Home Security 101: Alarm Company Licenses & Subscriber Permits

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One way you can tell the reputable alarm companies from the scam artists is by how much time and effort these service providers put into an important issue known as compliance – and that means following the letter of the law, where such laws exist.

Today we’ll tackle some important “nuts and bolts” issues of alarm industry compliance: what it means for your alarm company to be properly licensed, and what it means for you to have an alarm permit with your local jurisdiction.

Most States Have Alarm Company Licensing

Alarm companies have to deal with licensing in almost every state in the US: that’s just a fact. The intent of these licensing requirements is to protect you from unqualified and unscrupulous operators.

Think of compliance as another way to help you tell the good guys from the bad guys. Requirements for company licensing may include fingerprinting, background checks, documented experience in the industry (and a clean complaint record!), and even technical proficiency exams. Some of these exams are pretty hard – I know, because I’m the one who takes them for FrontPoint. 

Avoid Fines, and Make Sure Police Respond

There is no federal alarm license that works across the US – that would be too logical! Alarm company licensing varies by state, by county, and even by city or town – and it’s a serious issue, with big fines and even possible jail time for companies who are break the law. Worst of all for you the subscriber: working with an unlicensed alarm company or having a non-registered alarm system could mean that the police or fire department won’t respond to an alarm at your home. Plus, you could be fined as well. That’s why asking about licensing is so important.

State and Local Alarm Company Licensing

For the handful of truly nationwide providers, keeping up with alarm licensing is a big deal. And, the licensing requirements don’t stop at the state level.

Maryland is a great example: there is a statewide company alarm license, and most of Maryland’s counties require an additional license for the county. A few Maryland cities even have their own licensing requirement for alarm companies.

Alarm Subscriber Permits (That’s You!)

Then there are the subscriber alarm permits. Sticking with the Maryland example for a minute, most Maryland counties also require the end-user to obtain an alarm permit, and there are normally false alarm fines levied on repeat offenders. It’s a good idea to read up on these issues, so you know what applies in your jurisdiction.

Of course, the best alarm companies have done all the permit and false alarm fine research already, and are prepared to tell you everything you need to know. Here’s a link to story about one local jurisdictionSanta Fe, New Mexico – and how they are responding to the increase in false alarms.

How Compliance Fits Together

Yes, compliance can get a little complicated – but that’s why it’s so important. Let’s look at how one licensing requirement can lead to another:

  • In some jurisdictions, the police won’t go when called by the monitoring center unless there is a subscriber permit number on file – and you (the subscriber) may be fined.
  • You cannot get an end-user alarm permit unless your alarm company holds a local alarm license.
  • Your alarm company cannot get a local alarm license unless it holds a state license first. 

You can see how it all cascades from the state to the locality to the end-user. And this also gives you some idea why many alarm companies are not great about following all the rules: it’s a lot of work to get it right.

What Can You Do?

  1. Any time you are talking to an alarm company, ask them about their licensing status – both state and local. In many states, any alarm employee coming to your home or business is required to carry an ID card issued by the state or company, often with a photo.
  2. You can also go online in many states and check on the status of a company, through the state’s consumer protection or professional licensing division.
  3. If there is any question about the need for an end-user permit for your system, check with your local police department. There is often a False Alarm Reduction Unit (FARU) that handles these permits.
  4. While you are at it, make sure you have all the information on false alarm fines. Many jurisdictions have an escalating fine structure for repeat offenders – and you want to avoid those. One more reason to pick a good alarm company! 

That’s the short course on alarm company compliance. There’s no exam for you to take now that we’re done – we take care of all the test taking! But we’re sharing this information so that you’ll be that much smarter when you pick up the phone or go online to shop for home security.

Alarm company compliance is just one more way to compare providers and offers with confidence. And if that means more peace of mind for you as you protect your home and family, then that’s good enough for us. See you next Monday!

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