HB Alarm acquired, rebranded as Alarm New England

Doug Curtiss’ companies bundle services like the cable companies say they want to do
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

ROCKY HILL, Conn.—Doug Curtiss has acquired the well-established Rhode Island business HB Alarm, and is in the process of rebranding it and his other alarm operations as Alarm New England.

Alarm New England is one of three distinct but interrelated companies owned by Curtiss. The other two are Sonitrol New England and Voice New England. Together, the three businesses employ 135 and have $1 million in RMR. In addition to headquarters here, there are offices in Warwick, R.I., South Yarmouth, Mass., and Raynham, Mass.
 
In the past five months, Curtiss started bundling services for his companies' commercial customers. “Customers can buy phone services, including dial tone, and buy security alarm, managed access, hosted video—those are all parts of different bundles we offer,” Curtiss told Security Systems News.
 
Curtiss got into the telephone business in 1983 after deregulation. Since entering the business, Voice New England has sold more than 25,000 desktop phones.
 
“We developed an expertise in IT because of our phone business,” he said. “The transition to IT happened ahead [of the transition in the security industry]. We’ve been running CAT5 and splicing fiber [for years].”
 
With the same transition to IP-based security systems and now cloud-enabled services, bundling services from all three of his businesses makes sense, Curtiss said.
 
“We’ve been talking about convergence for 20 years, now it’s actually happening,” he said.
 
On the acquisition of HB Alarms of Rhode Island, Curtiss said he was familiar with the area because his Sonitrol New England business has had a presence there for many years.

“Our Sonitrol business is primarily a commercial customer base,” he said. “What HB had is a quality small-commercial and residential base in Rhode Island.” John Bourque, the former owner of HB Alarm, “also had a very high profile. Everyone knows John.” The company also had a significant presence in the fire alarm industry in Rhode Island.

Curtiss acquired all of HB Alarm except for several fire accounts that serve the three-family home market. Bourque’s children are continuing to run a fire business in the area concentrated on that market.

Curtiss consolidated his Rhode Island operation into HB’s former Warwick office. David Dias, a former HB Alarm executive, joined Alarm New England and is running the Rhode Island office.

The Sonitrol New England business is “the cornerstone of what we do,” Curtiss said. He started the business in 1972 and over time acquired a number of larger Sonitrol businesses around New England.

With all of his businesses, Curtiss’ strategy has been to “have a high concentration in a relatively small footprint. We do everything between Boston and New York, but we don’t do Boston or New York,” he said.

Asked if there’s any crossover or conflict between the Sonitrol business and the commercial business done by Alarm New England, Curtiss said no. “The systems lend themselves to different applications … mid- to large-sized businesses that require integrated card access—that’s an ideal Sonitrol application. If the business is in a high crime area, even if it’s a small business, that’s also good for Sonitrol,” he said.
 
On the other hand, “small commercial and residential, fire, that’s where Alarm New England will shine,” he said.
 
Curtiss said, “There’s more excitement about [the security] business than at any time I can remember in 40 years.” The reason? “The shift to IP-based systems and services enhanced by the cloud,” he said.