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Q&A with Arlington's American Alarm

Protecting securing the homes and businesses of New England is serious work, and it's a job that American Alarm has accomplished for 40 years. There are a number of ways to ensure the safety of your loved ones and your belongings, so we took a few minutes to check in with James Cook, Sales Manager at American Alarm and Communications, headquartered here in Arlington, to find out how.

He shared some interesting facts about the company, the security industry, and a few revelations about how people choose to protect themselves. Here are a few highlights:

·         Your first line of protection is actually locking the door behind you (you'd be surprised how many people don't).

·         Don't leave your holiday boxes out at the curb. It's like giving thieves a shopping list of what is in your home.

·         It's a local company. When you have an emergency on Park Street, American Alarm is not going to send dispatch searching for 'Pahk' Street.

·         American Alarm is not the Crazy Eddie of the security business. They don't offer special deals or promotions, but tailor a security solution that's right for you.

American Alarm has also been in the spotlight for some recent achievements. The company was consulted by the Travel Channel for an episode of "Hidden City" which focused on The Great Brinks Robbery of 1950. The Travel Channel sought their expertise on the latest technologies deterring modern robbers. Take a moment to check out the story and see how American Alarm catches the bad guys today. The episode was just featured on 12/13/11.

The company is also one of 138 Massachusetts companies that will benefit from more than $11.3 million in grants for workforce training. American Alarm will receive $56,805 and will use the money for workforce training to maintain its high level of client service. 


American Alarm has been an Arlington home security staple since the 1970's. How many homes have you serviced over the years?

We have approximately 16,000 accounts throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire. We just celebrated the company's 40th anniversary and we're going strong.

On average, how many security calls do you get per year? How is American Alarm equipped to maintain both volume and a high level of service? 

On average, we receive about 1.2 calls per account, and we are equipped to handle any volume, and any type of natural emergency.

We also have a five star UL listed monitoring station. For those not in the know, UL (Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.) is a strict industry regulator, and the leading third-party certification agency for security and signaling products and systems. American Alarm is one of only a few that have received a five star UL listing, which is a reflection of our commitment to providing the best possible service.

Most 'big box' security companies outsource their monitoring. This means a customer might be calling California - where the customer service is outsourced - about their emergency.

American Alarm is staffed by the people in your community - we know the streets and the communities, and we know your dialect. So when you have an emergency on Park Street, we're not going to send dispatch searching for Pahk Street.

What are some trends you're seeing in the home security business?

Like most businesses in the service industry, we are customer-driven. Our customers want more custom, technology-driven systems, rather than the generic offerings you may see advertised on television. You know the ones, 'Sign up today for a $99 special!' 'Our prices are so low we're practically giving it away!' These deals typically provide your basic protection so they can upsell. We are not the Crazy Eddie of the security business. If price is a potential client's foremost concern, we send them to another company.

Our clients also prefer to have everything integrated and online - they want text updates, or an email indicating who in the family turned a security system on or off. Home security has gone mobile, and now people can power lights, turn on heating, adjust cooling - all from their iPhone or other mobile device.

Which demographic tends to be most interested in home security? Is it older residents, families, or younger first-time home buyers that are looking for additional security and peace of mind?

We see all types, at all different levels.  Security systems are not just burglary-oriented anymore.  Most clients are as much concerned with smoke and carbon monoxide detection, low temperatures and video monitoring, as they are with anything else.

Everyone is different. We often ask potential clients, "What is most important to you? Are you more concerned about your home when you're there, or when you're not there?" For example, someone with a family and small children wants to go to sleep at night knowing they are all safe and secure, as opposed to someone who travels often and has a home full of antiques and valuables they want protected while they are away.

For those not in the know, what's the most important aspect to consider when selecting a home security system? Is it redundancy? Response time? Location?

Response time and service are two of our key differentiators. Our team will pick up the phone in less than 24 seconds from when alarm goes off.  We dispatch within 60-90 seconds. In this industry, those response times are hard to beat.

False alarms are also a big concern in the industry, so often companies build in a 2-5 minute delay.  Some larger national players have as much as a 3-5 minute delay built into their systems.  That is not what our clients want when seconds count during an emergency.

Do security risks change with the seasons? What should residents think about as we enter the winter months?

Carbon monoxide poisoning is always a greater risk in the winter months, as well as low temperatures which can cause pipes to freeze and burst. Flood and temperature sensors alleviate some of the security- stress associated with the winter months.

And of course we have holiday-related security. One of our biggest tips for clients during the holidays is to beware-the-boxes. Putting boxes from your new flat screen TV, laptop, or iPad out at the street just gives thieves a visual shopping list of what is in your home. Take the time to break boxes down and turn them inside out so the labels are not showing.

Fires related to candles and Christmas trees are also a big concern this time of year.

Is American Alarm offering Arlington homeowners any deals or special insurance discounts?

We always have packages that are available and we welcome the opportunity to conduct a free home review for anyone who would like one. We have clients in price points that range from $500 to $95,000, so we can accommodate a wide range of security needs.

We don't pester people with special deals and offers, it's not who we are. But we do work closely with clients to find the right mix of security solutions for their particular situation.

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