When DIY Means Do In Yourself

The do-it-yourself (DIY) craze of the past several years — largely propagated by the rise of monolithic, nationwide home improvement centers — has been a detriment to the electronic security industry. It’s all well and good to caulk your own bathtub or hang a door (and even this is more challenging than it might seem), but it’s another thing entirely to self-install video surveillance, intrusion, fire or other security devices/systems.

As a recent court decision confirms, DIY security and fire systems are about as sensible as guiding the scalpel during your own brain surgery.

According to a report by Capital News 9 in upstate New York, a local family who lost two members in a residential fire was awarded $7 million in a suit filed against one of the leading providers of over-the-counter consumer electronic fire/life-safety devices. The suit charged the manufacturer for deceptively marketing ionization smoke detectors without making it clear they would not sense all fires, only rapidly burning ones.

Now, as most security and fire systems technicians well know, photoelectric and dual-technology smoke detectors are more responsive and reliable. However, the majority of DIY detectors sold today are ionization, which are less expensive but can take as much as 15 minutes longer to sound in the event of a fire. Those 15 minutes, as illustrated in the tragic example above, can mean the difference between life and death.

According to the Capital News 9 report, court documents show the maker of the ionization detector in question has received more than 700 complaints related to the UL-certified devices.

The simple truth is that it is too critical to leave these kinds of security and fire/life-safety equipment decisions up to end users, many of who scarcely know the difference between a PIR motion detector and a Gameboy®, and cannot be expected to read and comprehend all the fine print on the packaging or within the manual.

As I touched on at the outset, this goes beyond fire/life-safety products, as DIY types would be equally ill advised to select and/or install their own intrusion or CCTV systems. A DIY burglar alarm system does not have the benefit of being monitored by a professional central station, and is much more prone to either not being triggered when it should be or routinely false alarming. A DIY video surveillance system is highly unlikely to provide the desired coverage area or image clarity.

For certain applications unrelated to security or fire/life safety, such as deploying a Web cam as a novelty, DIY systems are fine. However, expecting DIY equipment to rival the quality and result of a professionally designed and installed security system is as realistic as believing a Sea Monkeys kit will create the civilization depicted its package. It ain’t gonna happen!

As electronic security professionals, it is part of our collective obligation and duty to do everything we can to educate, advise and serve in the best interest of helping ensure the safety and well being of the general public. All managerial directives, sales and marketing materials, and customer contacts should be conducted with this in mind. Seize every opportunity to teach and demonstrate to laypeople what true security and life/safety is all about.

Together, I believe we can reinforce in the public’s mind the expertise of our people and the necessity of deferring security/life-safety decisions to us. Together, we can make them understand that just because you ace Milton-Bradley’s Operation game does not mean you are capable of performing an appendectomy on your Aunt Ruth. In the name of better security and safety, let’s help save the do-it-yourselfers from themselves.

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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