Interested in the security market? These five tips will get you off to the right start.

A funny thing happened on the way to the voice/data market for many electrical contractors. Companies discovered the security market, a fast-growing offshoot of the mainstream low-voltage wiring business that's now pegged as a $16 billion market. Security wiring is a logical extension of the core power wiring business for electrical contractors. The following five tips can help you learn more about this growing market opportunity:

1. Research the market.

This is a huge market, and once you begin to study it, you may be surprised at how much security work is done on the same job sites where you already do business. The article below on this page focuses on the opportunities available with residential security systems. While residential security work is by some measures the fastest-growing segment of this business, most security systems are installed in commercial, industrial, institutional, retail and government facilities such as offices, factories, stores, hospitals, schools, universities, casinos, prisons, military bases and other government buildings, such as court rooms. The "Online Resources" factoid on this page offers some sources of information on this market.

2. Use your stature on the job site to get a piece of the security action.

In business as in life, it helps to be in the right place at the right time. There's little doubt that electrical contractors are in a prime position to grab a commanding share of the security market. The basic circuitry used in most security systems is much simpler than the circuits used in power wiring, so electrical contractors won't have any trouble understanding the technical nuances of this market.

The fact that electrical contractors are already on the job site when security systems are prewired is also a point in their favor, because it's easier for them to pull the wire at that time than for another company to come on the job.

Score another point for electrical contractors doing low-voltage cabling, because security wiring is now a common feature in newer structured wiring systems. Contractors are already wiring buildings for power, lighting control, telecommunications, computers and other communications systems, so wiring buildings for security is a natural extension for electrical contractors.

3. Get a toe in the market by pulling wire for security specialists.

While many opportunities exist for electrical contractors in the security market, there's also plenty of established competition. Security wiring specialists aren't going to welcome companies onto their turf with open arms. They often need electrical companies on the job to do some of the "grunt work," like pulling wire. This is often the case on union job sites. Many of these security specialists are not unionized, so they need union contractors in some markets to do this installation work. They will call on unionized electrical contractors to get jobs started. Security specialists still do the more lucrative work themselves, like system design, programming and maintenance. However, pulling wire for security specialists is a good way for electrical contractors to get a taste of the security market.

4. Don't overlook the security-system needs of one of the fastest-growing segments of the electrical construction market.

There's no question that the Columbine High School tragedy sparked increased security concerns at schools and universities. According to the results of a survey published in May 2000 by American School and University and Access Control and Security Systems magazines, public schools spent an estimated $795 million on security systems - an average of $19.28 per student - in 2000. Electrical contractors are in position to cash in on this concern with student safety, because that report said more respondents plan to install CCTV and ID card systems than any other security systems. These are security systems that electrical contractors can and do install. About 40% of school administrators surveyed said they plan to install CCTV systems, followed by 29% of the respondents who planned to install ID card systems. Access-control card systems also ranked high, with 24% of the respondents planning an installation of these systems.

5. Use your years of expertise in lighting installations.

One security application that cuts across all commercial, industrial, institutional, retail and government installations is parking lot lighting. While some people may not think of lighting products as security-related equipment, security experts see lighting as a major deterrent to crime. According to an article posted at, lighting may be the most influential security factor, and good lighting deters crime in parking lots and parking decks.

One security consultant brought in a lighting expert to check lighting levels and make recommendations for the consulting work that he does for retail applications. Len DeCarlo, president of Quest Security Services, New Wilmington, Pa., said in the article on the Web site that IESNA recommendations call for lighting levels of a minimum of 2 footcandles for high-traffic sites such as athletic stadiums and large shopping centers and 5 footcandles for enclosed parking decks. However, he said many big-box retailers want 5 footcandles to 6 footcandles, and many customers will want twice that. DeCarlo also recommends metal-halide lighting over mercury-vapor and high-pressure sodium because of its superior color rendering abilities.

- Wire and cable

- Passive infrared motion detectors

- Control keypads

- Wireless transmitters and receivers

- Closed-circuit television (CCTV) and other video surveillance products

- Fire alarms, smoke detectors and other life-safety devices

- Powerline carrier devices

- Sound/intercom systems

- Batteries/power supplies

- Annunciators

- Access controls/systems If you need information on trends in security system installations in schools and universities, check out American School and University magazine. The publication's landmark survey on the state of school security, published in May 2000 in partnership with Access Control and Security Systems Integration magazine, is also available online. Like CEE News, AS&U and Access Control and Security Systems Integration are published by Intertec Publishing Corp., Overland Park, Kan. In addition to the recent study it co-published with AS&U, the Web site of Access Control and Security Systems Integration magazine offers articles on security market trends and information on security products such as closed-circuit television sensors and electronic gates. This is a comprehensive listing of links on the security market that's provided on the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NFBFAA) Web site. The Web site for Security Distributing and Marketing magazine offers users a broad range of news, new product information and resources. Security Industry Association (SIA) members are involved in CCTV, access control, biometrics, computer security, fire/burglar alarms and home automation systems.