Fire Side Chat: Igniting Your Fire System Sales

[IMAGE]12120[/IMAGE]When to Sell Addressability

There are those who attempt to sell addressable fire alarm panels for every job they do, no matter how small it might be. It’s also the contention of many professionals that the logical technology of choice should hinge on system size, rather than a one-size-fits-all methodology.

“We used to have a magic number for Point ID. We figured if it was 50 points or more, then it was time to go addressable. Now we have those new 25-point panels,” says Sean Sokoly, an alarm technician with Sokoly Alarms of Midland Park, N.J.

The only problem with some of these systems is they require different addressable sensors than larger panels in the same manufacturer’s product line.

“If someone has a building space that is good for less than 25 devices and later they decide to add space to it, they may have to replace all the addressable smokes and heats they previously installed,” says Sokoly.

It’s my opinion that 50 is the magic number at which time addressable technology should be employed. In addition, if the client plans to expand, I would sell them a larger panel simply because it will save them money down the line.

Some will say selling addressability on the standpoint of a 50-point minimum will only slow the ultimate demise of the conventional fire alarm panel. However, it’s my opinion that conventional technology will never entirely go away. This is because there will always be relatively small applications where a handful of zones is all that is necessary. Don’t oversell the client when his/her application will never warrant anything more than four to eight zones, for example.

In due time, this 50-point minimum will decrease to 25 simply because the cost of addressable systems will decrease enough to make this a logical solution. And in time more manufacturers will utilize uniformity in the manufacture of the addressable smoke and heat sensors they offer for their lines of addressable panels. Thus, no matter how large or small the job, the same devices that operate with a 256-point addressable panel will work with a 25 point.

Al Colombo is an award-winning writer who has covered electronic security and life safety since 1986. Visit his Web site at, and check out his Security Sense blog.

Fire Alarms Command a Captured Audience


The good news is the installation of fire alarm systems in public and private buildings is largely mandated by local and state authorities. This means every new building that goes up must, by law, be equipped with fire protection equipment, under which fire alarm systems fall.

All this is driven by a series of codes that local and state lawmakers use to form their own set of binding requirements. In Ohio, for example, Life Safety 101 is not often cited or used. Instead, most of the precepts contained in NFPA 101 are included in a document the state has adopted, called OBC (Ohio Building Code).

Federal authorities often have their own unique set of codes where it involves fire alarm systems in government offices, military facilities and leased properties. You might say that fire alarm companies have a captured audience. Even so, this market is highly competitive, which means the client usually has a fist-full of other companies to choose from. It’s your job to make sure they choose yours.

The key to success involves a complexity of issues, such as education, good business partnerships and governmental affiliations. In addition, the people you hire must know how to engineer, manage, install and finalize fire alarm projects of all sizes in order to make this a profitable venture.


About the Author


Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.

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