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Bay Alarm Company was founded as a small family firm in San Francisco 70 years ago, making it one of the oldest security companies in the country. They recently expanded by acquiring a substantial San Diego security company, which increased their customer base to over 130,000 California clients. Bay Alarm isn’t known for technological innovations or cutting edge automation, but they do keep current with industry trends, and emphasize the personal feel of a local security company.

Price: $30.00 per month

Installation: $345

Security Equipment

Bay Alarm keeps things basic, but nevertheless offers equipment choices comparable to most competitors. The bulk of their equipment is manufactured by Honeywell, a name that’s commonly regarded as the gold standard in the security industry, but they also use hardware from GE, Bosch, Videofiled, and others. Bay Alarm’s basic service package starts with a modest array of equipment choices, including:

  • ​Touchscreen control panel
  • Wireless control console
  • Door and window sensors
  • Motion detector

It should be noted that this is just the foundation of all of Bay Alarm’s basic packages – the basic level does include more equipment, but each basic package is custom designed to meet the needs of individual clients. Bay Alarm will not discuss what other equipment options they include in their customized packages, which is disappointing because it makes it hard for prospective clients to evaluate what they’re going to get.

Additional equipment options include:

  • Cameras
  • Fire detectors
  • Smoke detectors
  • CO2 detectors

Home Automation

Bay Alarm powers their home automation functions with the Honeywell Total Control app, one of the better apps in the industry. Total Control doesn’t offer any groundbreaking features, but is nevertheless comprehensive and easy to use, and has all the basic features that most automation apps include.

Some of the features you can expect from Total Control include:

  • ​Live video monitoring
  • Thermostat control
  • Remote door locks
  • Turn Appliances and Lights on/off remotely
  • Text and email event alerts

Company History

Bay Alarm Company is one of the oldest major security firms in the United States, founded by Everett Westphal in 1946. Everett’s grandson Matt still runs the firm. In 2014, Westphal engineered the acquisition of another California family-owned alarm company, SDA Security – a San Diego company founded in 1930 by Harold Eales. Bay Alarm is now the largest privately owned security company in the country.

Both of the original companies made their name by focusing on a clearly defined service area and marketing themselves as the company next door. They’ve come a long way since those early days, but they haven’t strayed far from their original business model. Bay Alarm is available only in the state of California – primarily the Bay Area, San Diego, and the Inland Empire – and while they’re doubling down hard on strengthening their share of those markets, they’re not likely to expand out of California.

The Good

  • 90-day satisfaction guarantee
  • 1-year equipment warranty
  • Moderate pricing
  • Good tech support and equipment monitoring
  • Commitment to community involvement programs
  • Five Diamond certified
  • Bullet Point 2

Bay Alarm plays to its strength, and for 3 generations that strength has been neighborly, reliable customer service. Every security company gets somewhat mixed reviews in that category, and Bay Alarm is no exception, but by and large they are committed to providing solid customer service.

This focus on customer service plays out in several ways. First of all, their price points are customer friendly. There are lower-priced options out there, but Bay Alarm is solidly on the affordable end of the average price in their service area. And, most of Bay Alarm’s clients seem to appreciate the customer support center, as well as Bay Alarm’s equipment monitoring program – with which the company passively monitors their hardware and scans for glitches.

Bay Alarm also offers a 1-year equipment warranty, which is not common in the industry – and a 90-day satisfaction guarantee, allowing clients to opt out in the first 3 months if they have a change of heart. That’s not just uncommon, it’s almost unheard of – and says a lot about Bay Alarm’s sincere commitment to keeping customers happy. And, Bay Alarm is certified by as a Five Diamond security provider by the Central Security Alarm Association, the industry’s international trade association.

And finally – while it has nothing to do with Bay Alarm’s products and services, many customers appreciate the company’s commitment to community relations. Bay Alarm is very active in youth sports programs, police and community outreach efforts, and school and educational programs. A cynic might write that off as public relations, but the Westphal family has been walking that walk for a half century, and a lot of their customers feel good about supporting a company that makes that a priority.

The Bad

  • Very high upfront fees
  • Lengthy contract terms
  • Poor online transparency

Bay Alarm’s image as a stalwart bastion of security took a bit of a hit in early 2016 when a writer for Forbes magazine, doing an article on the online security of automated security systems, chose Bay Alarm as a test subject – and hacked into the systems of several of their corporate customers from his home in London. Bay’s Vice President, Graham Westphal, says the company has taken steps to slam that door once and for all, but he won’t say how they did it, and some customers have lingering concerns.

Which goes to another complaint shared by many Bay clients – a lack of online transparency. Customers commonly report that it’s impossible to find any information on their website explaining the details of their service packages or their warranty or satisfaction guarantee programs. Telephone calls to customer service don’t help, either – calls are dropped, left on hold, or routed to the wrong department. For a company that does such a bang-up job on most aspects of customer service, this is a disappointing flaw.

Despite their reasonable monthly rates, Bay Alarm charges an enormous installation fee - $345, one of the highest in the market. And the 36-month unbreakable contract is a big commitment to ask when most other companies want half of that or less.

The Bottom Line

Bay Alarm has been around since the Truman Presidency, and you don’t last that long in this industry without doing a lot of things right. But the business has changed a lot in 70 years, and a company has to adapt to the times to stay on top – and a lot of what Bay Alarm does has been passed up by newer competitors. Other security companies more features and functionality for less money and hassle. If you’re in California, this is a company worth looking at, but it shouldn’t be the only call you make.

Bay Alarm Contract Information

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