Book Review -The Alarm Science Manual

Physical Security
Book Review: The Alarm Science Manual
 

Zwirn Corporation; alarmexpert.com; 339 pages; $75.

This book details the full lifetime of author Jeffrey Zwirn’s fascination with alarms. From his initial interest and early experimentation with alarm systems as a youngster in his home to his dedicated career in the alarm industry, he presents a complete and comprehensive study of the alarm industry and the various types of alarms, such as intrusion, panic, fire, and more.

The first chapter discusses the basic components of alarm systems: control panel, detection devices, and annunciators. This section also covers the methods of attacks on alarm systems, testing and maintenance procedures, and alarm monitoring options.  

The risk of liability for alarm companies is explained and supported with case studies throughout the text. The author uses his knowledge as a court-qualified expert witness to emphasize the civil liability potential for negligent actions or inactions by alarm companies. Some of these have resulted in multimillion dollar settlements and judgments against the industry. According to the author, one area of concern is the “stay” or “shunt” mode for alarm systems and the need to fully explain this function to the customer prior to programming this feature into the system. 

The author repeatedly stresses the importance of a reliable alarm system that is designed, installed, tested, and maintained to ensure that the system functions properly. This includes the duties of the alarm contractor to meet applicable standards published by Underwriters Laboratories Incorporated (UL) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Zwirn discusses false alarms, one of the well-known issues that plague the alarm industry, and the author concedes that only the alarm industry can solve this problem through technology and coordination with the law enforcement community.

The subject matter in each chapter is followed by questions that test the reader’s knowledge of the topic. The text is filled with sharp color photographs of alarm systems and components to assist the reader in understanding the written material. Although there is no word index at the end of the book, the table of contents at the beginning basically fulfills this need. A two-page list of resources at the end of the text enables the reader to learn more about alarm systems. 

This book—especially the liability sections—would serve any security administrator responsible for implementing alarm systems and should be mandatory reading for those in the alarm industry. 

Reviewer: Jack F. Dowling, CPP, PSP, is president of JD Security Consultants, LLC. He teaches in the College of Criminal Justice and Security at the University of Phoenix. He is a member of the ASIS Commercial Real Estate Council and serves on various committees of the ASIS Commission on Standards and Guidelines.