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Comment on licensing for Fire Protection and Fire Alarm and Burg Alarm
July 26 2023
Comment on licensing for Fire Protection and Fire Alarm and Burg Alarm  
         As you know I was in the alarm and fire suppression business many years before licensing for either one in NYC.  I am the licensee for my company and hold two licenses, NYC Fire Suppression and New York State Alarm. 
          The NYC Fire Suppression license: 
          The NYC Fire Suppression License required taking a test and documenting seven years full time experience, they deducted for holidays, sick and vacation time so in general you really need to document over 8 years.  NYC Department of Investigations was involved with the background part of the documentation, they are no joke; they scrutinized everything.  Since it was a new license at the time and I did not know that the seven years would need to be so carefully documented it required a lot of "going back and finding proof" like yellow page ad's (remember the  yellow pages), contracts, business and banking records, etc. 
          New York State Alarm License:
          Around the same time NYS began licensing alarm companies, which did NOT require anything but showing you took a three weekend class and passed an easy test.  They say two years’ experience, however, a few years ago I met with someone who was interested in buying my business and keeping me on for two years until he got his own license, before negations were done he had his license and didn't need me;  no background investigation, getting the license is a joke.
          As far as being unlicensed:
          As for trunk slammers and unlicensed companies here in NYS, I started out on my bicycle before I had a driver’s license and no trunk to slam.  At 15 or 16 I received training in how to protect a building by a professional burglar; for real.  He was on a work release program and his boss would have him pick me up on days off from school to show me things about sprinkler systems, how to inspect and service, which is what he did.  We would go from building to building and while showing me aspects of the sprinkler systems he would show me how to by-pass various alarms systems.  "Jeff, this is what ADT does, here is how to by-pass it, this is what Holmes does, here is how to by-pass it, this is what you need to do so it can't be by-passed, etc."  It was a real learning experience.  We did a job, every opening was protected and backup traps or sensors installed, all wiring concealed or protected where possible, two bells or sirens, one on each side of the house or building, and once digital monitor came about we pushed that as well.
          I know many people that have licenses and do not provide true security or fire safety but are acknowledged as professionals and the license legitimizes them, while I know people that are unlicensed and do a much better job and provide much better protection.  
          My ex brother in law called me once, said they had ADT and another alarm company give them estimates for a home alarm and asked what I thought was better;  they had opposite thoughts on protecting the house.  My first answer was, Chris, do you know what I do for a living?  After we got past that I said, you need to combine both, every perimeter window and door must be fully protected and then backup motion detection for the primary areas that someone will go to like the living room, bed rooms, family room, etc.  Yet, both companies were going to provide partial protection allowing an intruder into the house while the motion was off and jeopardized their lives; both companies are licensed but giving a false sense of security while an unlicensed company may be doing the right job.  
          I did an investigation for an attorney who was suing ADT. Their sales person sold a residential job, combination burg and fire, two story house with full basement, only one smoke detector on the first floor in the front with an open staircase to the second floor.  Fire was on the second floor, alarm never alerted the occupants and they almost died.  Protection by a well know company that touts how great they are and licensed salesman sold an almost useless job; installer did as told.  
          Want me to keep going on?  To me, the NYS License is a joke.  
          States go to various lengths to ensure licensed alarm professionals are proficient and qualified to install alarm systems, life safety to different degrees.  In New York there is an educational requirement and tests to be taken and passed; that’s weeds out some applicants.  Once the tests are passed the applicant submits his fingerprints so the NY Department of State, Licensing Division, can check for criminal record.  A felony precludes granting the license and so does other lesser convictions for particular type crimes.  The process is perhaps not as rigorous as it could be [or should be] but even more rigorous training, testing and background checks, for doctors, lawyers and masters of the universe, for example, are not foolproof, as we see too many of them being sued, disbarred, losing credentials and incarcerated, regularly.   Interestingly New York City Fire Department doesn’t, apparently, trust or respect the New York Alarm License because even though that NY State license permits working on all types of alarms, including fire alarm, NYC will not permit NY State licensed alarm companies to install, service or inspect fire alarms in NYC [and I can find no legal authority for NYC FD’s position but no local alarm company is willing to challenge the NYC FD].  So in NYC the credentials for fire alarms are far more rigorous then the NYS Alarm License, but even then the efficacy of the technician can differ and certainly mistakes can be made, sometimes with catastrophic consequences.
          As far as your criticism of ADT and other companies for their residential installations [or commercial for that matter] I think you omitted one crucial factor, the customer’s budget.  Most alarm companies are more than happy to install more equipment, protect every opening and provide redundant systems; all the customer has to do is pay for it.  I don’t fault any alarm company who installs only what the customer is willing to pay for and I suppose the adage that something is better than nothing is accurate here, right down to pasting a decal on the window and leaving it at that. 
          It’s true that unlicensed activity is rampant and law enforcement does little to stop it.  You might watch your unlicensed neighbor drive to work every day for years without getting caught without a driver’s license or insurance, no car inspection and no plates.  Then you decide it’s OK for you to do it too and you get caught the first day on the road. 
          The basis of a civilized society is that everyone will follow the rules.  Because not all will follow the rules policing or rule enforcement has been around as long as the rules.  We are witnessing first- hand what happens when we experiment with non-enforcement and it transcends alarm license enforcement.

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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301