Everything you've always wanted to know about ALOA...
From questions about the nature of locksmithing, to the technical standards used by ALOA Locksmiths, this section will help to answer all your questions. Simply click a link to left that corresponds to your questions.
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What Does a Professional Locksmith/Security Professional Do?
A professional trained locksmith/security professional may do some or all of the following: install locks, deadbolts and other mechanical or electronic locking devices to safeguard homes, businesses, vehicles and other property. Locksmiths also may modify or repair such devices, rekey locks, make duplicate keys or cards, generate or program new keys/cards for locks whose keys/cards have been lost and respond to emergency calls to unlock vehicles, homes and businesses that have been locked accidentally, or whose locks have malfunctioned.
Some locksmiths install and service electronic alarm and surveillance systems. Many locksmiths specify, design, provide, install and service a wide range of electronic access control systems and closed circuit television (CCTV) systems. Because of the integration of electronic security systems with computers and networks, some locksmiths maintain security hardware and software for computer systems.
When new or replacement locks are required, a locksmith assists the customer in determining the correct types of locks needed based on the security risk/exposure, life safety application and frequency of use. The locksmith installs locks and security devices using manufacturer’s templates and/or industry specifications, by cutting or drilling the proper opening in the selected location with small hand and power tools.
A locksmith may sell, service and install safes for home and business use. Banks have many locking devices and related hardware that require regular service by locksmiths such as; vault doors, time locks, safe deposit boxes and teller equipment.
A locksmith repairs a lock by disassembling and examining it to locate worn or malfunctioning parts, then cleans and adjusts the internal mechanisms and replaces these parts with new ones supplied by the lock's manufacturer. On occasion, it may be necessary to custom make some repair parts using lathes, drills, grinders, and other power and hand tools. When the repairs have been completed, the locksmith will reassemble the lock and check its operation.
A locksmith makes duplicate keys using a key-duplicating machine. With the customer's (pattern) key and key blank clamped in their respective vises, the locksmith moves the pattern key across the guide. A rotary cutter cuts the same pattern into the key blank. The locksmith carefully examines the new key to ensure its accuracy.
A locksmith may respond to emergency calls for customers who have accidentally become locked out of a home, business or vehicle. The locksmith begins by examining the lock(s) to determine the best method to circumvent the lock. These methods may include use of lock picks, bypass tools or other special instruments. Fitting a key by code or other skilled means is also a method of opening a lock. Experience, skill and knowledge dictate the method a professional selects to open a lock. There are times when the quality of the lock, concern for safety of occupants and other factors such as a malfunction of the lock may force the locksmith to use destructive techniques to gain entry. Before performing an emergency opening or certain other sensitive tasks, the locksmith may require positive ID procedures.
For security reasons or because keys are stolen or misplaced, many businesses, hotels/motels and apartment complex owners contract with locksmiths to provide new master key systems, reset combinations and rekey their door locks on a regular basis. Some cities and states require locksmiths to be licensed and bonded. The licensing process may include submitting fingerprints, undergoing a state or national background check, passing an examination, and paying a fee to the licensing agency. A self-employed locksmith must also keep business records and maintain a proper inventory of locks, parts, keys and tools.
Qualifications: Mechanical Locksmithing involves precise and detailed work. Good locksmithing professionals possess mechanical and mathematical ability, good vision, spatial perception, eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity. They must be able to understand lock and key specifications, operating manuals and other written or oral instructions as necessary. Additional traits include patience, emotional stability, honesty, dependability, accuracy and the ability to get along with other individuals.
Education and Training: During high school, the prospective locksmith should take courses in mathematics, mechanical drawing, metalworking, basic electronics, physics, and English plus some business education. To install electric locks, alarms, access control systems or surveillance devices, locksmiths must have knowledge of electricity and electronics.
Traditionally, on-the-job training has been a primary method of learning locksmithing skills. Trainees work with experienced locksmiths until they have mastered the necessary skills. In some on-the-job training programs, employees attend demonstrations or receive classroom as well as practical training. The length of time necessary to complete on-the-job training ranges from three months to four years, depending on the level of expertise required for a given sector of the profession. Completion of courses at a locksmithing school will provide a basic knowledge of the trade and may shorten the length of the on-the-job training programs.
Continuing education for the locksmith is provided by seminars and classes presented by lock manufacturers, locksmithing schools and locksmith associations, including the Associated Locksmiths of America.
Why Use a Professional Locksmith?
Pick up any newspaper with an article about public concerns and the subject of crime usually tops the list. It's therefore surprising that homeowners and building contractors often don't use the services of a professional locksmith to analyze security needs for their properties. For example, the most common practice in new home construction is to piecemeal the security precautions-using one company to set up an alarm system, an electrician to hook up outdoor lighting for crime prevention, and carpenters perhaps to install low--grade locks and door hardware almost as an afterthought. Often critical options such as door frame structure, door reinforcement or floor safes aren't even thought of in time to incorporate those into the original building process.
"There are almost 10,000 members of the Associated Locksmiths of America-a number of which are certified locksmiths-available to builders, business owners and homeowners to ensure the physical safety of their property and, most important, their employees and families," says Robert E. Mock, ALOA's past president. "It's puzzling that owners make such substantial investments in their homes and businesses without taking care to secure them intelligently." The issue is more significant than just correct installation techniques. A qualified locksmith can make recommendations on what physical and electronic systems need to be chosen in the first place.
Today, the security marketplace is flooded with options often unknown to those in fields outside locksmithing. Even a vendor in a related industry who is aware of a new security product is unlikely to have the judgment or qualifications of a highly trained and experienced locksmith. Mock also cites concern about the growing number of companies that are only aware of, and trained in, a narrow portion of security service. "More and more, we are seeing companies marketing themselves as security providers who have minimal exposure to the security industry as a whole. Especially with the rapid onset of electronic security in common applications, we are running into more individuals who have negligible training in physical security--they have learned overnight to install something that they do not really understand, and they have little or no background in deciding whether the product choice is appropriate for a particular application. Often they are employed by companies that only make or produce one product; therefore it is unlikely that a comprehensive security analysis is going to take place for the customer.
Companies and individuals interested in learning more about locksmiths and the higher levels of security training available can contact:
The Associated Locksmiths of America, Inc.
1408 N. Riverfront Blvd
Dallas, TX 75207
(mailing address only)
ALOA Chapters And Affiliates
The old addage of "two heads are better than one" reminds us that much more can be accomplished when we are bonded together for a common goal. ALOA brings this idea to life through local chapters and affiliates. Click on the links below to learn more.
Need help with your chapter's education programs? Contact the ALOA Director of Certification and Training, Jim Hancock, CML, CMST, at:
1408 N. Riverfront Blvd
Dallas, TX 75207
(mailing address only)
ALOA can help you set up customized training for your members.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. I just submitted an application to join ALOA. When will I be an official ALOA member and added to "findalocksmith.com"?
A. All membership applications are treated equally and are processed in the order received. Applications normally take one to two weeks to process. Within one week of processing, you should receive a notice of acceptance. At this point your name is published in the next available issue of Keynotes for review by existing members. Upon final clearance (90-120 days after acceptance) you will receive a welcome packet including a permanent membership card and certificate. At that time, you may log into the members only section of ALOA.org and fill out the lock search form to be listed on findlocksmith.com. This is a good time to make sure the ALOA logo is evident on your shop window, service vehicles and business cards, as these customers expect to be contacting an ALOA member.
Q. I renewed my membership as soon as I received my dues notice, but I haven't received an updated membership card. Should I contact ALOA and check on my renewal to see if there's a problem?
A. Yes, unless it has been less than six weeks. The updated cards are printed off-site and this is the normal delivery schedule. Be assured, your membership status is not affected in any way.
Q. I'm late paying my dues. When will I no longer be considered an active member?
A. ALOA dues bills go out in late October and non-renewing members are dropped from findalocksmith.com at the end of the first quarter of the new year. At that time, the member is no longer "current". If you want to retain your current status and are just delayed in renewing exactly on schedule, contact the office and explain your situation. We'll work with you to keep you on the rolls, if at all possible.
Q. When are year pins mailed out?
A. All year pins are no longer automatically mailed out. If you are celebrating a milestone year, like 10, 20, 25, etc., please contact ALOA by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and request a pin at no charge. Or you may visit the ALOA Bookstore at the annual convention and request a pin at no charge. One pin is at no charge, additional pins are available for purchase. Wear them with pride!
Q. Why doesn't ALOA offer group health insurance as a benefit?
A. Currently, ALOA is partner with a broker that may assist you in finding coverage that is available to you. The information is listed on the Home page in the left margin. ALOA does not offer a health plan for its members to join because we would have to comply with 50 individual underway that may well result in such a change under federal ERISA laws. Members will be notified if legislation passes that will allow ALOA to offer coverage.!
Q. Who qualifies as a retired member?
A. Any person who has withdrawn from the security industry, held an active membership with ALOA for 15 years or more, and is at least 62 years of age qualifies for retired membership status. Also, if at any point in time an active member becomes disabled and is no longer able to work, he or she may qualify for retired status regardless or age or length of membership. (Those members submit a doctor's statement for review.)
Q. I haven't been an ALOA member for several years and now I want to re-join and still have my old membership number. Is this possible?
A. If your membership expired 3 years or less, reinstate your membership by paying the reinstatement dues in the ALOA online Store. You must create an account if you have not made any previous purchases in the Store, or if you have forgotten your login and password. For memberships expired more than 3 years, print membership application from website (Membership), complete it and submit with application fee to the address, email or fax number on the form.
Q. Sometimes I want to photocopy or fax a technical article in KEYNOTES and have trouble doing so because of the background color or artwork. Could the design for these articles be more “copy friendly”? I think this would also increase readability.
A. We’ve had several members express this concern and it does seem practical to design these features with additional usage and maximum readability in mind. Our designer has agreed to make this a priority. ALOA is glad that its members find the material in KEYNOTES of enough value to reuse it.