Fire Can Breathe Life Into Your Business

Does fire/life-safety work scare you a bit? It’s OK, you’re not alone. Admit it, you’re among friends and no one is going to think any less of you. There now, feeling nice, relaxed and safe? That’s great … NOW WAKE UP AND GET WITH THE PROGRAM! Consider this an intervention because the fire/life-safety market has never been a more viable option for electronic security professionals seeking to maintain a steady stream of business during these vexing economic times.

Sure, there are more codes, standards and regulations to deal with, along with perhaps increased liability exposure and having to deal with persnickety authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs). And yes, it may mean additional training and certification for some of your technicians/installers or bringing some new blood or electricians on staff, as well as educating your salespeople about how to sell these types of systems and solutions.

Well, guess what. Regardless of all that, the upside far outweighs the down. Despite the slowdown of new construction, installing company CEOs I have spoken with say their fire business has been one of the few things they have been able to count on during the economic downturn.

There continues to be high demand for upgrades and modifications in existing homes and buildings. Changing codes and abolished grandfathered regulations have quite nicely positioned contractors serving those markets and given newer entrants exciting opportunities. Additionally, the fire/life-safety market has benefited from an acceleration of technology and products entering the marketplace.

Still not sold? Then consider this: Although SSI’s 2009 Installation Business Report (IBR) found that the average number of fire installations per dealer was fl at, all other sectors (video, intrusion and access control) actually declined. And the fire market has been the most stable of them all the past seven years. But the best part is that commercial fire/life-safety business not only brings in the highest per-project dollar amount ($15,566), but also saw a 4-percentage-point spike in average gross profit margin (39 percent) in 2009.

One area with a huge upside is carbon monoxide (CO) detection. According to IBR data, only 18 percent of fire alarm installations include it. However, CO awareness, codification and legislation have risen substantially. Stories like the one out of Florida in early April where a woman succumbed to a power generator’s CO fumes inside her home have become all too common. “Firefighters say carbon monoxide detectors are just as important as smoke detectors,” said the NBC-TV news affiliate report.

This is a golden opportunity to help save lives and turn a tidy profit selling, installing, maintaining and monitoring CO detectors. Such equipment and services can be sold to new and existing customers, and can be used as an add-on, standalone or point of entry to pitch other products and services. What really excites me about fire/life safety is it engages installing and monitoring companies before really bad things happen. Detection is essential, but contributing to the prevention of death or injury and minimizing property damage/loss is pretty darn gratifying. It’s also nice to be crucial in the response process, aiding firefighters to not only help the public but reduce their own risk.

So what are you waiting for? Take advantage of the valuable information in this, our annual fire/life-safety issue. And keep up with Al Colombo’s “Fire Side Chat” columns in SSI and online, bone up on NFPA codes, get your people trained, align yourself with leading fire/life-safety equipment suppliers, prospect via services like LeadTracker, and make nice-nice with your local AHJs.

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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