GUI for fire detection systems

November 2019 Editor's Choice

A graphical user interface for fire detection is a graphics program on a computer that makes it easier for the operator of the system to access all the functionalities of the fire detection system on a PC.

Having a graphical user interface (GUI) is a relatively expensive exercise, but the advantage it affords the user far exceeds the cost. It requires a well-trained technician to interface the fire detection system to the GUI and the process usually requires a considerable length of time.

The GUI is generally recommended where you have a system of several fire panels on a network bringing all the system alarms to a central point, making them very much easier to read and take fast action. A network may cover more than one floor of a building or several buildings in proximity, so centralising the alarms in one central point makes the responsible person’s life so much easier.

Steps to creating a GUI for your fire detection system

The fire detection needs to be functioning properly after final commissioning. The system needs to be correctly programmed and configured with fire-zoning of the entire system in place.

A computer that meets the manufacturer’s specification for the GUI needs to be made available, preferably in the control room, reception or a convenient place to be agreed upon by all parties involved. The size of the screen or monitor can either be the normal size that comes with the PC or a much larger size like a 40-inch TV screen, which will make the experience of using a GUI much easier and more efficient.

The distance between the fire alarm panel (generally the master panel) and the computer needs to be taken into consideration, bearing in mind there will be cabling required to link the two systems.

Floor plans will need to be prepared and loaded into the PC in the correct format depending on the fire detection system’s software requirements. The floor plans and fire zones will also need to be correctly and adequately marked, making them easily identifiable for the user of the system.

Icons depicting the devices installed and the corresponding addresses will then be plotted on the drawings. The person commissioning the system will need to check and test the GUI thoroughly to ensure that the correct information has been loaded to the PC and the events displayed on the screen correspond with those on the fire alarm panel.

Advantages and features of a graphical user interface

The features below are available on most GUIs available in the market today:

• The user can easily determine the location of the incident as it is displayed on a floor plan.

• The status of the fire alarm with all conditions and incidents are displayed on the screen.

• The GUI is not as intimidating as the fire panel and it is much easier to navigate.

• Most operations on the fire panel can be done on the computer screen via a mouse.

• All alarms are recorded and stored.

• Status and maintenance reports can easily be retrieved.

• Individual status of devices can be determined.

• Information from the fire panel can be easily imported.

• Multiple events can be displayed on the screen as they happen.

• There is more flexibility and space to have a more elaborate device message as the GUI is not as limiting as the control panel.

• Different colours can be used for different zones or floors in a building, making the system more aesthetically appealing.

It must be remembered that whatever alarms are brought to the operator’s attention on the GUI, it is always necessary for the appointed person to attend the location of the alarm to determine the source of the problem and deal with it quickly. The quicker one finds the source of the problem the easier it is to deal with. A delay of even 5 minutes can have dire consequences.

Charles Thiong’o.

Precautions when using a GUI

• Should the GUI PC fail, the operator or user of the system may be stranded as they could have lost touch with the fire panel and have no clue of how to operate it. Operators and users of a GUI should be encouraged to still operate the fire panel as the GUI is just an optional extra to the fire detection system.

• The logbook should not be neglected because the GUI is in place. Proper filling-in of the logbook should be done and all activities on the system be manually recorded and correctly entered on the logbook.

• The GUI does not replace the fire panel; therefore, the location of the main panel(s) should be according to standards and should not be compromised because there is a GUI.

• Backup requirement for the GUI PC should be considered and put in place. The GUI may also need to be reactivated after a power failure and this will require a technician due to the passwords and process involved. We continue to encourage all end users and consultants to only use FDIA registered contractors as they have the commitment, capability and mandate to ensure that not only is your fire detection system installed correctly, but it is serviced and maintained as per the required standards and regulations.

Kindly note that the FDIA is no longer issuing membership certificates to its members due to several non-FDIA registered companies faking membership certificates. Please visit our website to see the current and active members of the FDIA.

For comments and enquiries please contact the FDIA on


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