While a UL listing is a significant achievement for an alarm monitoring service, simply following the listing guidelines of Underwriters Laboratories can be an expensive, time-consuming process. As an option, UL offers a service that evaluates a company’s operations with recommendations to facilitate the process. Having experienced it, I can say the UL service to assist the process is essential. Their recommendations saved us a considerable amount of time and money in obtaining our listing. Now the question becomes, “Was it worth it?” or “What is it worth?”

Our monitoring service was established in 1989 as a division of our security guard company. With a commitment to offer only monitoring services – and not compete with installation companies – we operated out of a guard station with the simplest of equipment, software, and phone service. We developed a program through an equipment distributor whereby installation companies receive a year’s free monitoring service with equipment purchases. Through this process, many companies have been able to quickly grow and prosper. At the same time, we have grown from that guardhouse operation to a 2,000-sq.-ft. facility with the sophistication and professionalism of any monitoring service.

With the security industry’s migration to more technology-based services, it was evident our monitoring division offered us a more profitable future. Consequently selling the guard service provided capital to us to upgrade the division for UL certification. Underwriters Laboratories was contracted to evaluate our operations and provide recommendations to qualify for a listing. While the evaluation lasted only a few days, the process to qualify for the listing took several months and several thousand dollars.

With the excitement of a newborn’s parents, we began the process of announcing our UL listing to companies who heretofore avoided doing business with us “because we were not UL listed,” only to be disappointed by the response. It became obvious that, to many companies, the listing amounts to little more than a marketing tool. While a significant number of installations are residential, as a general rule, a great many companies do not perform UL-certificated installations and a UL-listed service is not essential.

There is a new day dawning, however, for companies unprepared to upgrade installations to UL and/or NFPA standards. Republican House member Steven LaTourette has proposed legislation to provide tax breaks of $5,000 for homeowners and $50,000 for businesses with electronic security systems. The bill, titled “Secure America’s Homes and Businesses Act” (H.R. 3632), was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means with a proposed effective date of December 31, 2005. It takes into account the quality of systems; indications are, in addition to a system’s size and complexity, that installation standards will become significant in determining maximum tax benefits. In addition, the National Fire Protection Association’s adoption of “NFPA 731 – Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems,” which establishes equipment and installation codes for non-residential alarm systems, adds to the necessity for companies to seriously consider upgrading their installation quality.

In spite of shortcomings the absence of UL-certificated installations may represent to the families and businesses that depend on them, there’s no question that the services of a UL-listed monitoring service provide a greater level of protection, simply because UL standards are designed for consumer safety and welfare.