This programmable, software based system provides early warning of fire or smoke. In addition, automatic checking of wiring and sensors, corrupt data detection and disconnection of faulty zones is supported. Adjustable sensitivity, alarm verification and pre-alarm provide early warning without causing false alarms and built-in diagnostics improve the level of maintenance reducing costs. Included are remote diagnostic support (optional), sensor testing, status reports and contamination and near service reports. The peer-to-peer network allows standalone systems to be integrated to provide system-wide alarm reporting, coordinated evacuation, cross-panel cause-and-effect functionality, for large systems and multi-building sites.