Category Archives: Deb OMara

Think Outside the ‘Box’

Offer fire alarm system inspections and testing

A properly installed fire alarm system is critical to satisfying the life safety requirements of your customer’s protected premises. The main control and communications must meet or exceed your local code requirements.

But once you are done specifying and installing the solution, are you looking at other possible ways to increase your recurring monthly revenue (RMR) from these systems? Of course you know regular testing and inspection is required of fire alarm systems. And if you aren’t offering testing and inspection services, you’re doing a disservice to your customer — and your cash flow.

Regular testing and inspection is mandated by NFPA 72 standards, which covers fire detection, signaling and emergency communication. Life safety systems have to operate and notify at a moment’s notice when a fire event occurs.

Testing and inspection intervals vary, depending on the applicable standard and the type of system, i.e., fire alarm versus sprinkler. Fire detection systems must be inspected at least annually, and of course the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) can require more frequent testing depending on the type of occupancy that the system is installed in. The state fire alarm code sets the parameters for minimum requirements for testing and inspection, with the AHJ having the final say.

Not only does regular testing and inspection keep your customer’s solution in top running condition and able to immediately send out an alarm, warning or trouble signal, but it increases your revenue stream and keeps you in contact with the customer. There’s a good chance they will ask for peripherals or other devices when you visit them for this regular testing – or perhaps inquire about upgrades to enhance their system solution.

Carefully weigh your costs
Establishing the proper charges for testing and inspection depends on many variables and requires serious thought by the fire alarm systems company. Plan out your testing and inspection fully or you will quickly lose sight of the true costs. Assemble your costs in a spreadsheet, considering:

  • mileage, wear and tear on vehicles
  • cost to take a technician from a new job versus the inspection – if you don’t have a dedicated field representative for testing tasks
  • loaded labor rate (includes not only labor but everything you offer your technicians, including benefits, etc.)
  • time expected for the inspection
  • Additional equipment needed to effectively conduct test and inspect services, such as ladders or even lifts to properly test smoke detectors and sensors

All the little items can add up quickly, so make sure your pricing is accurate and on target.

Good planning will more than pay for itself. RMR for fire alarm testing and inspection can range from as low as $8 per month to the thousands, depending on the customer, the facility and the nature of the installed system. Make sure you have a solid plan to work with your customers regularly to keep their systems up and running.

What do you use to track your RMR? Any suggestions to those not currently planning? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

About the Author
Deborah L. O’Mara is a journalist specializing in the burglar and fire alarm and systems integration industries and the managing director of DLO Communications in Chicago.

 

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