Good service leads to good contract

Safety Systems of Vermont retrofits Burlington International Airport
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Monday, January 31, 2011

COLCHESTER, Vt.—Good customer service has not only given Safety Systems of Vermont steady growth since it started eight years ago, but led to a quarter-million-dollar project retrofitting the Burlington International Airport’s fire alarm system, said co-owner Scott Carroll.

“Customer service is what got us where we are,” said Carroll of the five-employee company, based here.

Now the Gamewell-FCI distributor for northern Vermont, Carroll said the company, of which Tracie Cole is the primary owner, “didn’t have a product line when we started. It was just testing and maintenance of systems so we really concentrated on that and keeping the customers happy on the customer service side of things and responding to their needs.”

Carroll said 80 percent of the company’s business is fire, and it also does security, access control and CCTV. The vast majority of its business is in the commercial and government verticals, and its approximately 200 customers include the University of Vermont and the airport, Carroll said. Safety Systems has been the service company for the airport for about six years, maintaining its fire alarm system.

“We were able to go right in there and really do a good job for them keeping their systems up to speed as best we could,” Carroll said.

It was a challenge, he said, because the airport had two different brands of fire alarms “and one brand didn’t talk to the other brand. They really had a hard time intermingling the two systems.”

When the airport finally had the funding to upgrade, he said, Safety Systems was able to “get in there and integrate.”

He said they put in a new Gamewell-FCI E3 Series mass notification system.

He said mass notification is not required by the state of Vermont at the airport at this point, but “we’re looking to the future for them and their future expansion so they don’t have to bring the whole terminal up to code when they add a project on. They’re going to be already ahead of that game.”

The project, involving the parking garage and main terminal, began four months ago and Carroll told Security Systems News in late January that he expects it will be completed in about two months. “We’re not a very big company, so it has been a major job for us,” he said.

A challenge in working in the airport was getting Transit Security Administration (TSA) clearance—involving fingerprinting and other documentation—for employees to do their work in the secure areas of the facility, Carroll said.

Also, he said, “just bringing the equipment round the airport when it’s so busy creates a tough challenge for us. We’re used to going in an empty building and working with not a lot of people in the way.”

But he said that “the airport is so happy with the job they’ve got another hangar they’re going to have us do, coming up soon.”

The company has grown two-fold every year since it started, with the exception of two years ago at the start of the recession when it held level, Carroll said. This year, he said, it expects to hire at least two more people because of more jobs coming up at the University of Vermont.