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What is something that will not cost your alarm company any more money to enable or monitor, but can definitely help protect against future liabilities? It is the programming of a control panel’s ambush feature. This simple practice could save the lives of your customers.

How vulnerable is your customer’s business? Is its premises located in a high crime area? Is the store open to the public? Does the premises have cash on hand, a safe, and high-value merchandise? Does the premises close late in the evening? Does the system you installed have the capability of silently transmitting an ambush signal to the central station in case of an ambush or duress situation? Were your customers trained in how to operate this feature? What is the propensity for personal injury or death to your customers during an armed robbery? How does your company quantify this risk? These are all important questions you should consider and inquire about during your security survey.

Where robbery is a threat, these questions are but a few of the criteria that a security professional should understand and take into consideration when designing, recommending, installing, or monitoring a commercial security system.

In opposition, some installers believe a system’s ambush feature is a waste of time and has the potential to create false alarms. Therefore, they believe that it should not be enabled, nor should the subscriber ever be made aware of its option, as it is more of a hassle than it is worth. I strongly disagree with all of these beliefs, and regardless of what the subscriber chooses or wants to do, you are the alarm professional, and must fully inform your customers of the built-in ambush feature. This is especially significant when this feature is, in all probability, already built into the control panels that your company is currently selecting and providing. In addition, it does not cost your company any additional funds to program and monitor this feature. Of course, if your sub- scriber objects to this feature, your company needs to document their choice. The customer needs to acknowledge this in writing, and further confirm that they understand the criticality and associated dangers of their choices. Similarly, it is also important to understand that the effectiveness of any type of ambush reporting is materially dictated by the way in which your monitoring station has defined what this signal actually indicates, or by the way you have defined it to your monitoring station, so that the responding police or guard company can prioritize its response to the protected premises, and thoroughly investigate the condition at hand to the safest conclusion.

This is an excerpt from The Alarm Science Manuel, by Jeffey Zwirn. For more information head over to!