How to Establish a Best Practices Baseline as a Security Technician

*Originally published on

Tech expert Bob Dolph explains why UL Standards and NFPA 731 are good learning grounds for pros looking to develop their own performance baseline.

I have often suggested that techs should treat every installation as a project. And in project management, one learns early on to establish performance goals. In the spirit of our theme of best practices I am now asking you to treat yourself as an ongoing project and ask yourself, “What is my best practices baseline?”

In projects, a baseline would include things like cost (what is my budget?), time (what is my time window?) and scope (what are my set of requirements?). Your individual best practices baseline should be similar and be constantly improving with age, knowledge and experience.

This, in theory, all sounds great. However, what reference point do I, as a technician, have in establishing my best practices baseline?

Never fear, you are not the first to ask this important career question. The security industry over the years has addressed these concerns and has come up with many valuable resources if you are willing to take the time and dedication to research these practices. This month, we look at many of these valuable, often free, resources to help today’s technician attain their personal best practices baseline.

What got me thinking about this important theme were some recent upgrades in several industry performance standards of which you may or may not be familiar. First let’s introduce the organizations.

As the DIY community would like to make you think, all security systems are similar. If that is true, then why do insurance companies only accept certain types of alarm systems for high risk businesses? To answer this, we bring in UL.

Once upon a time you would have to pay to even review these revered UL standards. Now you can freely review them online through the “digital view” option on its website. It’s a very worthwhile read for any sincere dedicated professional.

Recently one of the security industry’s popular UL standards was updated to reflect some current technologies such as cellular communications, PSDN (packet switched data networks) and the communications Cloud. Updated for 2021 was UL 681 (Installation and Classification of Burglar and Holdup Alarm Systems).

This standard has always guided pros through five levels of security, known as extents of protection. Installed systems can receive a certificate issued by UL or be designated as a certificated alarm system. These systems are regularly inspected by UL staff to verify maintenance of their certification status.

We are all familiar with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and its work over the years with standards for fire safety. Standards such as NFPA 72 have long been an official guide for the placement of devices such as smoke detectors.

But did you know that the NFPA for some time has also been in the business of creating physical and electronic security standards? There are two standards: NFPA 730 (Guide for Premises Security) and my favorite, NFPA 731 (Standard for the Installation of Premises Security Systems). What makes this even more exciting is they have both been updated with a 2020 revision. A better effort has been made to synchronize the two.

One of the things I like about NFPA 731 is the way it provides good examples of security systems application, location, installation, performances, testing and maintenance of premises security, access control and CCTV systems in all types of buildings.

This is a good learning ground for pros looking to develop their own performance baseline. These can also be reviewed for free in the “Free Access” online option (

In the NFPA 731 writings I like the way it cross references specific UL standards. See chart below.

NFPA 731 Cross Reference for UL Standards

Section     Category                    Standards
4 Software/Cyber UL 2900-2-3
5 Windows/Doors UL 634UL 606UL 639
5 Walls UL 639
5 Interior Space UL 639UL 634SIA PIR-01
5 Vaults UL 634UL 639
5 Safe/ATMs UL 634UL 639
6 Access Control UL 294
7 CCTV UL 50UL 2044UL 2802UL 60065UL 60950-1UL 62368
8 HUA/Duress UL 636SIA CP-01
9 Monitoring UL 1076UL 827SIA CP-01

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Keep up to date on the 2020 NEC (NFPA 70), review Ohm’s Law, multimeter testing tips and more.