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by: Daniel Gelinas - Friday, November 14, 2008
I had a chance to go to the last day of the CSAA Fall Operations Management Seminar on Nov. 11 at the Boston Marriott Peabody in Peabody, Mass. It was nice to meet so many of you upon whom I report, and to get a chance to learn a little more about the industry and its concerns. The opening segment on day three, a talk about liability issues and how to avoid sticky situations, was delivered with a little fire and brimstone by Jeffrey Zwirn, president of IDS Research. Pictured above is Zwirn speaking to about 75 attendees at the morning's opening session. Around midday, attendees were bussed out to Wayne Alarm Security Systems, Inc. in nearby Lynn, Mass., for a tour of the Wayne Alarm facility. Wayne Alarm founder and president Ralph Sevinor was on hand to start the tour off right with a stop by a table laden with fresh fruit, doughnuts, cookies and other pastries, bottled water, coffee, and soda before visiting the station's Antique Corner. Sevinor, showing off his extensive, pristine collection of all things security, obviously has a passion for the security industry. Of Wayne Alarm, Morgan Hertel of The Command Center, Inc., said "That guy's got the greatest museum in the industry. Nice clean facility. It was a nice tour." Pictured above is Hertel setting up for his talk, the last of the day before the closing Open Forum. Overall, attendees seemed pleased at what they found at the CSAA's Fall Ops Seminar. Loretta DiVincenzo of Cleveland, Ohio-based Gillmore Security Systems (in the video clip below) was especially impressed with the sense of camaraderie and honesty that seemed to pervade the weekend's sessions, as potential competitors came together to discuss and perhaps help each other solve common problems. video CSAA education committee co-chair Pam Petrow, chief operating officer at Vector Security would have made Phil Donahue proud, roving from one corner of the banquet room to the other to provide her microphone to each and every attendee who desired to speak and contribute. There was no constricting format, and some of the topics discussed were absent/tardy policies, and the enforcement thereof, as well as creative interviewing/hiring practices, and where to go to find staff when you were starting a new central from scratch. Pictured at the right is Pam Petrow and her microphone facilitating discussion.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, October 27, 2008
this press release on prlog.org this morning, and since I'm the new monitoring maven here at SSN, I had to read on. The press release advertises a security system that seems to promise the same sort of live protection offered by a system monitored by a central station, but with no monthly fee. Here is an excerpt: Is It Possible To Have A Home Security System with NO MONTHLY FEE that Calls YOU? Yes! Instead of a costly monitoring company calling the police, the person receiving the call is notified immediately and can call the police. Practical and highly effective security -- what a novel concept. Maybe it's just me, but first of all, it's not the fee that calls you... (curses upon the dangling modifier! I will always be an English Major at heart) I would rather have professionals whose job it is to watch my property watching my property and making the distinction of real versus false alarm. That would be better than to have a motion detection/intrusion system call my cell/work phone every time something trips the system. "The person receiving the call is notified immediately and can call the police." What does that mean? Isn't that like saying the system calls the person who is called and then they can call the police? One of this system's selling points is that instead of professionals monitoring the situation and making the determination of whether or not to notify police (a real, verified intrusion), the proud owner of the system gets to make that determination themselves since "they can listen in to [the] house directly through the Protector Plus Voice Dialer." So let me understand this... another of the system's selling points is the 85db siren screaming as part of the intrusion alert. I'm supposed to be trained enough to listen in over a control panel based microphone and discern, through 85 decibels of siren, the sounds of a potential criminal in my home? Aren't criminals, by their nature, kind of sneaky and silent. I should certainly think that the 85 decibels of sound coming from my alarm system would mask any ambient sound I might be able to hear that would tell me "Yup, that's a prowler!" as opposed to "Nope, that's just the cat." The problem is that in most communities, due to the... pardon my pun... alarming number of false alarms security systems can send out, police are now requiring verification of alarms before responding. That means that the police probably will not go to your home when you call them and say "I don't know what's going on. My alarm system called me and I listened in for an intruder through my Protector Plus Voice Dialer system... No, I couldn't see anything ... No I couldn't hear anything other than the siren..." So what that means is that rather than a professional company with alarm monitors trained to make the false versus verified determination and contact the authorities, you could be stuck getting a whole lot of 85db siren calls while you're at work. Oh, and if you get sick of answering that blaring call every time the cat knocks something over, the system also has a call list of three other people who are called automatically every time an alarm is triggered. So you can share that love with others like your parents, or your neighbors or your spouse or someone else who will have just as little idea as you as to whether it is a false alarm or a real intrusion. Don't get me wrong, an alarm system is an alarm system and is better than no system at all. But to market this system as one which calls you, and therefore liken it to a monitored system, is somewhat misleading. Caveat emptor, I guess.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Hello to all. I'm the new associate editor here at SSN, taking over the monitoring beat from my predecessor, Leischen Stelter. While I've had lots of experience in journalism, in general, I am fairly new to the security systems industry and have been enjoying the opportunity employment here has given me to learn new things. Like acronyms. You guys have lots and lots of acronyms. I like a good TLA as much as the next guy, but you guys have the CSAA, the NBFAA, the SIA, the NAAA, and the MAMA as well as all kinds of AHJs who frequent the meetings of the IACP, the NACP, the IAFC, and the NASFM. Thank you Celia for your index of security industry acronyms. It has saved me more than a few times! Recently, while doing some research and making some calls to introduce myself and discover any newsy developments at various central stations, I came across this story about what can only be described as some half-hearted attempts at ecoterrorism in Dawson Creek (no, not Dawson's Creek), British Columbia. Don't get me wrong, when I say "half-hearted," I'm not suggesting that the terrorists in question should try better next time. I'm saying that if you've got a complaint with something going on in your community, go to the town meeting and leave the homemade bombs alone. In my mind, any act of violence that purports to champion a cause only creates from the resulting turmoil many more critics of said cause than there were in the first place. The story mentioned that Murphy Oil Company, Ltd., "is drilling wells and building a gas plant about 30 kilometers southwest of Dawson Creek." I called Murphy Oil Co.'s vice president of business development Cal Buchanan, who in the story said that Murphy may "hire a security company to monitor the remote areas." Buchanan told me that so far all Murphy Oil was doing was checking with locals to see if anyone could, in an unofficial capacity, be hired to drive by operation areas regularly. Well... wasn't it most likely a local who perpetrated the bombings in the first place? As I said in the first graph above, I'm no expert... Another interesting thing I came across during my cold calls and emails was this section of Wayne Alarm's site. I called up Wayne Alarm's central station manager Annie Roderick who was nice enough to talk to me a bit about the industry and about Wayne Alarm's Antique Corner, a veritable museum of all things security industry. Wayne Alarm is based in Lynn, Mass. Any city with the tag line "Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin... You never come out the way you went in" has earned the right to be a mecca for industry history buffs, I guess. Wayne Alarm will be hosting CSAA's Fall Operations Management Seminar, taking place in Peabody, Mass. at the Boston Marriot Peabody Nov. 9-11. Annie assured me that anyone in the area for the event wishing to stop by for a tour of the Antique Corner will be more than welcome. Please feel free to drop me a line any time with any comments or suggestions or exciting goings on in the world of security.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Here's a bizarre story that found its way into my inbox over the long holiday weekend. According to this news source, the co-owner of Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Security Solutions is accused of taking security into his own hands by making homemade explosives (or at least purchasing the supplies and equipment to do so) in an effort to blow up some people he didn't like.

Police said he planned to target homes of local gang members he came across in the course of his job. "It appears the motivation was some intimidation by what he perceived as gang members against employees of his company," Smith said. ...

Police said Leyer admitted to talking about making bombs to blow up gang houses, but he said he never intended to actually do it.

Uh huh. I mean who doesn't regularly purchase test tubes, rubber tubing, galvanized pipe, flares and shotgun shells? Police are just so keyed up these days.

Anyway, I did a quick Google search for Wisconsin Security Solutions and only came up with an address listing and brief description. Looks like this company is mostly in the guarding business rather than electronic security, which I imagine is a relief to most of you (the description even says this company rents guard dogs, which is a first for me).

I'd say that if this situation were an episode of Little House on the Prairie and there needed to be a moral lesson learned, Half Pint (that's Laura's nickname, for those of you who weren't adolescent girls in the 80s) would need to be reminded that there are just some things you shouldn't take into your own hands (even if security is your business). It also goes to show that every industry has its crazies.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, August 26, 2008
So in a few weeks I'll be heading down to Atlanta to attend ASIS International. I had a great time in Atlanta when I went for a preview visit in February (partially because there wasn't four feet of snow on the ground like there was here in Maine). One of the highlights was the Georgia Aquarium, which is an awesome venue (minus the hoards of children) with its three beluga whales, massive whale sharks and many intriguing exhibits. I read an article today from CNN about the latest addition to the Georgia Aquarium in the form of a 450-pound manta ray named Nandi. She has a nine-foot wingspan and made her debut in the acquarium just yesterday. I hope that someone out there is having some sort of event in the aquarium (it has an awesome conference room that has a window into the beluga whale tank) and, more importantly, will send along an invite to yours truly. If not, Nandi sounds like a great reason to get off the show floor.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, August 20, 2008
This article is a tragic reminder that the security business is often a matter of life and death and that mistakes, even small ones, can have serious consequences. The widow of a firefighter killed in a house fire is suing two security companies, Pinnacle Security of Utah and Security Associates International of Illinois, alleging that the companies mishandled a fire alarm signal that led to the deaths of not only the widow's husband, but another firefighter and the two occupants of the house. Mistakes by an alarm company representative led to a nearly 10-minute delay from the moment the homeowners' fire alarm alerted her to when the first firefighter was dispatched, according to the lawsuit and a 122-page report by the Contra Costa Fire District, reported the Contra Costa Times. Here is more from the Contra Costa story: On the night of the fire, homeowner Grace Moore told a Pinnacle alarm company representative that there was an active fire in the their house over a two-way intercom system. The alarm representative called the Contra Costa fire nonemergency dispatch line and told an operator there was a fire alarm report instead of relaying that she had spoken to the homeowner and was told a fire was burning. The wrong terminology and incorrect phone line sent the call plummeting down the priority list. It's a sad situation all around. From that article it does seem like the operator mishandled the dispatch and highlights a point I made in an earlier blog about the importance of knowing local information as well as having well-trained operators who understand the severity of their job. I will be curious to see how this plays out in court and there could be a potential precedent set determining exactly how liable security companies are for their actions (or mis-actions, I guess).
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, August 18, 2008
You hear more and more about metal thefts due to the increasing price of scrap, but what about the increasing cost of food leading to more crop thefts? Here in Maine blueberry season is at its peak and according to this local article, blueberry-thieving is too. I'm guessing most of you are unaware how blueberries are harvested, but it involves using this short-handled upside-down rake tool that scoops up the berries. In short, it's back-breaking work, but apparently well worth the effort (from the farmer's perspective maybe not from the laborers). Blueberries are yielding about $1 per pound so we're talking pretty big money for farmers, according to this article. David Bell, executive director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, said blueberry thefts total an estimated $100,000 annually. “It’s definitely a six-figure problem,” he said. “Any pound of berries that is stolen is pure profit to the person who stole them, so it’s a very serious concern to growers.” ... “It’s hard to catch someone blue-handed, so to speak, but with berries moving in transit that’s another opportunity to catch the thieves,” said Bell of the blueberry commission. First of all, I love that there is a Wild Blueberry Commission at all and secondly, it's priceless that he used the phrase "blue handed." Who couldn't love Maine? Anyway, to counter thefts, farmers have begun hiring security guards to patrol their fields, some of which are really out in the middle of Nowheresville, Maine. Apparently the thieves are coming in on four-wheelers and illegally harvesting the crop. Local police have also ramped up efforts to monitor vehicles transporting the precious fruit (you're only allowed to have 25 pounds without a permit) and are also targeting buyers of illegal blues. But, with all the tourist traffic here in Maine, apparently police can't dedicate the manpower needed to protect one of Maine's precious commodities. I guess nothing is safe in this economy.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, August 4, 2008
Here's another article highlighting the dangers of non-response policies. In this case, police did not respond to an alarm because the user had not registered the system or paid the $10 fee. The owner ended up responding himself, discovering the thief still inside the building and foolishly locking himself and the thief inside the building until police arrived after he managed to call 911. The owner was a little banged up, but lucky for him, the intruder didn't have a weapon and he was able to out-muscle him. The whole situation is just ridiculous, but brings up an important point for security owners. It's vital that security companies know about local registration policies and inform their customers about them (or heck, even provide the forms to avoid liability). If I was this guy, I would be pretty annoyed at my security company (which the article doesn't mention by name, by the way, which seems like an important fact for the article, but mainstream media prefers the generic term "security company"). After all, the registration policy directly effects the systems that security companies are selling and, frankly, with my end-user hat on, I expect them to know about it. I realize it's probably a huge task to be up-to-date on all these policies, especially for a truly national company, but, honestly, I don't have a lot sympathy, it's just part of doing business in this industry. In today's competitive market there are plenty of other security companies that would gladly take on your disgruntled customers.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Here's an article that emphasizes how important it is for security and monitoring companies to have good data entry people as well as systems designed to double check information. A woman who had been a loyal ADT customer for four years received a message on her answering machine that her alarm had been activated and police had been dispatched. The only problem? Police never showed up. ADT had the wrong physical address for this woman. But, as the article points out: The company may not have known where to send first responders, but it did know where to send the bills. "I received all my bills here. I had all my contracts that stated 307 [her correct address]. As far as I'm concerned, they had the right contract," she said. I can see her point. If she was receiving bills at the correct address why would she even question that the company had the wrong address listed in their system? I wouldn't. I know managing all this customer information is a major undertaking and ADT is obviously a huge company with hundreds of thousands of customers, but doesn't that mean they would have software or something in place to double check information in their system? Don't most central stations have some sort of means of verifying information like periodic calls, form letters or something? Perhaps I'm being too lofty with my assumptions. I think this article points out how important it is for monitoring companies, big or small, not to lose sight of the business they're in. Because ADT wasn't really protecting this woman's home, they refunded her four years worth of monitoring costs. That's $1,400 of lost revenue and may be pennies for ADT, but could be big bucks for you.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Here's a profile article by CE Pro Magazine about Wayne Alarm Systems in Lynn, Mass. The owner, who if you're at all keyed into the monitoring industry, will know as Ralph Sevinor posing in his well-known alarm museum. Even a relative newbie to the industry like me knows Ralph (but I always want to call him "Wayne"- Does anyone else have that problem?). The premise of the article is exactly the topic we here at SSN continually tout: How can security companies increase their RMR by entering the home automation space? I think this paragraph makes a good point about some of the insecurities felt within the industry: A company like Wayne Alarm Systems can't snap its fingers and start offering control, according to Sevinor. "It's a philosophical change," he says. "When somebody looks at a home automation system or a TV, they're looking at a life expectancy of two or three years. When somebody is looking at a security system, they're looking at 20 years." According to the article, Sevinor has tasked an employee (the other guy in the photo) to investigate the profitability of entering the "control" space, as CE Pro refers to it. This is probably a decent and smart business strategy and I hope the next article about Wayne Alarms (perhaps done by yours truly) will be about its entrance into the space. It would be a good, reassuring example for the rest of the industry, many of who are also on the fence about all this ding dang new technology, and proof that, yes, it can be done. Show us the way Ralph, I mean Wayne, I mean Ralph.

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