Choosing The Right Fire Alarm Company For Your Business Is ‘Brain-Dead Simple’ If You Follow This Advice…

Fire Alarm Questions

When choosing a fire alarm installation company, there are certain questions you should ask “before” deciding which company is the right match for your specific fire alarm application and specifications.

One of the first pieces of information you need to gather is whether the installing company will be using a fire alarm system that runs on “proprietary” or “non-proprietary” software (also known as “open-source” software).

What is a proprietary fire alarm system?
A proprietary fire alarm system is one that uses specialty (licensed) software to run the components installed on the system’s main board (mother board) via a computer program. Most of these systems are programmed via laptop and some can even be programmed through a network or the Internet.

As an end user, there are advantages as well as disadvantages to having a proprietary fire alarm system installed on your premises.

One of the biggest selling features of a proprietary fire alarm system is that a licensed dealer is fully equipped and trained to work on specific products.

But this can be misleading. Let me explain…

Is a licensed dealer truly qualified to work on specific products?
Just because a fire alarm company is a “licensed dealer” doesn’t mean their fire alarm technicians have the proper training required to work on these systems.

How do I know?

I’ve been there. I’ve seen it first hand.

For over twenty five years, I’ve worked with “big name” fire alarm companies that boast of having the dealer license to install, program, and service these systems, but more often than not, their technicians are on their own when it comes to education and training.

This usually occurs when a newly-employed technician comes on board who is unfamiliar with a specific product line. Most new hires are told to study the installation manual.

Many new technicians are told, “If you get stuck or have any question while in the field, call a senior tech who is more familiar with the product”.

In a perfect world, a new-hire would go through a training program from day one, but some of these programs can cost a branch office more than ten thousand dollars per employee (no, this is not a typo-this is a fact).

This doesn’t even include the high cost of travel and food expenses incurred as a result of traveling to another city for one or two weeks training.

To insure that a company is getting its “moneys worth”, they will often wait until an employee has gone through the three month probation period (or longer) before sending them to a training class. Also classes are sometimes conducted every few months or once a year, so it is possible an employee may have been left in the dark from six months to an entire year before receiving the required training.

Are there a limited number of service providers in your area?
OK, let’s assume you decided to go with a product requiring a licensed dealer. Do you know how many companies in your area that actually can work on your system?

I’ve seen it time and time again…

A customer purchases a proprietary fire alarm system because it was recommended by a consultant firm or because another one of their properties has this specific system installed in their building, “so it must be good”.

This could become a huge mistake!

I know of one company in Houston that paid close to two million dollars for one of these “recommended” systems. When they weren’t happy with the service they were receiving, they started shopping for another certified dealer in the area and got the shock of their life…

There was only ONE other company that was qualified to work on this system. And get this… this other company was already fired by this customer prior to the new installation by the current fire alarm company.

Talk about being stuck!

So, as you can see, doing a little research in the beginning stages can save you much grief later on down the road.

Editorial update:
Just a last week we got a call from a well-known, local Houston sports arena. I won’t mention the name.

Their request was to replace the main fire alarm control panel. Unfortunately, there only a couple of companies in the Houston area who are even qualified to purchase and program the new fire alarm control panel because the devices out in the field will only work with the existing “proprietary” panel.

Little do they know (yet) that unless they replace the entire fire alarm system, they are “locked in” and have a narrow choice of vendors.

This is just a recent example, but this same scenario plays out all the time.

Bottom line: Don’t Get Locked In!

It’s your money and you should have the choice on which company services your commercial fire alarm system.

If you would like some FREE advice before making that big buying decision, Houston Fire Safety would be more than happy to help. Simply give us a call or contact us via the online contact form and one of our friendly associates will call you as soon as possible.

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