By Joseph Pfefer
With great interest I read the article regarding venturing into the alarm monitoring industry. As someone from the alarm industry for over thirty years, I suggest the following addendum:
- Be sure you have proper Errors and Omission (E & O) insurance – normal insurance will not cover you when you are sued (whether or not you or your personnel are guilty, angry customers will blame you).
- Consider looking at other equipment an excellent resource is the Central Station Alarm Association. They now have an annual monitoring show where vendors show their wares.
- Another avenue to see equipment is the ISC (International Security Conference) shows. These may be found through the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.
- Be wary of “experts” who “know-it-all.” They will take your money and you will lose your business. The alarm industry is a very tight knit community; check things out by asking around.
- Be sure the alarm dealers you are monitoring for have proper contracts on each account you monitor. For the few dollars per month, you are putting your entire company at risk. Contracts cannot eliminate your liability, only mitigate it, but they are crucial.
- Be aware that a properly staffed central station monitoring facility needs:
- One hundred percent redundant backup alarm receivers.
- Dual generators (primary and backup), along with a UPS.
- A minimum of two operators on duty at all times.
- A disaster recovery plan.
- Off-site storage of daily computer system backups.
- A fully secured facility; no outside windows.
- Documentation as you have never imagined.
- Be also aware that the industry is beginning to move to guard response since police chiefs are (in some areas) refusing to utilize their officers due to high false alarm rates (brought about, in many cases, by poorly installed systems as well as poorly trained customers). Just imagine your operators dispatching guards where there is a gun battle.
- Be sure to checkout the SIA/APCO Central Station Train the Trainer Seminars for certification of your alarm operators.
- When (not if) you are sued, you will now find out the investigators and associated expenses are your responsibility.
- Be sure your voice logger can be utilized in court; you will need it!
- Your generators will require weekly testing under load.
- There are many other UL regulations, which are the result of years of experience by the industry. There is always a common sense explanation for every UL Standard (regulation/rules).
Lastly, I firmly believe with only properly trained central station dispatchers and customers will the scourge of false alarms be reduced. Am I trying to prevent someone from getting into this industry? No! But be sure to check all of the details before you jump in and end up with headaches and threats of lawsuits.
Joseph Pfefer is President of Jade Alarm Company and has been in the industry since 1969.
[From Connection Magazine – Sept/Oct 2002]