In 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that there were over 7.91 million cases of property crimes throughout the country. These incidents include commercial and home burglaries, vehicle thefts, arson, and larceny. Additionally, according to the National Fire Protection Association, there were over 1.34 million fires reported in the country in 2017. These fires caused about 3,000 deaths, 14,600 injuries, and over $10 billion in damages.
Thus, security and fire alarm monitoring systems are an essential property feature. Aside from protecting you against property crimes, they are the first line of defense against potential injuries and fatalities and high expenses. The professionals who install these systems should be knowledgeable and familiar with their jurisdiction’s required training, education, licenses, and certifications. The National Electrical Contractors Association stated that 33 states have licensing demands for contractors dealing with low-voltage installations, and that includes security and fire alarm monitoring systems.
Security or fire alarm installers typically handle low-voltage units (0-49 volts) such as electrical alarm systems. The installation, maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting of these systems include:
- Installing correctly graded conduits and cables
- Reading and understanding blueprints and schematics of systems
- Using low-voltage power sources included backups
- Using terminating devices
- Interfacing between low-voltage systems and 110-volt ones
- Using system software programs such as Genetec, Software House, and AMAG
- Low-voltage circuits wiring
- Conducting preventative maintenance and system inspections
- Installing relays and switches
- Establishing control centers
The installation of fire alarm monitoring systems may be more complicated than a basic one. In addition to the tasks mentioned above, this procedure can include:
- Installation of strobes and lighted exit signs with powered backups
- Installing smoke and heat detectors
- Installing fire sprinkler systems
- Installing ventilation units
- Knowing when and how to use fire-protective and fire-retardant materials
Security installers may also be required to include a closed circuit television system (CCTV) in the security setup. This task involves the following activities:
- Installing intrusion systems and card access systems
- Installing audio cables and microphones
- Mounting and installing video cameras and connecting them to the central command unit
- Integrating the security system with a computer or mobile
Education and Training
The education, training, and licensing, and certification requirements vary by state. Consult with your local regulatory agency for the complete requirements in your jurisdiction. Note that in some jurisdictions, certification and licensing are interchangeable terms.
We can’t stress enough that the licensing regulations in this trade are dictated heavily by your area. While states can carry out their professional regulations, the local level – whether it’s a county or city – a separate set of licensing requirements.
In general, you will need to obtain an electrician license, which you can work on by being an acquiring apprenticeship that can last up to six years. While being an apprentice, you can take on an education program which will lead to on-the-job training. After the training period, an exam must be taken to check if you are qualified to be a journeyman. Being a journeyman means you are equipped to complete tasks independently, such as installing security and fire alarm monitoring systems.
Furthermore, there cases where you don’t even need to complete the licensing regulations implemented by the jurisdiction you are under. Somewhere along these margins are two other licensing rules that you may need to comply with – depending in your area:
Specialty certification/license – 22 states offer specialized training programs and education that will train you on everything that has to do with the installation of security and fire alarm systems. These programs may last from a few weeks to a few months. They also include on-the-job training and an exam at the end.
Low voltage license – 19 states give out a low voltage electrician license. You begin at the apprentice level in order to acquire this license. Holders of this type of license can typically earn rather quickly, usually from several months to a couple of years.
Aside from complying with the necessary government requirements, being a professional security and fire alarm specialist requires you to take into account what the field demands. Even when it’s not a legal requirement, some employers may request:
- An educational degree in a related field
- Some version of electrician certification or license even if it’s not under jurisdiction regulations
- Certifications from an independent nationwide certifying association