When the priority alarm pops up on the screen, it’s highlighted in red to distinguish it from routine signals in the queue. It could be a fire, a burglary in progress, elevated levels of the deadly gas carbon monoxide, or a panic button activation from a bank in the midst of an armed robbery.

In a matter of seconds, American Alarm monitoring center operators grab the signal, evaluate the alarm, and take action.

We respond to priority alarms in 20 seconds or less, on average,” said Wells Sampson, president of American Alarm. “Response time is an essential metric we track daily, because it’s the combination of secure technology and rapid human response that provides best-in-class security.”

American Alarm and Communications was established in 1971 by three engineers who met at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Among the founders was Richard “Dick” Sampson, who would eventually take control of the company and remains chairman of the board nearly 50 years later. Day-to-day leadership of the company has passed to the second generation of the Sampson family.

The company now has 270 employees at six locations in New England—four in Massachusetts, one in Rhode Island, and another in New Hampshire. American Alarm systems protect more than 32,000 homes, businesses, institutions, and government buildings in the region. Their team includes more than 100 licensed systems technicians on the road every day.

Unlike most security companies, American Alarm maintains its own 24-7 security monitoring center, which is Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certified and qualified by state and federal governments for high-security installations.

Many companies use very large third-party monitoring centers, which could be halfway across the country, handling hundreds of security dealers. We have a different model, said Louis Sampson, chief financial officer at American Alarm. “We handle every aspect of our customers’ security so we can ensure quality. Our approach also avoids gaps in responsibility, so there is no hand-off that customers need to navigate when they have questions or need service.”

American Alarm’s security monitoring center receives thousands of signals daily from its customers. The vast majority are routine, such as test pings from components to make sure they are communicating.

Others are trouble signals from devices or operating systems that indicate maintenance is needed. These signals are important so American Alarm can make sure their customers’ systems are ready when needed.

Priority alarms also yield data that American Alarm uses to help customers. The company recently published a study of verified priority alarms from 2014 through 2018. During that time, American Alarm handled 1,644 verified alarms, including 532 fire alarms, 333 burglary (intrusion) alarms, 224 elevator entrapments, and 185 panic alarms.

Further, the study found that fire alarms in New England spiked in January and February, driven by increased heating needs in the cold weather that led to furnace malfunctions or problems with alternative heating sources like wood stoves and space heaters.

Burglar alarms were more frequent in the winter and summer, concentrated in the late evening and overnight hours. Panic alarms from banks and retail locations spiked in the beginning of the business day at banks, and late at night at 24-hour convenience stores.

“We use this data to understand local trends and to help people better manage risk,” Louis Sampson said.

American Alarm has been an A.I.M Mutual policyholder since 1990. The company’s relationship with the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the employer association that helped launch A.I.M. Mutual, goes back even further. In addition to workers’ compensation insurance, American Alarm uses a variety of their consulting services, including safety training, wellness programs, and HR leadership development programs.

“The quality and value of their programs is excellent,” Louis Sampson said.

The wellness and safety programs help American Alarm maintain a reasonable MOD rate, an important safety metric used by a number of vendors the company deals with, Wells Sampson noted.

Today, American Alarm has its own HR department and continues to rely on A.I.M. Mutual for support. “They are great to work with,” said Joe Doyle, director  of human resources at American Alarm. “Their claims process is great. They have an excellent online tool, and their staff is very responsive.”

For example, while recently dealing with a difficult workers’ compensation case, Wells Sampson got a call from A.I.M Mutual’s CEO Michael Standing to discuss the situation.

“To get that call directly from Mike meant a lot to me,” Wells said. “It showed me that we’re not just a number, but a valued partner. We’re very happy with our relationship with A.I.M. Mutual. We use them for our operations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and I hope we get the opportunity to use them in Rhode Island soon.”


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