Question - subcontractor's exposure for fire alarm inspections
    Our company occasionally does subcontracted fire alarm inspections for a national account corporation. We currently use your contracts with our customers. However, we do not have or use contracts with any of the people we do the subcontracted inspections with. 
    The more I have thought about this, the more I think we should really be using the hiring company's fire alarm inspection tags & NFPA 72 forms instead of putting our company's name / tag / logo on each inspection.
    I am unsure as to what our liability would be as a subcontractor in the event of an alarm failure. I am planning on asking them if they can send some of their tags / insp forms to use instead but I wanted to see what your thoughts were on this issue first. 
    As a subcontractor not getting your contract signed by the subscriber you are relying entirely on the contractor hiring you to have a contract with the subscriber.  You need to see it and you need to be sure you are covered by it the same way you'd be covered if your contract was signed. 
If the contractor is using my contract then you as the subcontractor would be covered for your part of the work.
    Without checking I suspect that you are not permitted to use someone else's tags.  You are doing the inspection, you are undoubtedly licensed or certified to do the inspection, and you have to tag it and take responsibility for your inspection.
    A subcontractor is exposed to liability for its negligence.  Additionally, it would not surprise me if the national company hiring you required that you provide indemnification to the national company in the event of a loss and a subscriber claim.  You really can't assess your exposure unless you've read and you understand the contract between the national company and the subscriber.  Insist on seeing it or try and get the national company to indemnify you.  Good luck with that.  
    If you were using [or even had] our Standard Form Subcontracting Agreement you would know what to look for and see the main issues of exposure.
    Fire alarm companies should be using the Commercial Fire All in One contracts.  There is no substitute.  And if you're doing fire suppression work - get the new Fire Suppression All in One.
reply - shoddy work
     Ken Ostrum can consider it whining, but I have a problem with companies that use underhanded tactics to get business.  In the two instances stated, both salesmen neglected to ask if the customer was in the middle of a multi-year contract.  And while I have no problem with a company if they want to give away equipment, at least be honest about it.  They make it sound like they are giving the customer some top of the line security system, when in reality, they are trying to make a silk purse from a sow's ear.  
     Most of the alarm ordinances in municipalities have come about because of the sub-standard work done by many of the ABC "big boys."  As I have said in the past, when you are paying an installer by the job, and he makes the same money whether he is there for 3 hours or 3 days, he will only go for speed and not accuracy or neatness.  We have all seen some of the crap work done by these companies.  I don't consider stapling a wire down an exposed wall to be decent work.  I wouldn't even consider it "sub-standard."  It is just crap work, and it lessens our industry.
     A very tough alarm ordinance was put into effect in a neighboring town, and the two commercial establishments that were the biggest offenders both had alarm systems installed by one of the ABC companies.  Not only did they do sloppy work, but the programming was just a bad.   The one place had a loose fitting rear door.  That wouldn't necessarily be the fault of the alarm company, but when it went into alarm a few hours after the store closed (almost every night, and sometimes several times per night,) it was reported as a hold up alarm.  The police response is drastically different for a burglary, than for a hold up in progress.  
     Call it whining if you want, but anyone installing security systems and not testing their work when they are finished should not be in this industry.  In reality, how much time does it cost a company to do the right job?  Especially when you weigh that against having to go back to the site a number of times to correct what should have been done right in the first place.  And I wasn't complaining about being undercut by another company.  Compare apples to apples all I ask,  Back in the 1980's, we all made more money on jobs because they were so much more labor intensive.  Jobs back then that would have taken three installers 2-3 days, can now be done by one man in less than a day.  So you make less per job, but that frees you up to do other installs.  It all works out.
John from NJ

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