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Anyone Here Start Their Own Security/Burglar Alarm Company?

ccmichaelson

Active Member
I had such a great time running 25,000 linear feet of CAT6, burglar alarm wire, RG6, etc. in my new home and after installing my own home automation and security gear (50+ motion sensors, water leak detectors, dozens of window/door contacts, etc.) I thought - it would be a blast to start my own home automation & security installation company.
 
My state doesn't require a license to install low voltage wires.  However, I just found out that in order to install burglar alarm systems in residential or commercial buildings, you have to setup a formal burglar alarm company which requires a ton of experience and certifications... specifically the individual has to have 6,000+ hours working as a installer as an employee of a formal burglar alarm company - say what?
 
Here's the policy section:
In accordance with Subsections 58-1-203(1) and 58-1-301(3) the experience requirements for an alarm company applicant's qualifying agent in Subsection 58-55-302(3)(k)(i) are established as follows:
(1) An applicant shall have within the past ten years:
(a) not less than 6,000 hours of experience in a lawfully operated alarm company business of which not less than 2,000 hours shall have been in a managerial, supervisory, or administrative position; or
(b) not less than 6,000 hours of experience in a lawfully operated alarm company business combined with not less than 2,000 hours of managerial, supervisory, or administrative experience in a lawfully operated construction company.
(2) All experience under Subsection (1) shall be as an employee or in accordance with 26 U.S.C. Section 3508 as a direct seller, and under the immediate supervision of the applicant's employer;
(3) All experience must be obtained while lawfully engaged as an alarm company agent and working for a lawfully operated burglar alarm company.
(4) A total of 2,000 hours of work experience constitutes one year (12 months) of work experience.
(5) An applicant may claim no more than 2,000 hours of work experience in any 12 month period.
(6) No credit shall be given for experience obtained illegally.
 
Anyone here install burglar alarm systems (e.g. Elk M1) without all the red tape/licensing/etc.?
 
 

ccmichaelson

Active Member
State is Utah
 
Here's the response I received from the state licensing department <below>...  Where it gets confusing is that I don't "belong" to a burglar alarm company...
 
If you are dealing with  "Sensitive alarm system information", as defined in Subsection 58-55-102(39), which includes any information that would permit a person to compromise, bypass, deactivate, or disable any part of an alarm system. Sensitive alarm system information does not include knowledge of what is installed in the home nor the location, by general description, of the equipment installed unless the knowledge would permit a person to compromise, bypass, deactivate, or disable any part of an alarm system.  You would need to be licensed.  
 
58-55-102.  Definitions. 
     In addition to the definitions in Section 58-1-102, as used in this chapter:

(1)



(a)

"Alarm business or company" means a person engaged in the sale, installation, maintenance, alteration, repair, replacement, servicing, or monitoring of an alarm system, except as provided in Subsection (1)(b).


(b)

"Alarm business or company" does not include:

(i)

a person engaged in the manufacture or sale of alarm systems unless:

(A)

that person is also engaged in the installation, maintenance, alteration, repair, replacement, servicing, or monitoring of alarm systems;


(B)

the manufacture or sale occurs at a location other than a place of business established by the person engaged in the manufacture or sale; or


(C)

the manufacture or sale involves site visits at the place or intended place of installation of an alarm system; or



(ii)

an owner of an alarm system, or an employee of the owner of an alarm system who is engaged in installation, maintenance, alteration, repair, replacement, servicing, or monitoring of the alarm system owned by that owner.
 

dementeddigital

Active Member
If you're really serious about launching something, have a chat with a lawyer about the statutes.  There are always nuances to these things.
 
I'd be tempted to start dementeddigital's alarms LLC, and just sit on it for 3 years as the managing member, and then claim the 6000 hours of experience!  Of course it would need to agree with Utah's definition of "alarm company business."  Maybe sell some PIRs on eBay or something.  ;-)
 
I understand that the statutes are there to protect the consumer, but they sure do seem to prohibit someone with a genuine interest and real passion to open what could be a very successful business. 
 
I hope that you find that you are able to do it - and you make a million bucks and have some fun in the process!
 
Coming from a very regulated area of the country and tight licensing requirements, 6K hours isn't unheard of. My state, for a lesser license is 4K hours OTJ and 2K hours class time (or more years of "equivalent" training) and that's just for a journeyman's license....contractor is 2 more years after holding a journeyman's license, with another 2 exams.
 
The statutes are pretty cut and dry here for the OP. No grey areas with the exception of being involved with a security company prior to being able to be considered for a license. Basically, while you can run the cabling, the legal end is you can't terminate or install the system as a whole. Basically, you can get into the business but you're going to need to apprentice or subcontract the security until you have the hours under your belt.
 
The laws are designed to keep trunk slammers out there and honestly, unfortunately, the upstarts are going to get lumped into as well (well, those light on experience).
 

ccmichaelson

Active Member
I'm still working (via email) with the licensing division because I've found conflicting policies on their website.  They made it very clear that if you install alarm systems that you have to be licensed, which means I have taken and passed 1 of 3 exams - the most obvious in my mind would be the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association Level 1 Certification - which I'm total okay doing.
 
Where the policy isn't clear is if the installer has to belong to a burglar alarm company (and thus requires all the hours of experience).  
 
In my mind, a burglar alarm company is ADT, Vivint, etc. not a sole proprietor just pulling wires and installing alarm panels.  I guess I could just pull low voltage wires and stick with home automation for now then move into security later...  Or give it up all together and write software like I've been doing for the past 20 years  :D
 
ccmichaelson said:
I'm still working (via email) with the licensing division because I've found conflicting policies on their website.  They made it very clear that if you install alarm systems that you have to be licensed, which means I have taken and passed 1 of 3 exams - the most obvious in my mind would be the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association Level 1 Certification - which I'm total okay doing.
 
Where the policy isn't clear is if the installer has to belong to a burglar alarm company (and thus requires all the hours of experience).  
 
In my mind, a burglar alarm company is ADT, Vivint, etc. not a sole proprietor just pulling wires and installing alarm panels.  I guess I could just pull low voltage wires and stick with home automation for now then move into security later...  Or give it up all together and write software like I've been doing for the past 20 years  :D
Legally, if you're installing a panel or connecting devices, you are a burglar alarm company. The only difference is the volume of installs vs. the big players.
 
It's cut and dry. You're going to be installing, the statute 58-55-102; you're going to meet all 3 requirements that mandate a license. Basically, there's no way around it......you're going to be performing all the actions that mandate a license
 
(A. is obvious. B. Sale will generally be the customer's site. C. unless people bring their houses to them; This particular clause also requires any in-house technicians/employees that may work on a system installed "by others" for their employer are required to be licensed. This is sometimes viewed as a loophole- "I don't need to hire an electrician because my maintenance guy changes light switches for me" The clause mandates that similarly, say I task my employee to replace a defective system board or door contact on a system at my business.....the employee is supposed to be licensed to perform the work)
 
The other section "In accordance with Subsections 58-1-203(1) and 58-1-301(3) the experience requirements for an alarm company applicant's qualifying agent in Subsection 58-55-302(3)(k)(i) are established as follows:" only mandates the requirements to become an applicant as an alarm company.
 
Hate to say it, but as an EC and in the business, there's no grey area. Your state is going to require a license for you to perform any security install. Not doing such is going to expose you legally.
 
I just read the long form statutes and what's spelled out. There's really no conflicting policies on your state's website.
 
You are going to need a license and the company is going to need a license (you're going to be the company and agent, both are mutually exclusive items). The "agent" would cover a journeyman who is employed by another company that holds the company license (IE: ADT) and the agent would NOT be able to perform work for themselves as an agent.
 
The company that is your state's examining board also administers my state and neighboring, just with some slightly different allowable references.
 
Send me a PM if you need to discuss.
 

ccmichaelson

Active Member
Thanks Dell for the insight.  Do I need to be licensed in that I need to go through the National Burglar Alarm training or do I need that training + all the other stuff/hours related to an alarm company?  If it's the later, I have no idea how that would be feasible unless I quit my real job and installed alarm systems for peanuts for one of the big guys.
 
It's crazy that a low voltage contractor doesn't need a license or any certification yet the work is very similar as installing alarm panels...  You have a central server/panel and end nodes (PC vs motion sensor, WiFi AP vs door contact, etc.).  I believe networking and home automation is much more difficult than hooking up security stuff.
 
Wouldn't it be possible to have say Elk Products be the "burglar alarm company" that way I could get my certification/license as an installer and I "work" for Elk Products?
 
It's not crazy at all. The stakes for messing up a home automation install are low. For burglary/fire it quite literally could be the difference between life and death.
 

ccmichaelson

Active Member
Completely understand your POV <emrosenberg>...  my point was regarding the complexity of home automation/networks vs. alarm components.
 
ccmichaelson said:
Thanks Dell for the insight.  Do I need to be licensed in that I need to go through the National Burglar Alarm training or do I need that training + all the other stuff/hours related to an alarm company?  If it's the later, I have no idea how that would be feasible unless I quit my real job and installed alarm systems for peanuts for one of the big guys.
 
It's crazy that a low voltage contractor doesn't need a license or any certification yet the work is very similar as installing alarm panels...  You have a central server/panel and end nodes (PC vs motion sensor, WiFi AP vs door contact, etc.).  I believe networking and home automation is much more difficult than hooking up security stuff.
 
Wouldn't it be possible to have say Elk Products be the "burglar alarm company" that way I could get my certification/license as an installer and I "work" for Elk Products?
The LV contractor has other issues to consider (reading your state statutes) and must comply with the NEC. Given the nature of the industry and what's on the market and in the future, the statement in the statutes below worries me:
"The following activities are determined to not significantly impact the public health, safety and welfare and therefore do not require a contractors license". Where's their mention of firestopping and what could be deemed as classified spaces? Do you want Joe Blow off the street installing whatever in say, a healthcare situation?
 
Put it this way: You need to have the experience in the industry first before you're able to do it on your own. That's what your state is requiring. You need your "agent" license first (journeyperson) before you can get your "company" license (contractor). That means you'll need to apprentice or be employed by a company for the requisite time before you can get the first license, followed by the requisite time to get your company license.
 
The statement "the stakes are different" is the key here. The installation of a server, WAP, or what have you won't hurt or kill someone. A fire alarm, CO or burglar alarm (or duress system) installed improperly will. The elementary connections to a fire alarm monitoring module or security device (say a DEOL 2 wire circuit on an access panel) is elementary. No different than connecting a RCA plug to an amplifier and then connecting 70V speakers downstream and turning them on by some method.....this is an elementary parallel between fire alarm and HA. I need to turn on the message, speaker circuits, amplifiers and play the proper message during an evacuation. Now I need to turn on the floor of alarm, floor above, 3 floors below but only on certain criteria, then prioritize voice paging for the FD to be able to override the automatic evac message, then be able to selectively page certain floors, then have fire phones be able to call in to a centralized location, etc. Setting up a fire alarm or more complex security system is sometimes more difficult than getting a HA controller up and running. What happens if that doesn't work properly or seamlessly vs. say, my HA controller, my home theater server or remote control head end? Is there a difference between a commercial system vs. a home system? That can be argued and honestly, you can't make the differentiation in the real world. I've installed residential systems that were MORE complex than some of the basic commercial systems.
 
As I put it to some of my IT based counterparts on some of these sites, when I'm installing a $40-80K UL listed fire workstation/server.....what's different in it than what I can pick up from computer supply? Probably not much, but the assembly and even Windows configuration settings have been thoroughly tested and documented, so that the installed hardware and software, will not have issues and will work as close to perfect as possible........think about if IT controlled the machine, after all, it is just a Windows box. Lets put a firewall and virus software on it, then make GP settings and the like to the machine as we want to put it on our company domain, and let's give it AD rights so EVERYONE can login and we can track who's on the machine, it IS a Windows machine and security risk for US in IT! Now, lets say there's a massive upgrage to the AV/firewall that causes, say my COM port or ports on the TCP/IP to close (which are used for embedded hardware and specific signals in the field). Then the machine requires a reboot, which also requires the latest Windows updates to pass through, again, tying up the machine for, say 5 minutes while they install and the machine boots again......and now I have GP on the machine, which also changes some registry settings and values....maybe change a few permissions.....after all it IS just a computer. What happens when the fire system monitoring software doesn't act properly and the proper notifications don't happen? How about when the data that needs to go out via the network doesn't hit the BACNET controller, which controls the HVAC shutdown and smoke purge, stairwell pressurization to not happen, then the BACNET doesn't hit the BAS which then shuts down other site processes......aren't these just servers, nodes and endpoints also? 
 
I know it's a dramatic example, but I've essentially had ALL of the situations I threw out there occur in the wild and have had these arguments. What's different in my server that's monitoring and supervising 50 FACP's and some adjacent properties via TCP? After all, it's just a Windows box with some graphics and maybe a proprietary communications card (maybe Eschelon or token ring based). It's the same reason why I literally can't go out and buy a generic keyboard, mouse and monitor for the machine (or use a KVM) as it was not tested as a assembly and UL can't guarantee that it works as intended ALWAYS. (I've experienced KVM's that get slightly funky). After all, isn't the FACP just a panel and my server an endpoint, with some nodes attached or other devices added in the field?
 
Remember: HA, IT, and the related fields you're citing are performance based. Security and life safety (and electrical) are prescriptive and governed.
 
I'd read this article: http://www.securitysales.com/article/alarm-company-s-carelessness-costs-customer-her-life
This article is fact. Cost the installation company in the realm of 9 digits if rumors are correct in the industry.
 

pete_c

Guru
"The following activities are determined to not significantly impact the public health, safety and welfare and therefore do not require a contractors license".
 
As Del mentions this is a scary statement and opens the door for a bunch of stuff (pandora's box).
 
Here have noticed many / most small offices these days say under 50 employees look to LV wiring stuff mostly relating to price and never consider life and safety issues probably because they do not know. 
 
Then you have ISP providers (subcontractors) now doing this stuff and before it was companies like BB doing it.
 
Personally come from doing this in the commercial world which was totally different.  IE: banks, airports, public sector stuff.
 
That said also noticed recently that public sector stuff has been neglected much in the last few years.  Very high priced no bid contracts configured by default and really piss poor service just because it was easy and contracts are assumed.
 
@ Pete....I read the quoted statement two ways. The first is as you do, the second is that it leaves the door open to being a licensed contractor field. It's common knowledge that code, statutes and adopted standards are always behind the curve, sometimes by quite a bit (hell, we were on NFPA 72 2002 up until recent times...over a decade).
 
The scary part is the people that would unknowingly install the cabling in whatever manner they deemed fit. Remember, the NEC doesn't prescribe a good or just installation, only a minimum standard that is acceptable from a workmanship standard. Basically, I can take tie wire, run as many pieces of Cat X, coax or whatever through it, penetrate fire walls and smoke barriers without a sleeve (not mandated in code) and call it a day and the basic facts would be that per the local code and enforcement, that's acceptable. While it's great on paper for freedom purposes, the sheer fact the state does not require any training, certification, licensure or even basic checks and balances.....that means I can be on the corner selling hot dogs one week, watch a youtube video after work and then go to a supply house and buy 50 boxes of cable, some hooks, jacks and patch panel and now I'm a LV contractor. Reminds me of one company around here that was connecting both sides of a shielded cable to ground (access control) and couldn't figure out their system gremlins.
 
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