April 26, 2013

Why Licensing Matters

Q. What do childcare centers, electricians, doctors, chiropractors, engineers and security companies have in common?

A. They all must be licensed.

Many professions must have a license to work in their trade. This license is issued by a state agency. In New York State that agency is the Department of State Division of Licensing. They oversee the licensure of 29 occupations throughout the state. Some of these occupations are security alarm installers, real estate brokers, notaries, private investigators, and other professionals.

With economic conditions as they are, you may be tempted to cut costs by choosing a a low-bid contractor who is unlicensed. By choosing a licensed security installer you are assured that you are choosing a professional who is proficient in his craft of installing and servicing burglar, fire, access and surveillance systems and has a clean background. Yes, even surveillance and keyfob systems require a licensed security professional to install these systems.

Not everyone is permitted to represent themselves as an alarm technician or alarm company – not if you’re in a state that requires a license.  So the benefits of a license should be readily apparent to the customer.

In order to become licensed, an applicant must meet strict criteria set by the state’s licensing division:

  1. Submit proof of education which demonstrates proficiency in the servicing, maintaining and installing and security and fire alarm systems in addition to basic electricity education (Ohm’s Law and electrical theory), National and New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code, UL, NFPA, FM, SIA, ADA, Alarm Communications, Motion Detection, Perimeter Systems, Job planning, Fire Detection Systems, Life Safety and Troubleshooting, Service and Maintenance of Alarm Systems.
  2. The candidate must able complete an 81 hour Security & Fire Alarm System Installer Certification course administered by a one of three state approved schools in the nation. The course covers topics such as: Ethics, Standards, Codes and Techniques, Control Panels and Alarm Transmissions, Security Systems, Fire Technology, and Service and Maintenance of Alarm Systems.
  3. Have at least two years of experience in installing, servicing or maintaining security or fire alarm systems, (totaling 3,500 working hours [equivalent to 35 hours per week for 100 weeks] that was obtained in New York State.
  4. Pass a state administered written examination that challenges the candidate on topics in item #1.
  5. Candidate must also be current on ALL child support payments in order to become eligible.
  6. The final criteria for licensure is that all candidates must pass a background check with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Consumers typically overlook licensing when getting bids for a burglar, camera, fire or access system. Choosing a licensed contractor ensures no criminal background for those involved in providing the security services in addition to certain minimal levels of training and experience.

Security professionals that do comply with the licensing requirements generally have a solid business structure and must comply with state and local laws that contain regulations that deal with employment, records, contracts, conduct, education as well as state building and electrical code.  A business that complies with the licensing law is also in a better position from a business point of view as they focus on doing the right thing and provide a level of quality the customer expects.

Another advantage to a licensed tradesman is oversight and enforcement by the state licensing agency as well as local building inspectors. Codes and standards aren’t just limited to fire systems. They apply to burglar alarms, access control and surveillance systems, too!

An unlicensed person or business is off the radar of the government and can willfully ignore other laws. Unlicensed activity takes place in all trades and professions, so the alarm industry is not unique to that problem. If a business or tradesman is going to ignore licensing laws then ask yourself, “what other laws is that person breaking?”

Consumers rarely check out licenses or licensing agency websites for complaints or disciplinary proceedings but should.  A recommendation from a friend or relative is often all a customer needs to trust a contractor.  What if this recommended person that is unlicensed has a record as a convicted felon or is a convicted sex offender? Would that change your mind about choosing that installer to install a security system in your home or business?

By choosing an unlicensed professional to install your security or life safety system you could forfeit your Certificate of Occupancy if you own a business. Your insurance carrier may potentially refuse to pay an insurance claim in the event of a loss if the system does not function as designed.

Most state licenses require that the license holder disclose the license number and licensing agency on all papers and other things like trucks that consumers see. Certain wording must also be used and is mandated by law. Documents must read: Licensed by the NYS Department of State, License # 123456789.

Sample License

Sample License

When choosing a provider for a security project you as a consumer have the right to request to see licensing credentials. For your protection, you should always ask for the license then check the number with the New York State Division of Licensing at

If you feel that a security license is unimportant, then ask yourself this question: when you need a doctor or a chiropractor would you choose one that does not have a license to practice medicine?

Or would you open your front door to a convicted felon?

After all, isn’t it better to pay a little more to get it done right the first time, then to pay a lot more to get it done right the second time?