What Makes for an Effective Security Alarm System?

Find out why UL standards are just as important for everyday security alarm installations.

Over the years I have often been asked by end users, “What is the best burglar alarm system you could install for me?” Early on, as an alarm dealer and being the typical expert I thought I was, I would give them my professional opinion on what I believed made for a good alarm system. Of course, it was my expert opinion against that of my competitors.

Now, being older and wiser, I revisited this question as “What is the best alarm system I could install?” I thought further and asked myself a couple of questions. What are some of the most effective systems I have observed over the years? What choice could I give a customer that would be better than just a professional opinion? What rose to the surface was long-established and proven UL alarm standards. 

For those familiar with UL certificated burglar and fire alarm systems, I am sure your first response to my above comment would be something like “Are you crazy?!” True UL certificated alarm systems would be overkill for the majority of basic commercial and residential security installations, and they represent only a very small percentage of installed systems. These systems are usually specified by government agencies, AHJs (fire alarm systems), high-end projects/contracts and insurance companies. So why even talk about them in the same breath as everyday security alarm installations? Let’s find out.

Increase Your Skillsets and Enhance Coverage

We can all learn from what I call the basic core of UL alarm standards, improved practices and skills that can be applied to achieving better alarm systems. For starters, you can inform your customers and sales prospects that you only install UL-Listed security products and follow UL system installation standards. Note, to do this, you do not have to be a UL certified and UL-Listed installation company. 

How can I improve my installation skills and value with UL standards, you ask? Well, these are found in many of the practices I have covered in Tech Talk over the years. Do your alarm circuits provide supervision with single or double true end of line (EOL) devices? Do I have 24-hour tampers, at least, on commercial system devices? Have I offered the customer the option of alarm contacts on perimeter openings such as windows and doors? UL calls this “partial” protection. Did I offer the option of screened windows or laced stockroom doors along with the contacts? How about vibration/seismic sensors on vault or store room walls? UL would reference this as “complete” protection of an opening. How many sides does a room have, four or six? If you protect four that might be partial protection, where six would be complete or full protection. An example might be the installation of old-fashioned trip wires in drop ceiling overheads of strip mall stores. Does your apartment alarm system have a contact on the attic hatch opening? Practice thinking complete security.

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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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