Using Reason to Realize More Residential Fire Revenues

While the majority of homes have smoke detectors, most are standalone devices and only 15% have working carbon monoxide detectors. Thus there’s a huge untapped market for greater levels of homeowner protection and greater fire contractor profits. Learn how to make the compelling case for monitored system-connected fire/life-safety solutions.

There’s no doubt that smoke detectors are one of the most important safety devices for the home and that they save lives. But they’re often taken for granted. There were 2,520 residential fire deaths in 2011, 40% of which occurred in homes with no smoke detectors, according to NFPA’s Fire Loss in the United States During 2011.

Smoke detectors are far more common, however, than devices detecting carbon monoxide (CO). Only 15% of homes have working CO detectors installed. Yet CO, an odorless and invisible gas, can be just as deadly and is, in fact, the leading cause of airborne poisoning in the United States.

In homes where smoke or CO devices are installed, retail standalone smoke or CO devices are the de facto standard. Unfortunately, for various reasons, many of these devices may not provide the protection they promise. For example, they may have been installed incorrectly, not received required maintenance, the sensors may be expired, the batteries may be dead, or, in some cases, the homeowner may have disabled the device themselves. One stunning statistic: less than half of the smoke detectors installed in homes with fires actually operated.

Most homeowners are completely unaware that they have another, much higher level of smoke and CO protection available: central station monitored, system-connected detection devices. It is your duty for the well-being of both your residential customers and your company (more recurring revenues) to educate and help these end users more effectively safeguard themselves and their property. Following is a course to logically step them through the process of realization and taking action.  

To Integrate or Not to Integrate

Although system-connected fire and life-safety systems are common and often required in schools, hospitals and other commercial buildings, very few single-family homes have them. When residences do have system-connected devices, they are typically for security.

Fire and security capabilities can be integrated, even though there are some differences in how they operate. Basically, the security system only recognizes two states or conditions: normal or alarm. It cannot differentiate between a line break and the opening of an alarm switch. The fire alarm system recognizes four different states or conditions: normal, alarm, trouble and supervisory.

Integrating protective features for fire and security — as well as CO — is not complex, which makes residences that already have system-connected security alarms good targets for adding monitored fire and CO protection. Plus, the cost of adding fire or CO detection to a monitored residential security system is relatively low.

Early warning is essential to effective fire and life safety because emergencies can occur at any time and in any place. Yet it’s not just about having early warning: Standalone devices can go into alarm just as quickly as system-connected devices. The difference is that when the system is connected to a remote monitoring station, emergency response to the incident is immediate. Both the homeowner, who may not be home at the time of the incident, and the fire department are alerted to the system’s alarm state. This early notification is extremely important to life safety for the following reasons:

  • Increases evacuation time for building occupants
  • Emergency medical help can be immediately sent to those in need
  • First responders can help people exit the building safely, including residents who may be overcome by smoke or gas and are unable to evacuate on their own

Monitoring Makes All the Difference

Fire and CO alarm monitoring takes residential protection to a whole new level. The added benefit is really about being connected to a central monitoring station, rather than just having a local alarm that sounds off in the house. A monitoring station will attempt to contact the homeowner and immediately dispatch the appropriate emergency response when an alarm is activated. The statistics for monitored fire detection in California, for example, are so impressive that there is a strong push to mandate the monitoring of residential smoke detectors in Los Angeles.

Monitoring is especially important in cases where occupants are not capable of responding appropriately to a local alarm. Examples include: the elderly or disabled individuals; small children; individuals already overcome by the effects of CO or smoke; and even pets in an otherwise empty house.

A feature of most monitoring services is the ability to keep special information on the residence, which comes up on the computer screen whenever an alarm is received from that home. Thus, if there is a disabled or elderly resident, the operator can see this information and pass it to the first responders.

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