Why No Surge Protection For Alarm Systems?

It seems the vast majority of intrusion and fire alarm panels I see wired have absolutely no external surge protection. The often get power directly from the breaker panel, or it's spliced from another circuit (especially in light commercial/residential systems).

I could be wrong here, but it seems everytime a panel gets smoked and replaced (which is fairly common), it should be accompanied by a new surge protector. Is there something I fundamentally misunderstand here? Do you install alarm systems with surge protection?

The surge protection should be built into the breaker. Problem is a lot of times the Fire Alarm is a public bid and the power for the fire alarm panel is not accounted for so they usually throw in whatever breaker they have lying around. The breaker then has to be locked in the ON position so it cannot be accidentally shut off. The code really works against you in this case. we had plenty of fried panels. You could probably put an inline 110vac surge but the AHJ might not like that and it would cost extra which no one wants to hear.

Hello Jason, thanks for that feedback.

Because I'm not familiar with fire panel design: Do electricians indeed install protection as required? For circuits not previously identified to power Fire, how do they know to include it?

I'm looking at a number of installation manuals for intrusion systems, and it is pretty remarkable about how vague they tend to be on this. Even when they do call it out, it generally is called out as a performance requirement (ie: Connect to surge protected 110V) rather than a specific one (ie: connect surge protector meeting requirements of Model No. x at power source.)

It depends on what type of fire alarm you're talking about. Commerical fire alarms needs to be tied directly to 110vac, then it's really on the responsibility of the Electrician to protect it. If it's just a low voltage panel we always used surge suppressors.

Unless specified otherwise, most of the time I used Ditek. Here are some of their application guides for fire alarm, vehicle gates, and intrusion/access that might be helpful. I also used suppressors by Transtector and EDCO from time to time.

Was there a specific model/type you used? Strangely, I also live in a region with 'active atmospheres', and they are VERY uncommon. However, most people do not plug computer equipment in without a surge protector falling in line.

I was speaking to a business owner over the weekend, and he was complaining about needing to replace his panel every year. His alarm company has never suggested any kind of protection, and he (admittedly) does not know better, so he just replaces equipment every time it burns up.

As an integrator, I used to install them all the time. Then again I am in "lightning alley" along I-4 in Central Florida.