Leveraging the Life-Safety Link

While some home and business owners may view security monitoring as a discretionary expense during hard economic times, life safety remains a key selling point that is helping dealers and integrators fight attrition rates.

Just ask Roger Barnes at Roger’s Security Systems in Ontario, Canada. This past winter, an Oakville, Ontario, family and Roger’s customer narrowly escaped a house fire that caused $500,000 in damage. The monetary loss would have paled in comparison to the tragedy that undoubtedly would have happened had it not been for a central station dispatcher who coordinated with emergency personnel after receiving an alert from a basement smoke detector.

The operator received the alarm from the home’s alarm panel around 4:45 a.m., while three people were sleeping inside the home. The operator called and awoke one of the occupants, who got up to investigate. The line went dead after about 20 seconds, and the operator immediately called back and received a busy signal. After trying back again and then receiving no answers at the alternate phone numbers, she quickly dispatched the fire department.

The house was lost, but the three people inside were saved. “If she hadn’t made the phone call, they all would have perished in that fire,” says Barnes.

The neighbors definitely took notice. Until that point, the house next door — another Roger’s customer — had wanted to drop its monitoring service. But there’s nothing like a near-tragedy to make a customer think twice. “They’re keeping their home monitored now,” says Barnes.

In a tight economy, dealers may find it a little more difficult to close the standard sale, let alone tack on extras. But incidents such as the Oakville fire are making it easier to make compelling arguments when customers suggest doing without a monitored smoke or carbon monoxide (CO) detector.

“Most of the time, it’s not going to be a burglary that happens, it’s going to be a fire,” says Jody Stahl of World Wide Security, Garden City, N.Y. “At home shows and tradeshows, people walk by and we ask, ‘Do you have a security system?’ They say, ‘Yeah, we have a dog.’ Our response is, ‘Fair enough but can your dog call the fire department?’”

The response is usually a playful laugh, but Stahl, Barnes and many other dealers find nothing funny about customers who cut devices likes smoke and CO detectors out of the equation when purchasing a security system.

“It’s not only about the bottom line. We’re in the life-safety business, we’re not in the alarm business,” says Stahl. “If they don’t have monitored life-safety sensors such as smoke and CO detectors integrated into their home’s security system, you’re really not providing a complete life-safety solution as far as the family’s safety is concerned.”

Even if it means scaling back on other add-on devices, dealers are finding that more than ever before, critical life-safety devices have become powerful tools for closing the sale. This is especially true when the dealers themselves truly believe the service they provide is more than a means to make a profit – it means the difference between life and death.

Addressing Top 3 Arguments

Unless a prospective customer recently had a close brush with a fire or CO poisoning, it’s possible dealers will be met with at least some skepticism about adding these devices onto their security systems. This is especially true during cash-strapped times.

There is, however, plenty of easy ammunition for sales personnel to successfully convince customers that monitored detectors are well worth the added expense. Consider the following questions and arguments sales professionals are likely to encounter in the field.


Why do I need a CO detector? I live in [insert name of warm-weather state here].

SOLUTION: A common misconception regarding CO detectors is that the problem is regional. In other words, some customers very mistakenly believe CO is only much of a threat in cold-weather states where furnaces run longer and portable space heaters are the norm.

In one instance earlier this year, however, an elderly couple left their car running in a closed garage all night long, causing massive amounts of the poisonous gas to build up inside the garage. When the woman woke up the next morning and opened the door to the garage, the fumes quickly overwhelmed her, causing her to pass out on the kitchen floor. As the husband attempted to help his wife, he also tragically succumbed to the toxic gas.

Where did the couple live? Florida. That’s not exactly the picture of a cold-weather environment.

Incidents like this are the reasons why CO remains the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the U.S. – cold weather or not. They’re also among the reasons why lawmakers are making stronger pushes today to mandate CO detectors when establishing building codes, which should lead to wider spread use of the devices.

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