The key to having an economical, long lasting, easy to service security or fire alarm system tailored to your needs is planning. It sounds simple, but it’s not. Serious planning takes time, and a proper team. In fact it goes way beyond the technology of your system.
As a business, planning and system design specifications are a separate service you should pay for; leading to a “cheeses to cheeses” proper bid process. Most security and life safety systems installation companies do not have the skills or time to see your true big picture. Their focus is often the shortest road to recurring revenue. The required planning is best done by you and your in house team with outside professional engineering guidance. Called a business continuity plan it includes; risk identification / assessment, appropriate mitigation strategies / program development, response program development, and recovery program development. Ongoing drills and re-assessment being the critical follow-on.
Your security and life safety technology systems should support (not drive) all the above areas. For an extra bang (no pun intended) for your buck, your technology solutions should also have great impact supporting your day to day operations by improving efficiency. An example would be an emergency intercom station also serving as an information station, or a camera providing; visual deterrence, central security monitoring, video to an extra viewing monitor located so employees can see what’s going on outside a door (or in the parking lot) before they exit, audit trails of comings and goings – that’s with just one well-placed camera. Please do not forget the importance of well-planned signage. The right signage can make your program and supporting systems and vastly more effective.
So, form a team and get that expert advice first. If it’s at home, schedule a visit from the local police or fire department and don’t forget your biggest risks may be from fire, propane or natural gas, and carbon monoxide! At work start with the blessing and support of “C” level management to create a formal business continuity team. Include all levels of staff, all areas of management (security, IT, HR, legal, production, sales), an expert business continuity consultant / systems engineer, with local emergency responders. Depending on your business you may wish to bring in utility providers, customers, suppliers, insurance representatives – you get the idea, it is a big picture.
Post planning, when you finally know what technology you really need, require reasonable terms and conditions from your prospective systems contractor. If they will not agree to them move on to another company. Start with and include in contract; a detailed written description of the system(s) functionality. This is critical so all parties understand what the goals of the technology solutions are.
For a system that is truly yours make the following terms and conditions (your legal department can add and fine tune) requirements in your bid documents or attach them to all contracts as superseding conflicting terms and conditions:
Require they comply with state and local electrical codes.This insures workmanship installation standards and fire safety
Require proof that the installers are licensed and insured, especially sub-contractors. Credentials matter, know full names of who is in your home or office and their histories.
Require universally distributed brands of equipment – do not trap yourself with exclusive to one provider products, and require your personal ownership of the equipment and the programming “installer” codes of the system. Many quality brands can be serviced by any company of your choice, so you can change the monitoring provider without replacing the system.
Require a minimum of a one year full parts and labor warranty. A well installed, quality system will last for decades.
Require proper grounding of the alarm control panel – It is in the national electrical code that if the alarm equipment manufacturing company has a ground requirement it needs to be done – just about all systems do. Illegally, most alarm companies do not ground the systems they install. This can save you from very costly repairs due to lightning strikes.
Require Soldered wire splices – It is the best connection method for two wires, soldering prevents connection degradation over time, it is the best long term preventive measure against false alarms. For long term system reliability, this can prevent false alarms as systems age.
Require each wire be numerically labeled at both ends and documented as to its use details – This allows for efficient trouble shooting if a problem needs to be fixed. For ease of future system servicing and system expansion.
Require all of the system documentation including the manuals, product cut sheets, wiring and programming details be left on site – This keeps you in the drivers seat. It is your system!
Require that a permit be obtained by the alarm contractor from the local building department and that the system be inspected by a local building official. You would be amazed at how many alarm installers are not licensed or have their work inspected. It’s the law and you pay for this service with your local taxes!
Require short term monitoring contracts of one year at the most and require the right to cancel monitoring with no penalty. If an alarm company has integrity and good intensions, they do not need three, or five, or seven year contracts. They will earn your business with their quality service.
A quality system comes with a fair price, a fair seriously detailed contract, and is never “free”. If you have initial outlay budget constraints consider building your system over time in phases instead of all at once. In your business continuity plan you will have categorized risks by likelihood and impact. Purchasing a technology system by following the above guidelines will provide the best protection, the best peace of mind, and a system free of false alarms. When we reduce the volume of false alarms we free up our emergency responders for real emergencies and we save tax dollars.
As always I greatly appreciate your comments and suggestions.