Growing as an Alarm Technician
By: Jon Polly | Nov 04, 2020
From entry level to consummate professional, how does someone become an alarm technician? As many of us have found, the good alarm technician (both fire and intrusion) is a highly sought after asset that can make the difference for a company and their clients. For the technician entering the field, there are some up-front decisions that need to be made.
Alarm Installer or Alarm Technician?
First, a question; what is the difference between an alarm installer and an alarm technician?
The alarm installer sees a problem, takes the defective product down, and puts a new product up, without finding out why the defective product became defective. They take that defective product down and replace it with a non-defective item until the problem is solved or they run out of non-defective products.
The alarm technician finds the defective product and before installing a new product, problem-solves the defective product. They fix the issue, and then they install the new product.
The following steps are a process to becoming an alarm technician for a company in the security or fire alarm industry.
In most cases, the alarm technician is looking for a job; rarely does another company poach them.
- What kind of company to work for? Large integrator or small alarm dealer, both have advantages and disadvantages.
- What type of work; residential, commercial / industrial, healthcare; security and / or fire alarm?
- Do you have the following:
- The ability to pass a criminal background check?
- A mostly clean DMV driving record?
- The ability to pass a drug screening?
- Know the state you are being hired in and check state specific requirements. The employer should be providing this information as well.
- Show Initiative and self-motoviation.
There are some alarm technicians that refuse to do any residential work, want to work for a smaller company, or a company that specializes in both security and fire alarm. Others want to work for a larger company because there are more overtime opportunities and opportunities for specialization.
As an alarm technician, most of the learning is done on the job. Many times you are scrolling installation manuals on your phone or sitting on a bucket drawing out relay or resistance configurations to make sure the alarm panel communicates properly. There are times that the alarm technician needs to grow their craft and own their growth. First, there is education, and then there is training. Training would be defined as a specific product manufacturer offering a course on their product. Education is an overall term for specific knowledge based on the trade for the betterment of the technician.
All alarm technicians should know their state specific training requirements. If they operate in multiple states, each state is different and may have different requirements. Just because an employer does or does not provide information does not absolve the technician of knowing what the requirements are in the states they work in. The company may receive a fine, but it is the technician that will be held responsible by investigators if they haven’t met the requirements.
Here are some basic education classes that all alarm technicians should have. Some employers may provide these, but if not, the alarm technician should take it upon themselves to educate for growth.
- Certified Alarm Technician Level 1 (This is a required class for many states to receive an alarm license)
- Provides Basic information for installation and troubleshooting of intrusion and fire alarm, as well as video surveillance and access control.
- OSHA 10 / 30
- Many industrial / critical infrastructure clients require some sort of OSHA training. The 10 Hour course (OSHA 10) is introductory, while the 30 Hour course (OSHA 30) is required for supervisors. The courses do not expire, and by taking them you are aware of any unsafe actions be performed on any jobsite. These courses can be completed online with National Environmental Trainers.
- National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies – NICET 1
- NICET 1 is for the entry level fire alarm technician who has at least six (6) months in the industry.
- Continuing Education (JADE Learning)
- Each renewal cycle, the alarm board in many states requires a specific amount of continuing education to be completed by the alarm technician (registrant). Most of it is online and can be completed at the technician’s leisure. Each state the employee works in may require its own continuing education.