Open and Closed Protocols – What Does It All Mean?

open and closed protocol alarms

When choosing a fire alarm system for your building or business you can be faced with a number of different choices. Arguably, one of the most important decisions facing owners is whether to opt for an open or closed protocol system.

What’s the Difference?

Fire alarm systems include a variety of different components, all of which communicate with each other. The language that these devices use to communicate is called a ‘protocol’ – and this is what can be ‘open’ or ‘closed’.

Companies who provide open protocol systems disclose the relevant technical data required for manufacturers to produce compatible devices. These companies can work with any number of different manufacturers, providing customers with a range of different suppliers to choose from.

Companies who produce closed protocol systems don’t disclose their technical information, and therefore customers are forced to acquire all of the relevant components from a single source.

Open Protocols

Open protocol fire safety systems offer customers a greater degree of flexibility, and this is one of their main benefits. As a result, customers can choose from a variety of different suppliers, allowing them to install components which are completely suited to their specific circumstances.

Other factors such as repairs and upgrades can be completed by virtually any trained engineer, which allows customers to take advantage of an open market and choose a technician who offers the most value for money or expertise. Another advantage to open protocol is that the co-operation between different companies almost guarantees that a component is well tested and reliable.

There are very few disadvantages to utilising an open protocol fire alarm system but they should be kept in mind prior to making a final decision. As this system allows users to install components from different manufactures there is a slight chance that some of these devices won’t be compatible after a full system upgrade.

Customers can choose from a wide range of engineers when they wish to have their system upgraded or repaired, but this is the basis of another disadvantage. With so much choice available, there is a chance that an untrained or unprofessional engineer will work on the system, which can obviously be risky.

Closed Protocols

Whereas open protocol systems allow customers a greater degree of choice, closed protocol systems are much more insular. Customers can only install components from the same company who have provided the overall system due to compatibility issues.

Furthermore, clients can only use engineers from that company when repairing or upgrading their equipment.

Manufacturers claim that one of the main benefits of utilising a closed protocol system is harmony, as all of the components have been manufactured by the same company they are designed to work together successfully. Another benefit to utilising this system is that customers can often receive a discount on their initial quote.

In terms of criticisms, closed systems have their fair share. Customers are forced to use the same company when they require spare parts or repairs. And with no competitors forcing prices down, these services tend to be expensive, and parts can even become discontinued if the manufacturer decides to do so.

Furthermore, customers are unable to choose from a wide range of equipment and therefore they may not be using the most suitable components for their circumstances.

Lastly, within closed systems upgrades are made when and if the manufacturer chooses to make them, which isn’t ideal for the customer.

Choosing the correct fire detection protocol system is dependent upon circumstance. Open protocols offer a greater degree of freedom, choice and long term value for money; however if cost is not a primary concern you may prefer the closed protocol system which can offer a straightforward alternative.

A Crash Course in Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are an integral component of day to day live. Whether in the workplace, schools, hospitals or even just in the home, extinguishers provide an essential safety measure against the outbreak of fire. There are many different types of fires which can start and therefore corresponding extinguishers. It can be confusing as to which device is required for which situation. The following is a quick how-to guide on all of the different fire extinguishers you may need and when to use them.

Fire extinguishers are categorised according to colour and these colours will be visible on the device itself, signalling to users what type of fire it should be used for.


Extinguishers in the red category utilise water which includes standard water, water spray and water dry mist varieties. Typically, water extinguishers are designed for use with organic materials such as wood, paper and textiles. Water should never be used to tackle electrical or cooking oil fires for obvious reasons. Water based extinguishers are also unsuitable for fires which are caused by flammable liquids, gases or metals.

A recent addition to the water range is the water mist extinguisher which differs to standard water devices in that it can actually be used on electrical and cooking oil fires as well as on flammable gas and liquid fires.


The blue category includes both standard powder extinguishers and dry powder extinguishers. Standard powder extinguishes can be used on organic materials, flammable gases and liquids. These devices can even be used on electrical fires but aren’t as effective as their CO2 counterparts and can cause damage to electrical equipment.

Dry powder extinguishers offer the same benefits as the standard devices but with the added benefit of being able to tackle specialist fires such as those which involve lithium, sodium, aluminium or magnesium.


Extinguishers which are labelled as cream utilise foam and have been designed for use on organic solids and flammable liquids. Foam extinguishers can technically be utilised on electrical fires and will be safer than water but it is recommended that users spray from at least a metre away.


CO2 extinguishers are categorised as black and are mainly used for electrical fires and for this reason are standard issue within office environments. It should be noted that CO2 extinguishers can also be used to tackle flammable liquid fires such as those which involve petrol or propane.


Wet chemical extinguishers are categorised as yellow and have been designed for use on cooking oil fires. These devices are particularly useful as no other type of extinguishers are recommended for use on cooking oil fires. With this in mind, wet chemical extinguishers are ideal for kitchen and cooking environments as well as within the home.

It is worth noting that wet chemical extinguishers can also be used on fires with organic materials.

Fire Blankets

Not technically an extinguisher, fire blankets are still incredibly useful and often found in a wide range of environments. The blankets are manufactured using a specialist material and can be used for solid and liquid fires as well as cooking oil fires.

Fire blankets are also suitable for situations where a person’s clothing is on fire and can be wrapped around them in order to extinguish the blaze.

Fires are unexpected and dangerous and knowing which extinguisher to use can mean the difference between life and death. Using the wrong equipment is not only ineffective but can even cause some fires to spread and become larger. Understanding this colour coded system will allow people to install the most suitable extinguisher within a specific environment and use it, should the worst happen.

The Lack of Defibrillators Within Schools

Cardiac arrests kill hundreds of thousands of people each and every year. With the majority of incidents happening outside of a hospital environment many people do not receive the prompt and professional care they require in order to recover. On average, an ambulance takes up to eight minutes to reach a victim but by this time the chances of survival have dropped significantly. This doesn’t have to be the case as the use of a defibrillator on the scene can greatly improve results. In fact, the use of a defibrillator and CPR within the first 5 minutes can improve survival rates from 6% to a staggering 74%.

Cardiac arrests are often confused with heart attacks but are a completely different disorder. Whilst a heart attack usually involves a blockage or heart disease, a cardiac arrest involves the heart losing its rhythm. Defibrillators work by sensing whether a victim is suffering from an arrest and if so will apply a controlled electric shock in order to re-establish the rhythm. The devices themselves are either completely or semi-automatic and no training is needed prior to using them.

You may be forgiven for assuming that cardiac arrests are unique to older people but this just isn’t the case. 12 people under the age of 35 die every week due to this problem and unbelievably, 270 children die every year after having a cardiac arrest at school. Although defibrillators are compulsory within many different public locations such as shopping centres and train stations, this isn’t the case within schools. In fact, it has been estimated that only 80 schools around the country have access to this life saving device.

The charity group SADS are campaigning for the passing of a law that would mean it would be compulsory for every school to have access to a defibrillator. Although this idea is supported by many MPs it is still yet to pass into law. With this in mind, campaigners are educating school officials and parents alike in the hope that they will make the decision to purchase a defibrillator for their school. The device itself costs £1,500 which pales into the comparison when compared with similar medical equipment and is a small price to pay when considering the potential benefits.

Easy to use and relatively cheap, it is likely that defibrillators will be available in all public places in the future. After all, it is said that nobody should be more than two minutes away from one of these devices at any one time.

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