Equipment to be “Listed”. But I see what you mean, It does not pass, Its not going Anywhere. I have not done much research for NFPA and ICC, but those will be put into consideration.

You are also right here as well, it is impossible to have backward-compatibility with Addressable Protocols that are made by different companies. But what I meant was to provide Backwards compatibility with older Conventional systems or people wanting to have a newer control panel with other detection and response technology’s but maintain the same signals, “Everything” cant be always universal, but some things can.

Johann & Robert, to try & reply to both of you at once: yes, I understand a lot of what you’re saying, & I know that it’s important to engineer such devices to be as compliant & reliable as possible, but I’m still planning on doing something no other company has: supporting both the actual industry & the community. As for proprietary systems Robert: do you not realize that most systems have other ways of keeping unauthorized individuals out besides proprietary software? Getting rid of said proprietaryness will still make the panel secure as long as you’ve got something like a password or heck, even as simple as the panel’s door lock (which will keep the panel door from being opened & thus the panel from being connected to a computer & programmed unless you have the key. This is enough in my opinion along with a password, much like Silent Knight’s panels).

MFA, I see no reason to continue production of xenon strobes as LED strobes are slowly becoming the norm, thus all the NAs my company would manufacture would have LED strobes as standard.

I’m just selling it until xenon is totally obsolete and the product does not do well in the market.
Also the Xenon and LED devices will have the same shell design (Profile Picture) and would both be released at the same time. So the consumer can pick depending on the Installation needs.

It still makes no sense to do so from a business perspective: LED strobes have been proven to work & have a whole lot of advantages over xenon strobes, so why make the latter?

Versatility will be the key selling point.

I’m planning on properly testing the devices in question.

Doing it yourself ain’t gonna cut it. It has to be done by either one or both of the companies Robert listed or your alarms aren’t gonna be on any walls but the wall of prototypes

I would one day love to own my own fire alarm service company. But manufacturing is a no to me, as it is a very complicated process, and to even get the devices in use for life safety, you need a UL and/or ULC rating.

Are you going to make your own devices or rebrand other devices