Time to Get Fired Up About Your Business

Fire/life-safety work scare you a bit? It’s OK, you’re not alone. Go ahead and admit it, you’re among friends now and no one is going to think any less of you because of it. Feeling all comfy, cozy, warm and fuzzy and secure now? WELL WAKE UP AND GET WITH THE PROGRAM!

The fire/life-safety market has never been a more viable option for electronic security professionals seeking to maintain a steady stream of business during these dire economic times. Sure, there are more codes, standards and regulations to deal with, along with perhaps increased liability exposure and having to deal with persnickety authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs). In addition, it may mean additional training and certification for some of your technicians/installers or bringing some new blood or electricians on staff, as well as educating your salespeople about how to sell these types of systems and solutions. Well, boo-hoo for you! Pal, the upside far outweighs the down.

One veteran installing company CEO from the Northeast I recently spoke with confided in me that his fire business has saved his company’s butt during the present economic crisis. In fact, he says the recent abolishment of grandfather clauses regarding fire/life-safety systems in his state have created a new niche that his business seems best positioned to fulfill. Now his greatest challenge is keeping up with that business. Be careful what you wish for, right?

Still not sold? Then consider this data: Although SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION‘s 2008 Installation Business Report (IBR) found that the average number of fire installation per dealer fell off by 11 percent that was still a less precipitous drop than many other segments of the industry. And the market has been the steadiest of those tracked by this study the past six years. Each year during that time span, excluding the 96 figure in 2008, the average number of annual installations has fallen into the 108-132 range. But the best part is at a time when most markets are at best seeing minute increases in the prices of new systems, the commercial fire/life-safety sector experienced an upswing of $2,700 in 2008 with an average project figure of $18,206. Furthermore, the latest research from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) indicates that property loss, civilian injuries and civilian deaths are all on the rise, the former by a whopping 30 percent to almost $15 billion in losses. For more on all of this latest SSI and NFPA research, check out our brand new Gold Book edition, which mails with our December issue or can be purchased through our online store.

Part of the reason civilian deaths have been on the rise has been due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, which has been receiving increasingly more attention in recent years. Stories like the one this week about a family being killed in their sleep when the invisible, odorless gas leaked out of a faulty pipe in the heating and snow melt system of their Aspen, Colo., home are becoming all too commonplace. As a consequence, more and more states are beginning to mandate CO detectors in all built structures and the 2009 version of NFPA 720 standardizes, as opposed to recommends, the devices.

Talk about a golden opportunity! We can help save lives and turn a tidy profit selling, installing, maintaining and monitoring CO detectors. Such equipment and services can be sold to new AND existing customers alike, and can be used as an add-on, standalone or point of entry to open up opportunities to pitch additional products and services.

In the December issue of SSI, one of my picks for our annual Top 30 Technology Innovations was System Sensor’s CO1224T CO detector featuring RealTest™, the first test of its kind for a detector’s CO sensing cell. It reassures customers that in addition to the electronic components the actual sensing cell is ready and able to detect CO. A tiny spray of canned CO into the gas entry holes at the top of the detector determines if the sensing cell is doing its job. During my recent chat with System Sensor’s David George, he explained that although NFPA will ramp up its CO detection requirements during the next few years, the CO1224T is already ahead of that game. It presently meets the sensitivity and testing requirements set to respectively become effective in 2012 and 2015.

System Sensor’s CO1224T CO detector

What really excites me about the fire/life-safety side of our industry is that it truly involves installing and monitoring companies in the process of providing solutions and response BEFORE really bad things happen. Detection is great and central to fire/life-safety as well, but contributing to the prevention of death or injury and minimizing property damage/loss is pretty darn gratifying. It’s also nice to be able to be a crucial cog in the response process, aiding firefighters as much as possible to not only help the public but reduce their own risk when putting their lives on the line.

So what are you waiting for? Catch up on Al Colombo’s Fire Side Chat columns in SSI and online, get copies of and bone up on NFPA’s codebooks, get your people trained, align yourself with some of the industry’s leading fire/life-safety equipment suppliers, prospect via services like LeadTracker, and make nice-nice with your local AHJs. Then hopefully the hottest thing in your neck of the woods will be your fire/life-safety business.

As always, thanks for reading.

Scott Goldfine



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