FACP Purchase and Maintenance Bid Tabulations from City Documents

By Andrew Erickson

February 11, 2023

Today, I'm again looking at recent bid results related to fire alarm monitoring. Rather than speaking only in general about fire panel prices, I'll show you two specific examples from published bid documents.

Let's dive in now to learn about the factors that affect FACP prices...

Two bid tabulation document for fire alarm projects

How much are cities paying for fire alarm panel installation and maintenance? Published bid tabulation sheets like these give you useful clues when planning your own bidding strategy.

Example #1: Bid Tabulation for "Replacement of Fire Alarm Panel" by City of Dayton, Ohio

I found a bid tabulation sheet on the website of the City of Dayton. In this document, they summarize the winning bid for a project titled "Replacement of Fire Alarm Panel" (FACP) for the Department of Water / Water Reclamation.

There are several interesting items to note here as we learn about the factors that affect market prices and bidding practices for fire panels.

First, we have the price itself: $66,000. Unfortunately, there is no detail about which particular brand of FACP was bid here.

Based on the price alone, however, I can say with nearly absolute certainty that this also includes all of the labor, testing, and post-install inspection. There's no second line-item listed here, and $66,000 seems absurdly high for just hardware alone.

We can also notice several other interesting facts in this bid document:

  • The incoterms are the typical NET 30. I only really mention this because we do see some instances of agencies and companies leveraging their buying power to demand NET 45, NET 60, or even NET 90. This is something you need to think about when bidding, since you'll need to be able to finance this "float" period or negotiate with your own suppliers to have similar terms.
  • There are 3 questions relating to local/certified preference: "Qualifies for local preference? Qualifies for certified preference? Local/certified preference a factor in award?" These is not uncommon for local governments, where keeping money within the local economy has some value for the agency. You might see something like a 5% price advantage given to qualifying companies. Demographic factors, such as preferences for minority-owned and women-owned businesses, commonly offer similar advantages on federal projects. These are advantages enjoyed by some of our regional Digitize distributors in their local markets.
  • There are 26 listed contractors who chose not to bid, despite being solicited by the City for this project. That's another common property of fire alarm bids and, really, all bids in any industry. If you want to bid on an FACP project, it will be common for you to be competing with just a handful of other contractors.

Finally, this document also discloses the bid opening date. Always pay attention to the time you have from bid opening to bid award to project completion deadline. Fire alarm projects are relatively large with a high degree of complexity and regulatory requirements, so they can take several weeks or months to complete properly. You need to be sure you have enough time, perhaps bidding higher if required urgency dictates higher costs for you.

Overall, this bid tabulation sheet is a great example of what you can expect from a fire alarm pricing and bidding process. In addition to the price, there are several other factors that must be taken into account - local/certified preferences, payment terms, competition level, etc. By familiarizing yourself with these details ahead of time, you can better prepare your bid and maximize your chances of success on any fire alarm project.

Example #2: Bid Tabulation for Correctional Centers in Omaha, Nebraska

Here's another bid tabulation that actually lists the individual bid amounts for each of 3 bidders. The project is "Fire Alarm Inspections, Testing, & Maintenance". Because it's not a new FACP install but rather some required maintenance, this will teach us some different things than other bid results we've reviewed.

This bid is for "Two Fire Alarm Inspections Per Calendar Year" for both the Community Correctional Center and the Omaha Correctional Center. This project is likely designed to satisfy NFPA inspection requirements.

Labor rates for normal business hours and after-hours work are listed, with the requirement that other related charged must be rolled into the hourly rate. This is because "No Trip Charges, fuel surcharges, service call charges or mileage will be allowed."

Additional charges for software or firmware are allowed, but must be bid separately from the other line-items.

There is quite a range of bids here, with total bid amounts ranging from roughly $4100 to $21,400.

Here is some price detail for the individual line-items:

Item Bid 1 Bid 2 Bid 3
Two Fire Alarm Inspections Per Calendar Year (Community Correctional Center) $680 $3011 $380
Two Fire Alarm Inspections Per Calendar Year (Omaha Correctional Center) $7500 $18,380 $3750
Labor Rate 8:00 AM to 4:00PM - Normal Business Hours $85 $195 $109
Labor Rate - After Hours, Weekends and Holidays $127.50 $292 $163.50

As you can see, these prices have a wide variance. There is similarly a big spread between what each bidder is willing and able to do for software and firmware updates. Here is what each bidder had to say with respect to "Any additional charges for software or firmware updates":

  • "Included at No Charge" (this mostly matches what we do for Digitize equipment, whether included in the purchase or via optional maintenance agreement)
  • "Separate Quote Not Provided at Time of Bid Would Be Given Later"
  • "[We] cannot provide software or program panels; can only inspect"

This is a perfect set of price examples for the concept of ongoing software/firmware updates, since it captures all 3 possibilities you can encounter: No additional fee, additional fee (and price may increase by the time you need it), impossible to provide because the contractor does not have a relationship with the manufacturer.

So, here we can see that it is important to carefully consider the requirements for any bid that you are hosting or bidding within. The bid tabulation sheets for previous similar projects will help you to understand and avoid missing any important project factors. This information will help you work with your alarm equipment manufacturer, whether that's Digitize or anyone else.

Call Digitize to discuss you upcoming bid with an expert

If you're a contractor bidding on a project, we want to hear from you. We're happy to offer you general technical guidance, even if the bid is explicitly for non-Digitize equipment. We have experts on staff, and it's likely that you'll have a use for Digitize equipment (especially semi-custom gear) in the future.

If you're a government agency preparing bid documents, Digitize can help you remember to include common price parameters that are easy to forget (ex. maintenance, updates, inspections...). You don't want to get stuck a few years down the road without adequate operations budget available. Sometimes, it can be best to take care of foreseeable maintenance purchasing as part of the initial project bid.

To speak with an expert now, call Digitize at 1-800-523-7232 or email info@digitize-inc.com

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