Fire Alarm Costs & Installation Price Analysis from a 2020 School District Bid

By Andrew Erickson

September 2, 2023

What if you're planning a large-scale fire alarm system purchase for your organization – a corporate building, expansive campus, military base, or school district?

The stakes are high, and the specifications are diverse. How do you gauge the pricing landscape? How do you ensure you're making an informed decision?

When I started working at Digitize, a manufacturer of fire alarm equipment ourselves, I had the same questions. That's why I searched for a typical bid tabulation from a school district available online. I found some excellent reference statistics you can use to get an "order of magnitude" cost estimate as you plan your project.

Redacted bid tabulation table with price statistics from a school district fire alarm project

I tore apart pages of bid tabulation sheets to give you typical prices (as of this 2020 project). Although this project was for a school district, these are broadly similar to any other public building from a fire alarming perspective.

Note: Bids are inherently proprietary and specific to the time they were issued. To ensure the privacy of individual manufacturers, I crunched numbers to generate generic statistics. Remember, my aim isn't to judge the price structures of individual bidders or manufacturers but to offer you a reference point.

So, if you're seated at the planning table for your organization, wondering how much to budget or how different components affect the final bill, here's a "sneak peek" for you.

Real-World Fire Alarm System Costs from this 2020 School District Bid

This particular bid tabulation was for a project named, "Fire Alarm Systems: Test, Inspection, Repair, Installation & Internet Monitoring". I've run the numbers for several project components. Here are averages and ranges that I found:

  • Programming Labor Rates:
    The average figure is $113.68/hour, ranging between $24.00 and $210.00/hour. Consider that this is similar hiring a specialized IT consultant. Their rates often fall from $100 to $200/hour. Just as you wouldn't skimp on an IT expert who ensures your digital infrastructure runs smoothly, ensuring your fire safety system gets expert attention is crucial.
  • Average Discount Percentage on Parts:
    Vendors, on average, offer a 20.54% discount on parts, but it can swing between 0% and 50%. This is like bulk purchasing office supplies, where vendors offer a discount ranging from 10% to 50%, depending on the order size. Always look for the best deals, but don't compromise on quality.
  • Hourly Rate for Technician Helpers:
    The rate hovers around the $67/hour mark, but we've seen bids here as low as $30 and as high as $100. This is akin to hiring a junior staff member or intern. Their rates are usually lower than specialists, but their contribution to the project can be just as vital.
  • Annual Testing and Inspection:
    Costs vary greatly based on the size and complexity of the facility. For instance, inspections for larger establishments (like high schools) average around $3,570, whereas smaller facilities (like elementary schools) average $1,392.50. Think of this like the annual maintenance and upgrades of your company's software systems. Larger systems with more users and modules might require more investment than smaller, simpler systems.

Which manufacturers are included in this bid?

The bid we reviewed includes seven popular manufacturers. While we won't name them specifically for the reasons I listed above, your future provider could be among this list of 20 common fire alarm manufacturers:

  • Honeywell Security
  • ADT
  • Tyco Integrated Security
  • Aritech
  • Gamewell
  • Cerberus Pyrotronics
  • Axis Communications
  • Bosch Security Systems
  • Firelite
  • UTC Fire & Security
  • Panasonic
  • Schneider Electric
  • Siemens Building Technologies
  • Notifier
  • Hikvision
  • Edwards
  • DSC (Digital Security Controls)
  • Simplex Time Recorder
  • Johnson Controls
  • Napco Security Technologies

Understanding the Competitive Landscape

When you're diving into a market with such high stakes as fire alarm systems, you must understand the competitive landscape. While the bid we analyzed includes only seven manufacturers, the industry at large is diverse and dynamic.

Many entities are vying for your attention and money. A well-informed choice means you're looking not only at immediate costs but also at the long-term implications of your decision.

Which brands offer stellar after-sales service? Who has the best track record for reliability? How about innovative features or adaptability? Remember, today's market leaders might be different from tomorrow's.

Strategies for Your Next Purchase

  1. Research is King: Just like we dove into available data, you should, too. Understand the current market rates and, more importantly, understand each rate's value.
  2. Quality Over Price: While opting for the cheapest option is tempting, remember that you're choosing a fire alarm system. It's about safety. So, consider reputation, reviews, and references.
  3. Consider Long-term Costs: Initial installation is just part of the expenditure. Think about maintenance, replacement parts, upgrades, and the potential costs of each.
  4. Negotiate: With knowledge in hand, negotiate the best deal. Remember, many vendors offer discounts that can significantly reduce costs.

Making Comparisons: The Importance of Context In any significant purchase, it's not just about the numbers but the context around them. When assessing bids for fire alarm systems, it's essential to understand what each statistic means in the broader picture.

For instance, a higher initial programming labor rate might seem daunting. Still, if that comes with decades of industry experience and a proven track record of minimal system faults, isn't it worth the premium? Conversely, a substantial discount on parts might look appealing. However, if those parts aren't up to the industry standards or become obsolete soon, you might spend more in the long run.

Drawing parallels with other significant expenditures in your organization can provide clarity. If you're responsible for IT, think about how you'd select a cybersecurity solution. You wouldn't merely go for the cheapest option. You'd weigh the potential risks, the provider's reputation, and the long-term implications of your choice.

Apply a similar mindset to your fire alarm system purchase, and you'll be in a much better position to make a well-informed decision.

Looking Beyond the Horizon to Future-proof Your Fire Alarm Purchase

The world of fire safety and security is rapidly evolving, with technological advancements ushering in new capabilities almost daily. As you plan your fire alarm system purchase, it's not just about the present needs but anticipating future challenges.

Would your system seamlessly integrate with newer technologies a few years down the line? Can it be upgraded without a significant overhaul? It's vital to ensure that the system you invest in today doesn't become a relic of the past tomorrow. Discuss with providers about their track record in innovation and adaptability. How have their past products evolved over the years? These questions can make the difference between a purchase that serves you well for decades and one that demands frequent, costly updates.

Remember, in the ever-changing landscape of fire safety, being future-ready isn't a luxury; it's a necessity.

How Digitize Can Help

If all this feels overwhelming, remember you don't have to do it alone. At Digitize, our engineers are here to guide you. From understanding your specific requirements to helping you navigate the complex landscape of fire alarm systems, we're here for you.

Planning and purchasing a robust fire alarm system is no small feat. But with research, a strategic approach, and the right partner, you can make a decision that ensures safety and offers excellent long-term value for your company or agency.

For help with your project, call Digitize today at 1-800-523-7232. You can also email us 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