What Should You Pay for Fire Alarm Installation, Inspection, and Testing

By Andrew Erickson

September 17, 2023

You shouldn't skimp on any reasonable expense to ensure the safety of your business, school campus, military base, or other facility. That leaves us with an important question: How do you balance quality, reputation, and cost?

Redacted bid tabulation table with price statistics from a fire alarm services RFP, including installation and general labor rates

This bid tabulation from a college campus reveals what you might expect to pay for fire alarm labor (during business hours or after-hours), installation services, and maintenance services. I've concealed the bidder identities, since our purpose here is to establish typical price ranges rather that dissect any individual bidder's pricing strategy.

Making sense of bid tabulations for fire alarm system services can initially feel overwhelming, but data like this give you a real-world look into what you can expect to pay as you plan your project.

Why did I assemble this data as a Digitize employee?

Before diving into the nuances of the fire alarm system bids, let's introduce the purpose behind this analysis. Among a few roles at this company, I'm a researcher at Digitize. My goal is to distill complicated bid tabulations into digestible insights for you.

I searched for and found a bid tabulation sheet from a state college. Even though this bid is for a school campus, that doesn't significantly distinguish them from fire alarm requirements at a business or government agency. These numbers are helpful for almost any alarm monitoring project.

With some very elementary statistics like ranges and averages, I've built numbers that should be a good reference you can use for any current or future fire alarm projects.

We've broken down a recent bid tabulation from an unnamed junior college to give you insights into the current market landscape. Remember, these numbers offer a reference point to guide your future decisions.

1. Troubleshooting and Repair Rates

Diving into the bids for troubleshooting and repair services, here's a quick snapshot of the hourly rates proposed:

  • 1(a) Monday-Friday, 7:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
    • 1-Person Crew: Ranging from $60.00 to $95.00
    • 2-Person Crew: Between $110.00 and $190.00
  • 1(b) Monday-Friday, After 5:00 P.M.
    • 1-Person Crew: A spread of $95.00 to $142.50
    • 2-Person Crew: From $160.00 to a high of $285.00
  • 1(c) Weekends and Holidays
    • 1-Person Crew: Between $95.00 and $142.50
    • 2-Person Crew: From $160.00 to $285.00

Looking at these numbers, there's a noticeable price difference based on the day and time. It's crucial to factor in these differentials when budgeting for unforeseen repairs.

2. Mark up and Discount on Supplies

Bidders were given the option to either mark up or provide a discount on supplies:

  • 1(d) Mark-up Above Cost: The figures presented by various bidders varied from as low as 5.5% to as much as 50%.
  • 1(e) Discount Below Cost: Only one bidder provided a discount, set at 25%.

While these percentages seem relatively straightforward, it's essential to consider them in tandem with other costs. A high mark-up could inflate repair expenses, while a significant discount might offset a slightly higher hourly rate.

Understanding the Technological Implications Behind Costs

One factor that might be driving the disparity in costs, especially in the annual and bi-annual tests, is the technological aspect of the fire alarm systems.

Some advanced systems incorporate IoT (Internet of Things) technology, cloud integrations, and real-time data analysis to enhance safety measures. Providers familiar with these state-of-the-art systems might charge a premium due to the specialized knowledge and tools required.

Moreover, with the rapid advancements in alarm technology, the periodic tests aren't just about checking if the alarm triggers. They encompass software updates, hardware checks, sensitivity calibrations, and even cybersecurity measures to ensure no malicious tampering. Institutions should ask bidders to specify the range of technologies they're adept at handling to justify their bids. A particularly compelling value proposition may lead you to modify your RFP (Request For Proposals) specifications.

3. Campus-Specific Inspection Costs The bid also covered the costs associated with routine tests and inspections for different campuses:

  • Campus 1:
    • Annual Test: Prices varied from $5,600.00 to a substantial $24,062.00.
    • Bi-annual Sensitivity Test: Ranging from 'Included' in the lump sum to $2,760.00.
  • Campus 2:
    • Annual Test: From a low of $966.00 to $4,755.00.
    • Bi-annual Test: As low as $299.00, going up to $535.00.
  • Campus 3:
    • Annual Test: Bids ranged between $1,238.00 and $4,693.00.
    • Bi-annual Test: From 'Included' in the lump sum to $1,072.00.
  • Downtown Center:
    • Annual Test: A spread of $225.00 to $705.00.
    • Bi-annual Test: Ranging from 'Included' to $125.00.

The substantial variation in costs for Campus 1 underscores the importance of understanding the specifics behind each bid. Does a higher price tag guarantee a more thorough inspection? Is a significantly lower quote indicative of a rushed job?

Unraveling Price Dynamics in Bids

It's essential to grasp the underpinning dynamics of the pricing strategies adopted by various bidders. A few factors to consider are:

  • Economies of Scale: Due to their more extensive operations, some companies might offer services at a lower cost since they can distribute their fixed expenses over more projects.
  • Expertise and Specialization: Bidders with specialized expertise in handling sophisticated systems might quote higher due to the value they bring to the table.
  • Geographical Reach: Companies with a robust local presence may offer competitive prices, leveraging local resources and staffing.
  • Reputation and Past Performance: A company's track record, past performance, and client feedback are pivotal in its pricing. Established brands might charge a premium, banking on their market reputation.

It's crucial to understand these dynamics to strike a balance between cost, quality, and the extent of services provided.

Making Informed Decisions

Navigating through bid tabulations isn't just about identifying the lowest or the highest bidder. It's about understanding the services provided, ensuring value for money, and ensuring the safety of the institution's inhabitants.

The Future of Fire Alarm Systems

While discussing bids and the associated costs, it's worthwhile to ponder the future trajectory of fire alarm systems. As technology evolves, so does the sophistication of these systems.

In the near future, we can expect even more integration with AI-driven analytics, predictive maintenance capabilities, and even drone-assisted inspections. Investing in such advanced systems now might seem pricey, but their efficiency and precision can result in substantial savings in the long run.

As you plan your next project, consider the current bid prices and (as much as possible) the future trajectory of fire alarm technologies.

Need Expert Guidance on Your Fire Alarm Project?

Navigating the intricacies of fire alarm bids can be challenging, but you don't have to go it alone. Whether you're grappling with understanding the proposals, seeking insights into the latest fire alarm technologies, or planning a state-of-the-art safety infrastructure for your institution, we're here to help. At Digitize, we'll ensure you have all the resources and expertise at your fingertips. As a manufacturer with a large team of in-house engineers, we can provide equipment or help you get your bearings as you begin your project.

Remember, the right choices today will ensure a safer tomorrow. Let's build that future together.

Call Digitize at 1-800-523-7232 or email me at 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