AFA acquires, puts former NYC fire commissioner on its board

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

SYOSSET, N.Y.—AFA Protective Systems, a super-regional based here, recently added about $45,000 to its RMR with the acquisition of Ready Alarm, a company providing commercial fire alarm monitoring, maintenance and inspection services in the New York City market.

AFA also appointed Thomas Von Essen—a fire and life safety consultant renowned for leading the City of New York Fire Department as fire commissioner at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center—to its board of directors.

“He’s well known and respected,” AFA CEO Robert Kleinman told Security Systems News. He believes Von Essen’s experience and industry contacts “can be very helpful to us.”

The acquisition of about 300 accounts from Ready Alarm on Dec. 31 helped boost the company’s RMR, Kleinman said.

AFA made another acquisition earlier in 2012, acquiring the alarm business assets of Sera Security in Southampton, Pa., giving the company an entrance into the Philadelphia market. The two acquisitions and organic growth helped boost AFA’s RMR to nearly $2.6 million in 2012, Kleinman told SSN.

The company, which has about 475 employees, has 18 offices along the East Coast and through the Southeast. Established in 1873, AFA bills itself as “the oldest continuous operating alarm company in the United States.”

Kleinman said the company had disappointing years in the recession but rebounded in 2012. In 2011, he said, “we did a wage freeze but [in 2012] we were able to give out increases and were back to business as usual.”

He didn’t have final numbers for 2012 early in January but estimated earnings were up about 40 percent and sales up about 10 percent in the company’s core business.

Kleinman attributes the turnaround partly to the improving economy. “There were a lot of projects put on hold a couple years ago that people finally pulled the trigger on, so that was helpful,” he said. Also, he said, “I think our salespeople were a little more productive [after] we put in a revised comp plan and some incentives.”

AFA’s national accounts division didn’t grow in 2012, but Kleinman said the company is making headway in that part of its business. “We made some nice inroads with new accounts, but they take awhile to cultivate. … While their results for the year didn’t necessarily translate well into 2012, I think they set a good foundation for 2013 and 2014,” he said.

AFA also announced that David Kleinman was named vice president of the company and joined its board. He oversees most of the company's day-to-day branch operations and is a member of AFA’s legal department.