How to Choose a Distributor for Fire Alarm Equipment, Installation, and Maintenance (9 Steps)

By Andrew Erickson

August 26, 2023

In the realm of fire safety, the stakes are incredibly high. Ensuring the safety of infrastructure, assets, and (most importantly) human lives hinges on the quality and reliability of the fire safety systems you choose.

An early crucial step for you in this decision-making process is selecting the right distributor that aligns with your specific needs, offers quality products, and provides impeccable service.

This guide will dive into your essential considerations when selecting a distributor for fire alarm equipment, installation, and maintenance.

1. Assess Your Needs

Before diving into the sea of potential distributors, you must clearly understand what you need. Are you looking for a basic fire alarm system for a small establishment, or do you need a comprehensive safety solution for a large facility or campus? Different distributors might specialize in other sectors or system sizes, so tailoring your search based on your requirements is crucial.

For instance, if you operate in a highly specialized industry, such as healthcare or defense, you'd want a distributor experienced in navigating that sector's specific challenges and regulations. Pinpointing your needs upfront will streamline your search and ensure you match your requirements with a distributor's strengths.

2. Consider the Scope of Services You Need

Not all distributors are equal, especially regarding their range of services. Some might strictly sell equipment, while others provide a holistic suite of services, from initial consultation and design to installation and post-installation support.

When considering a distributor, evaluate whether they offer a one-stop solution or if you'd need to engage multiple entities for different aspects of your fire safety system. A distributor with a comprehensive scope (see RB Allen for one example from the Digitize distributor network) can be advantageous, as they provide many services, ensuring consistency and quality throughout the process.

3. Understand the Importance of Regional Presence

While global distributors can offer the advantage of brand recognition and possibly economies of scale, you shouldn't undervalue regional expertise. A distributor with a robust local presence will likely have a deeper understanding of regional regulations, local safety codes, and logistical considerations.

Additionally, a solid regional presence often translates to faster response times in emergencies, quicker delivery of equipment, and a more personal touch in customer service. It's the difference between being just another client and being a valued local partner.

"Local presence" is precisely why we developed our distributor network at Digitize. We're based in NJ, and our family of companies includes offices in California. Even though we'll fly just about anywhere when needed for a project, that's a lot of ground to cover. Digitize distributors give you local service backstopped by our engineering and manufacturing teams here at Digitize HQ.

4. Look for Standards Compliance and Quality of Service

Due to its very life-safety nature, the fire safety industry has stringent standards. When evaluating potential distributors, ensure they adhere to recognized industry standards and quality benchmarks. These range from ISO certifications to NICET-certified technicians to specific regional or sectoral standards.

Furthermore, ensure that the distributor's service commitment matches your expectations. A distributor's commitment to providing timely, efficient, and high-quality service can make all the difference, especially when facing an emergency or requiring urgent support. It's not just about buying alarm equipment. You must ensure that every product you purchase operates optimally throughout its lifecycle.

5. Recognize that Experience and Expertise Matter

Lastly, there's no substitute for experience. A distributor with decades of industry experience has likely weathered various challenges, kept pace with technological advancements, and honed their expertise. Such distributors can provide invaluable insights, drawn from their extensive history, to tailor solutions best suited to your needs.

But it's not just about how long a distributor has been in the business; it's about how they've adapted, innovated, and evolved. Dive deep into their past projects, customer testimonials, and how they've tackled challenges. An experienced distributor will provide a product and a partnership based on trust, expertise, and a commitment to excellence.

6. Make Sure You Get Tech Support and Training

While the actual fire alarm equipment and system are undoubtedly essential, paying attention to the importance of post-installation technical support is imperative. In the world of fire safety, even minor technical glitches can have significant repercussions. Therefore, ensure that the distributor offers robust technical support. It's beneficial if they can provide 24/7 support or have a dedicated hotline for emergencies.

Moreover, training plays a crucial role. Whether it's training your team on the system's nuances, periodic refresher courses, or updating you on new features, a distributor that genuinely values long-term partnerships invests in educating its clients. Consider the following questions:

  • Can you get training at all?
  • What is the cost of training?
  • Is the training offered annually or more frequently?
  • Can you earn an industry-recognized certification?
  • Does the distributor's underlying manufacturer (ex. Digitize) provide specialized training programs?

7. Verify Warranty, Maintenance, and Future-proofing

Once installed, the relationship with your distributor shouldn't just end. Inquire about the warranty periods they offer. A generous warranty testifies to their confidence in the quality of the products they distribute. Additionally, it's wise to check if they provide extended warranties or service contracts. These can be economical in the long run, ensuring you don't face sudden spikes in maintenance costs.

Furthermore, as technology evolves, so do fire safety demands. Opt for a distributor that offers modern industry innovations, not a product line stuck in the previous decade. They should be capable of advising you on periodic upgrades and ensuring that your system remains future-proof, adhering to the latest standards and technologies.

8. Seek Customer Reviews and Case Studies

In our digital age, customer feedback is readily available. Before deciding, delve into reviews, testimonials, and case studies. These provide a real-world insight into the distributor's performance, customer service philosophy, and product reliability. Look for patterns in feedback. Repeated praise or criticism can give you a clearer picture of the distributor's strengths and areas for improvement.

Case studies, in particular, can be very illuminating. They showcase the distributor's approach to unique challenges, their problem-solving capabilities, and the results they've achieved for clients in similar industries or with similar needs.

9. Consider the Total Cost of Ownership, Not Just the Price

While it's tempting to lean towards the most economical option, remember that with fire safety, you often get what you pay for. Instead of just looking at the initial cost, consider the total cost of ownership, which includes installation, maintenance, potential upgrades, and any associated training or support fees. A higher-priced distributor might offer better value in the long run if they provide:

  • Comprehensive post-purchase support
  • Regular maintenance
  • Quality products with longer useful lifespans

You Can Do This, and Digitize Can Help You

Choosing a distributor for your fire alarm equipment, installation, and maintenance is a decision that demands thorough research, due diligence, and careful consideration.

By taking the time to evaluate potential distributors through the lenses highlighted in this guide, you're ensuring your fire protection system's safety, reliability, and longevity.

Remember, it's not just an investment in equipment but an investment in safety, peace of mind, and a partnership that values your well-being above all else.

For additional guidance, call Digitize at 1-800-523-7232. You can also email me at

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and...Read More