Why You Shouldn’t Be Ashamed of the Term ‘Alarm Dealer’

SSI Editor-in-Chief Scott Goldfine explains why you shouldn’t let negative connotations of “alarm dealer” deter you from embracing industry roots.

October’s edition of SSI  magazine is the Alarm Response Issue and despite recent preoccupations with high-tech smart homes and sophisticated commercial systems integration, alarm response remains a core industry issue.

The bells and whistles of all the sexy new gadgetry must not let us forget about the bells and whistles that got the electronic security industry to this exciting frontier of opportunity in the first place.

So long as you keep up with current technology and trends, having roots and ongoing expertise in alarms is a marketplace advantage to be leveraged rather than an acknowledgement of obsolescence.

Catalysts such as false alarms and law enforcement backlash, mainstream media focus on rogue companies and scammers, disparaging startups as “trunk-slammers,” poorly managed dealer programs, and broadening portfolios of products and services ushered in a movement away from the once ubiquitous term for industry individuals and businesses as alarm dealers.

For many, the phrase (not just “alarm” but “dealer” as well) took on a negative connotation and there was a migration toward monikers such as security company, security contractor and security systems integrator.

Even major trade associations like the National Burglar and Fire Alarm (now Electronic Security) Association and Central Station Alarm (now The Monitoring) Association distanced themselves from “alarm.”

Times change and sometimes renaming something makes sense to better reflect purpose or breadth, which is fine, but in this case it is somewhat symptomatic of the general shaming and denigration of the foundation of the industry’s installation and monitored systems providers.

Furthermore, tradition and demonstrating pride in it can be a positive thing. There may be some genius-like credit due to whoever came up with the name for the organization most responsible for advocating law enforcement response — the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC).

That indeed seems to cover all the bases and interests. SIAC co-founded the Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) program with SSI that serves as this month’s cover story.

There are certainly pros and cons to describing professions in new or different ways; heck, even this publication was once known as Alarm Installer and Dealer. And it’s natural to want to be perceived as forward-thinking and progressive.

However, even smartphones with their myriad functions and uses are still referred to as “phones.” Similarly, at the end of the day this is still the security alarm business, and there are now some pretty compelling reasons to embrace what for more than a decade has to a large extent been vilified and shunned.

They say things are cyclical and just as the landscape shifted to disfavor the alarm dealer affiliation, a lot of those derisive factors have morphed or abated.

First, thanks to the important work and success of SIAC, conscientious manufacturers and, yes, alarm dealers, the industry’s relationship with first responders has markedly improved (but still must be vigilantly maintained) and nonresponse threats have become infrequent anomalies.

Secondly, whether it’s incompetent or dishonest operators or botched dealer programs, while problems still flare up, the industry has elevated its professionalism and cleaned up its act considerably.

Thirdly, the industry has a decades-long head start against the onslaught of new competition from telecoms, cablecoms, satcoms, DIY, MIY, venture capitalists, etc., and even most of them acknowledge alarm systems as the basis or hub of both the smart home and converged commercial systems.

They say things are cyclical and just as the landscape shifted to disfavor the alarm dealer affiliation, a lot of those derisive factors have morphed or abated.

Concerning the latter, even sophisticated video surveillance and access control systems are largely predicated on events that trigger alarms. Whatever you presently call yourself or your business, the time is opportune to embrace your inner alarm dealer.

In addition to the PDQ profiles of EPS Security and Vector Security, this issue is chockful of material to help your company more effectively manage, sell, install and monitor alarm systems.

That includes new research, signal transmission, video verification and more. Also featured is the launch of the SSI Top 75 Market Leaders that highlights top companies’ best practices — and six of them still even have “alarm” in their names!

I’ll leave you with one more reason to identify with alarms: long before cellphone companies made a mint selling recurring revenue services the alarm industry mastered the RMR model. It’s time for the alarm dealer to come back out of the closet. What do you think?

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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