Retrofits are in for some fire installers

Monday, September 1, 2008

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill.--Gene Chamberlain, vice president and co-owner of fire installation company Illinois Time Recorder Company, said he’s doing more retrofits than ever these days. This is a trend at least one manufacturer has noticed in the last year, according to Beth Welch, public relations manager for Honeywell’s Fire Systems.

“I think people in general are looking to save money in any way that they can, particularly for the past year or so,” Chamberlain said.

Chamberlain is a Gamewell-FCI and Fire-Lite dealer. His business does time equipment, security, CCTV, access control and fire. About 80 percent of his business is with school districts, but he also does work in high-rise buildings in Chicago.

“People are looking for other options besides a wholesale replacement … maybe they’re putting in a new control panel and adapting the existing devices to it so they have the framework for a new system that they can build piecemeal,” Chamberlain said. “We’re seeing quite a lot of that.”

In Lake Forrest, Calif., Kelly Warbis of KOR Fire & Security, a Gamewell-FCI dealer, is seeing a similar wave of retrofits. Warbis does about $1.6 million a year in business, 90 percent of which is fire, though he does some CCTV, access control and intrusion work as well.

“People are doing TI [tenant improvements] instead of buying a new facility,” he said.