If you have been in the fire protection or security industry for a while, you know that the two go hand in hand. Fire alarm systems and security systems share components, are both required in commercial buildings, and need to be tested and inspected regularly to remain code-compliant and reliable.
While there are disadvantages to integrating the systems, there are also multiple advantages to working with an integrated security company, that can service both types of systems, whether they are connected or not.
Let’s review the pros and cons of integrating systems:
Pro: Integrating Security and Fire Makes Inspections Easier
Combining these two services is a natural choice and security integration companies specialize in this. Though offering security and fire systems inspections and installations under one roof is appealing to customers, it is also appealing to business owners. When a technician performs a test or inspection on the fire alarm system, the security technician has to meet him there to put the security alarm on “test”. This can make inspecting the system difficult, as the security team may not have the same availability as the fire alarms techs.
This is also more convenient for the building owners or management team. It is common for someone managing the buildings being inspected to arrange his or her schedule around the fire system test. She may need to let technicians into certain rooms across the buildings or send a memo to building occupants letting them know about the tests.
By working with a security integration company, technicians do not have to wait on another company to provide access to the system they are not able to control. This means the facilities owners or managers only have to arrange their schedules once and do not have the extra communications headaches that come with multiple security systems or alarm tests.
Pro: Fire and Security Systems That Share Equipment Are Cheaper to Maintain, Rather Than Modify
Not only does the combination of the two services make sense from a convenience perspective, but also from a technical one. Fire and security systems share components. When set up together, they are controlled from the same panels to provide greater ease of use. They also connect to the same electrical sources.
This is especially true in older buildings that were previously set up with a dual, integrated system. If the building was originally constructed with an integrated system, it is much easier to keep things connected and find a company that can service both parts of the dual control panel.
If a building owner wanted to separate the two systems, new wires would have to be pulled. This is a costly process that can end up requiring multiple companies to complete the job. In some cases, it may prove to be too difficult to even be an option.
Con: Integrated Systems Can Cause Confusion
One big negative of integrated fire and security systems is the confusion they cause, especially during an emergency. It can be very difficult for the average user to understand the error codes on the control panel. When improperly programmed, the alarm sounds may sound too familiar or even be the same, causing building occupants to be unsure of whether or not they should evacuate. This can be a serious life safety concern.
It can also be confusing for the technicians working on the system. If the system is integrated and the error codes are unclear, both the fire safety and security company responsible for maintaining either half of the system will have to be present to fix the issue. An improperly trained technician could mess up one system while working on the other if he is not able to distinguish which wires and codes belong to which system.
Con: Connected Fire Alarms May Discourage Use of Security Controls
The confusion of both systems running through the same panel can create discomfort for the customer in more ways than one. Even when the control panel is not running an error code, the facilities manager can be afraid to use the system to access the security functions. The fear of setting off the fire alarms can overpower the desire to set the security system.
This can lead to the security functions being underutilized. As a result, the building can be left unarmed and vulnerable to non-fire-related emergencies. If the systems cannot be disconnected, the building owners or managers should work with a security integration company to understand how to operate one system without triggering the other.
Separate Systems, One Company: The Solution Owners Need
Security integration companies are a great resource for ultimate peace of mind. Whether or not a building has an integrated system, a company that knows both sides of alarms will be able to handle inspections or emergency calls for either one. They will have experience with fire protection systems while also understanding access control and video surveillance. They will be able to make recommendations to improve the life safety and security of the buildings they inspect and will know how to make additions to one system without disrupting the other.
They will also be able to help the building’s managers understand how to read the critical information displayed on the control panel. They can make sure the alarms and messaging on the systems create the right response, encouraging evacuation in the event of a fire while relaying necessary information if the security of the facility is compromised.
Rather than juggling multiple companies and technicians (and the extra cost associated with that challenge), the customer can call one company and know their inspections or system troubleshooting will happen with accuracy and efficiency each time.
Integration is a Great Opportunity for Life Safety Companies
If you are the owner or manager of a fire protection or security systems company, expanding to offer both services is a great way to build a profitable business and serve more customers. By integrating fire or security into your existing offerings, you can position yourselves as the only option for your community’s fire and security needs. This can also be an effective way to show your company’s commitment to growth and always improve your customer service capabilities.
“But, today’s world moves so quickly, I don’t have time to build a whole new division!” This common objection can keep many business owners from letting their company reach its full potential. If you are truly committed to growing your business, there are several ways to add a new division to your business that don’t involve starting from scratch.
Ready to Buy or Sell Your Fire and Security Company?
If you’re ready to expand your service offerings or have alarm or monitoring accounts you’re ready to sell, Rory Russell is here to help guide you through it. A former security company owner himself, Rory has spent decades helping fire and security companies expand through acquisition. He has also led many industry owners ready to exit through the sale of their businesses and onto their well-earned retirements.