Do You Fit the ‘Alarm Scientist’ Profile?

Why all installers and techs should read “The Alarm Science Manual.”

In your career in the alarm industry you may have been identified by many titles such as technician, contractor, agent, dealer, integrator, etc. But have you ever been called a scientist?

One dictionary defines science as “The investigation of natural phenomena through observation, experimentation, and theoretical explanation. Science makes use of the scientific method, which includes the careful observation of natural phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis, the conducting of one or more experiments to test the hypothesis, and the drawing of a conclusion that confirms or modifies the hypothesis.” Further, a scientist is defined as “a person who studies or practices any of the sciences or who uses scientific methods.” Now before you label me as having gone off the deep end, you may find more truth to this classification of scientist than meets the eye. Let’s investigate further.

Textbook Case of Alarm Science Gone Wrong

Tool Tip

The Alarm Science Manual is used by the New York City Police Depart-ment in its training curriculum, according to author Jeff Zwirn.

Valuable trade tools come in many shapes. This month it’s a trade book, The Alarm Science Manual by Jeff Zwirn. The book can be enjoyed by both technical and nontechnical readers, who can glean many valuable takeaways. The many examples of installation, service and operations wrongdoings are supported by stories of legal cases in which Zwirn served as a security industry expert witness.

I had to chance to review a new and fascinating book called The Alarm Science Manual. The author is Jeffrey D. Zwirn, CPP, CFPS, CFE, DABFET, CHS-IH, SAET, CCI, and president of Zwirn Corp. – you may also know the name from his monthly Security Science quiz and forensic tips in SSI (see page 80). Zwirn has been involved in the security industry for more than 30 years, achieved numerous credentials, and is highly respected for his industry and technology knowledge.

In discussing his book, which delves into its share of alarm-related catastrophes, Zwirn noted, “Clearly, there is no right way to do [alarm contracting] wrong. Unfortunately, about 80% of what I investigate contains defects and irregularities, which puts a black eye on the industry, and those of us who know how to professionally perform alarm contracting.”

One of the areas for which I know Zwirn best is his experience as an expert witness in many landmark security industry-related court cases. Culling from his years of wide-ranging experience and knowledge of the alarm industry make Zwirn’s book a must read for alarm company owners, executives and sales/technical/operations staff. This book should quickly earn a favorite and well-worn spot on any security professional’s reference library shelf.

Being a fellow alarm science evangelist – or alarm scientist, perhaps – I felt that this month was a good opportunity tore-view and emphasize some of key points from The Alarm Science Manual. As you all know, we live and work in a very litigious society; working in the security industry and providing daily life-safety services underscores the extra concern for risks of li-ability and litigation. I would encourage management who read this book to share the many rich, true-life stories Zwirn reveals with all their employees, especially technical and sales staff. The big question is, will you become an alarm science evangelist?

Arm Sales Staff With Examples of Good Work

Zwirn starts out by offering a specific definition to alarm science, as he describes, “Reliable methodologies of how alarm systems are properly designed, applied, installed, programmed, serviced, maintained, tested, inspected, and monitored utilizing a scientific and technical level of performance-based standards and countermeasures.” I’ve talked plenty before about the seriousness of bad installations. It’s always a challenge of any service business to perform the best work possible and still stay competitive.

It can be an easy sales argument that life-safety systems should be as accurate and reliable as possible. Every sales-person should carry pictures of the solid work their staff does versus some of the work of other companies. If you are looking for some good examples of poor workmanship, Zwirn’s book is filled with them and in vivid color. How much time do you as a manager and owner take to emphasize proper training, methodology, and supervision of staff?

The Alarm Science Manual also includes 25 principles of alarm science, identifying serious defects and irregularities in alarm systems. In the online version of Tech Talk (go to topic/category/blogs) I will highlight and comment on a few of my favorites.

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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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