February 3, 2013

10 Things to Know Before Hiring a Security Company

First it was Time Warner®. Now AT&T®. Now Lowes®. What is it? SECURITY.

We have all seen the ads advertising an all-digital, all-wireless home security and automation system that uses your smartphone. Monitoring will be provided by these cable companies or you can monitor it yourself (see our blog on self monitoring). Installation and service may be provided by the same company or you may have to do it yourself.

Ever call one of these companies when your cable or phone is out? What’s it like to wait on hold for 20, 30 or 60 minutes before speaking with someone with a pulse? And that is after you have been disconnected a time or two. Frustrating isn’t it?

When considering the purchase of security system or life safety alarm for home or business there are a few key qualities to keep in mind when interviewing companies for your home and family’s safety.

#1 Is the company licensed for security in your state?
In New York State, as well as others, a security company must be licensed. This means the alarm company must document employees, which means fingerprint them and send their information to the Division of Licensing Services so a criminal background check can be conducted. Without the proper licensing, you could be liable for bad work or injuries sustained while on the job. Or worse, you could be letting a felon or sexual predator into your home.

#2 Do they have references?
Find out if their customers were satisfied with the work that was done, and see if you can inspect the work yourself. Did the installer clean up his or her messes?

#3 Do they have photos of previous jobs, especially inside the control box?
A neat and tidy installation shows that the installing company takes pride in its work. Neatness counts. If the interior is of the control box has a ball of wires rather than a nice and organized wiring harness that should be your red flag and scream RUSH JOB.

#4 Is technical support local?
When you need service for your alarm system you need it fixed quickly. You shouldn’t have to wait a week or longer for a technician to respond. Local companies generally don’t stretch themselves too thin. Will the company give you same day support?

#5 Are they carrying proper and enough insurance?
Make sure the company you are considering carries general liability, workers comp and business insurance. This is the insurance that protects your home from damage or negligence of the contractor, his employees or any sub-contractors he hires and brings on your property. A one million dollar policy is the standard of the industry.

#6 Does the company ONLY do security?
Hiring a general contractor or cable company to do your security system is a bad idea. Most of these companies don’t understand how sensors function and how they should be installed. Security is a specialized field and knowing how to install and calibrate a sensor is critical. Companies that do more than security and life safety like satellite TV, cable and internet service are spread too thin and may not be able to service you when you need it. The security industry is based on building and safety codes (NFPA, NEC), security equipment, experience requirements and many other aspects that prove you are competent at what you are doing.

#7 Does the company have a clean and professional image?
If the security guy you plan to hire has a sloppy truck or a plain white van with no logo then you need to ask some hard questions. Are they reliable? Fly-by-night? A professional appearance means a clean fleet of service and install vans and technicians who wear uniforms with a logo. The installer shouldn’t come to do the install in t-shirts and jeans.

#8 Are they the lowest bidder?
The lowest bid is not always the best and is cheap for a reason. If an estimate is significantly lower than others, the installer may plan to cut expenses by using inferior products, hiring unskilled workers, failing to have proper insurance funding – or he or she may not fully understand your work requirements or the product being installed. Remember, there is no FREE LUNCH.


An installation gone wrong.

#9 Do they guarantee their work?
The warranty should clearly spell out what is covered and what is not and how long the warranty is good for. A one year warranty is the minimum you should expect.

#10 Does the company provide same day service?
With security and life safety, there are no second chances! When your security or fire alarm system needs service,  you need your security provider to respond to repair your system quickly. Too many companies have a laissez faire attitude when it comes to customer service. You depend on your security system to protect your home, your business and your family and your security provider should mirror your security initiatives. If not, keep looking!

Security systems are different than that of a phone or internet service. When your phone doesn’t work, it is somewhat of an inconvenience but your day and life continues unharmed.

When your fire alarm, card access system doesn’t work…you have much bigger problem and service needs to happen yesterday.