Don’t Get Duped by Offers of ‘Free’ Alarm System Installations

Buyers should beware of these ‘free’ systems, and alarm companies that install these systems might be increasing their liability.

We have all received repetitive promotions in the mail and watched television advertisements for a profusion of offerings from alarm companies across the country who aggressively tout that they will provide you with an alarm system for “free!” And in many cases, they also have the audacity to proclaim that it will be “state-of-the-art.” With over 40 years of expertise in the alarm and security industry, I can tell you this is utter nonsense.

Others that are still in the business who follow this model have increased their free offerings from $99 to $199, or even more, once the alarm salesperson comes to your home and identifies that you need more electronic protection then advertised in their package. Cleverly, many of these systems are also being leased to unsuspecting customers to once again jump over any price objections.

With this in mind, do you currently lease anything else which is currently in your home? Didn’t think so.  Having said that, if you think that a free system — which of course is not really free — is going to address your security system needs, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn which is available for sale.

Take a moment to analytically think about all of the things that you buy for your home and on your experiences in buying a sundry of other products. Why would you let someone (a salesperson or an order taker) lead you to believe that a “free” or a very lost cost alarm system installation could ever reasonably be expected to be adequate enough to help protect your personal property and family in the event of an emergency? 

In my opinion, these types of systems are not only fundamentally flawed, but they provide a false sense of security to unsuspecting customers, since they are mainly being sold and installed due to the profitability and recurring revenue which drives this mass marketing sales model, instead of the alarm contractor utilizing the true tenants of Alarm Science methodologies.

Alarm and security professionals need to recognize the trust that subscribers place in their hands and what’s at stake. To that end, there is a critical need to educate unsuspecting customers whenever they inquire about these systems so that they can fully understand what their security system can do, and most importantly what the security systems limitations are. During an emergency is not the time to realize that you purchased the wrong alarm system. In fact, most mass marketed alarm systems provide more electronic security to the home when it is un-occupied, compared to when the premises are occupied.

In short, for intrusion detection, these types of systems generally and predominantly rely on motion detectors which are extremely difficult to navigate when the system is armed and the home is occupied, so very often all of the motion detectors are stay-shunted during this vulnerable period of time. Likewise, the ‘life safety” portion for these types of systems are usually extremely limited.

At the end of the day, we are in the business of security and peace of mind, so one must never allow getting the sale to override educating and offering the subscriber the proper type of security system[s] for their premises, needs, and risks. A one-size-fits-all approach can often times be inherently dangerous.

Bio: Jeffrey D. Zwirn, CPP, CFPS, CFE, FACFEI, CHS-IV, SET, CCI, MBAT, is president of Tenafly, N.J.-based IDS Research and Development, Inc., which provides expert forensic, consultation and training services across the country. He has over 40 years of specialized expertise in security and alarm systems, and is an active 18-year designated expert instructor to the New York City Police Department [NYPD].

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