Security Pros Can Boost Sales by Showcasing Fire Safety Knowledge

Make sure your customers know the facts about house fires and smoke alarms.

AS A DEALER IT IS EASY THESE DAYS, with customers excited about all the latest security gadgets, to get off track from what sets security industry professionals apart from self-proclaimed and DIY/MIY (do-it-yourself/monitor-it-yourself) security experts. What I am specifically referring to is not the popular allure of intrusion systems, but the very critical and often overlooked applications of fire detection systems.

Statistics Underscore Significance of Protection

As with any technology, you as the professional must know and understand all core skills of fire systems. As statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) show, there’s a good chance your customers (let’s stick to residential here) will experience a home fire at some point. NFPA reported there were 367,500 fires in residential properties in 2014, and 2,745 civilian fire deaths in U.S. homes. Yet according to SSI’s 2015 Installation Business Report, fire installations dropped off 36% to 130 per dealer on average. NFPA’s Fire Analysis and Research Division’s 2009 report, “A Few Facts at the Household Level,” also revealed some still pertinent figures you can share with customers and prospects:

  • Number of home fires your household can expect in an average lifetime: 5
  • Chances your household will have a reported home fire in an average lifetime: 1 in 4
  • Chances that someone in your household will suffer a fire injury in an average lifetime: 1 in 10
  • Chances that someone in your household will suffer an injury in a reported fire in an average lifetime: 1 in 89

Additionally, when comparing average cost of homeowner property losses: Fire/lightning losses were $37,153 versus $3,620 for theft losses, according to the Insurance Information Institute’s 2009-2013 claim figures. Fire losses are roughly 10 times greater than theft losses. Think you have your customer’s attention now?

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Fire losses are roughly 10 times greater than theft losses. Think you have your customer’s attention now?

Clarify Any Sensor Technology Questions

As the fire security expert, it is important that you thoroughly know and can explain the difference between ionization and photoelectric smoke detection. Did you know that research shows 72% of the people with smoke alarms do not know the difference? What a great sales opportunity to show you are a pro.

In quick review, ionization detection uses a radioactive material to ionize the air in the detector chamber. Smoke entering the chamber will disrupt the flow of electrons and activate the alarm. Ionization smoke alarms are generally more responsive to flaming fires and less responsive to smoldering fires. Since they have been the cheapest to buy, most homeowners have ionization units. But a large majority are more than 10 years old and due for replacement.

Photoelectric smoke alarms aim a light source into a chamber at an angle from the photoelectric sensor. Many think they work like a photo beam detector and the smoke blocks the light source to the sensor; that is typically not the case. Light gets through, but is scattered and triggers the sensor. Picture the old image of someone sitting in a movie theater smoking while the projection beams through the smoke plume as a good example. Photoelectric units are generally more responsive to early smoldering fires than ionization.

There are combination photoelectric and ionization smoke detectors, which are some of the best choices for covering a larger range of flaming and smoldering fires. I am starting to see consumers, as they become educated and prices drop, using this good alternative.

Have you heard of “split-spectrum sensor” technology? It is where a manufacturer adds a blue LED to an existing photoelectric detector? The smaller wavelengths of blue light detect very small particles of smoke that a normal infrared LED might miss. Some testing by manufacturers such as Nest have shown detection ranges similar to dual-technology smoke detectors.

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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