The First Word, the employee newsletter of First Alarm, Aptos, Calif., features an inspired selection of diverse subjects to keep employees informed and included.


First Alarm, one of SDM’s 2006 Dealer of the Year Honorees, is structured to attract and motivate top people.

First Alarm is an institution in northern California. This traditional electronic security business, with its guard and patrol subsidiary, chosen as one of SDM's 2006 Dealer of the Year Honorees, has attracted 550 full-time security professionals through its clever programs and perks, as well as its distinct career path opportunities.

Based in Aptos, Calif., First Alarm’s mission is “to enhance life and safety utilizing the finest integrated security solutions, while providing a genuine opportunity for personal growth and career advancement for our employees,” states Dave Hood, vice president and general manager of the alarm division.

First Alarm Security Services comprises First Alarm – the security installation and monitoring business, and First Alarm Patrol – the guard services business. The company was founded in 1966 and is still privately owned today by Jarl E. Saal. The guard and patrol business generates approximately 50 percent of total revenue, estimated to be $26.4 million this year. The company is ranked No. 34 on the 2006 SDM 100.

One of the employee programs unique to First Alarm is “Fit Force,” an optional, free health program for any current employee. The program’s goal is to encourage healthy fitness and nutrition habits, while enjoying a friendly, team-based competition. Teammates compete for the grand prize package, which includes a paid wellness day off from work.

In the area of financial compensation, First Alarm plans to reward employees who are instrumental in driving its success by establishing an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in 2007. “Our employees have a stake in the outcome of our business activities,” Hood says. “We believe this gives them a greater sense of ownership in what they do, and the customer sees the difference.”

First Alarm has been highly successful with its employee newsletter, The First Word. The newsletter is a monthly snapshot of the First Alarm family with a wide variety of subject matter to keep employees informed and included.

Providing the tools and incentives for the First Alarm team to offer superior customer service is the objective. The company has a 5.1 percent net attrition rate, and has initiated a new program to reach out to cancelled subscribers. “We operate under a philosophy which requires that we treat all customers as though they have a ‘day-to-day’ contract with us,” Hood explains. “We want our customers to pay us because they feel the service is worth it, not because of some fine print.”

Sidebar: At a Glance

SDM Dealer of the Year Honoree: First Alarm Security Services, Aptos, Calif.
Number of Employees: 575
Revenue: $25.9 million in 2005, 6 percent increase over 2004
Recurring Revenue: $720,000 (estimated, Dec. 31, 2006)
Customers: 10,690 residential and non-residential