I just got a press release from G4S. It looks like their new video monitoring and data center, located in beautiful Burlington, Mass. just achieved CSAA Five Diamond Certification. Good for them. I've got calls out to Jerry Cordasco and Celia Besore for comment and I'll continue to report on this story.
Stealth Monitoring of Dallas was luckily watching recently when a pickup truck crashed through the front of a strip mall doughnut shop in Grand Prairie, Texas. I recently posted a story about Stealth and Safeguard getting cozy. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt. And thankfully, I have that Stealth surveillance footage to watch all day... one more reason to give up doughnuts!
A recent story out of San Diego bothers me on a couple different levels. I mean, personally, I don't live in San Diego (I live way up in Maine, near the Arctic Circle), but on a professional level, there are just too many things wrong with the picture painted in the abovelinked story. First of all the title, "Stupid Alarm," does not set the scene for a warm, glowing, right-response kind of feeling. We're told that a fire alarm starts going off in the afternoon and that about a dozen residents of a condo complex evacuate. We're told that it is soon discovered the alarm was false, but that the maintenance person couldn't figure out how to reset the system. Okay, so we don't know what caused the alarm, but we do know that one of the building's employees did not know how to operate the system... Or is the system faulty? We're told the fire department soon (and when I say soon, I mean 20 minutes (20 minutes?) after the alarm began going off) showed up and couldn't figure it out either. They soon drove away shrugging their shoulders. This, of course, leaves all the business owners and residents in the area to bathe in the droning decibels of the alarm. And they weren't happy about it:
Although it was discovered to be a false alarm, the building maintenance person was unable to disarm the system. Soon afterward, homeowners as well as ground-floor retailers became annoyed. 'This is really loud and irritating,' said a retailer who had the alarm blaring in his store. 'It is turning my customers away. I was concerned at first, but now I just want them to fix it.'See at this point, in the minds of the end-user, it's not the maintenance guy's fault for not knowing how to shut it off, nor is it the toast-burning resident's fault. It isn't the fire department's fault. It's the "stupid alarm's" fault. The real pariah here is the industry, who in this story is the nameless alarm company that took over an hour to show up and give everyone relief. That's a problem... the alarm company here is the bad guy... they're not protecting lives and preventing losses, they're making everyone sit around listening to ear splitting sirens. It's all about public perception.
A fireman was seen trying to assist but then was overheard saying, â€œThatâ€™s out of our league.â€ Firefighters then cleared the area and left within a few minutes. However, the sound of the alarm was not silenced until almost 4 p.m., when an alarm company support team arrived to turn it off.The alarm started going off at 2:45, so that's over an hour that residents had to wrestle with a malfunctioning system and listen to the alarm. Business owners were angry, residents were angry. People who dealt with the alarm going off don't care how busy the unnamed "alarm company support team" was... said team just comes off as having not done its job right, which is too bad. What's worse of all, however, is the final woman interviewed--a resident of the building with the malfunctioning alarm--maybe she's the one who burned the toast...? Her demeanor, her statements demonstrate the ultimate danger in false and malfunctioning alarms.
A lady standing outside of her second-floor balcony to avoid the noise inside her home said, 'Good thing I didnâ€™t bother coming downstairs. It wasnâ€™t a real fire, anyway. I didnâ€™t want to bother with packing my things and getting my cat.'"That's not a good thing. It's not good that she's been trained to assume that the alarm was false. In the life safety business, if your solutions annoy and cause the "boy-who-cried-wolf" syndrome, they're probably worse than no alarm at all.
Allow me to clarify the headline and set the mood... Anyone who watched TV in the '80s (and who doesn't watch tv--except for my colleague, Martha?) remembers this exciting, if somewhat turgid, opening-scene narration:
Ten years ago, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.I'll admit, I loved the show. And there is just something about Attrition Busters and their logo that reminds me of the A-Team. Let's compare: Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is because Attrition Busters president Bob Harris sent a shout out to me today to let me know he would be delivering a seminar titled "From Satisfied to Delighted" at the upcoming BICSI Winter Conference in Orlando, Fla. in January. I sat in on Bob's CSAA-hosted webinar on October 8, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The feedback from attendee exit polls was very positive for that webinar, and I would recommend anyone to check out Harris' presentation. The slides from that webinar are available at the CSAA's site here. The session promises to be less of a talk/presentation and more of an interactive learning experience. From Bob's press release on the session:
BICSI attendees will have the opportunity to attend Harris' most in demand seminar and hands on workshop session. This exciting, high-energy seminar will solicit significant audience participation and will convey vibrant and creative tools for a host of customer and company culture issues designed specifically to save customers wanting to 'jump ship' from one company to another because of the state of our economy. Topics covered in this seminar will include ways to measurably reduce competitive attrition, understanding the six basic customer needs, increasing perceived value, added value sales in a lousy economy, methods of dealing with angry customers, teamwork, growth and emotionally bonding customers.Interested in checking out BICSI's Winter Conference? You can register here at the site or use this .pdf version. You could do worse than to check this guy out. In fact some would argue that status quo as modus operandi in a rocky and unsure economy is a guaranteed route to extinction. And you could do worse than to spend a few days in Orlando in January.
Got an email from ESA recently. Time is slipping away if you're interested in joining in their 2010 Leadership Summit for free (that's right: FREE). If you miss the early registration deadline of Dec. 14, a $125 registration fee applies... If you are a leader (or want to be), don't waffle; now's the time to make a command decision to attend and save $125. Good leaders don't spend $125 when they could spend $0 to get the same result. According to ESA's email, one of the benefits of participating in the Leadership Summit is that attending will earn you CEUs. The National Training School will issue .1 CEU per workshop and you'll get your certificate at the end of each session. SSN has been reporting on CEUs a lot lately. Workshops being offered this year include: The future of communication and attention in the age of social media Megatrends 2010: Trends that will impact how you conduct business Achieving board excellence Innovative income--looking beyond membership dues The Summit takes place from Jan. 12-14 in Fort Worth, Texas. There are worse places to spend a couple days in January than Fort Worth. You can register here.
I'm really starting to dig my LinkedIn blasts. Got one from DICE vis-a-vis the CSAA group on LinkedIn. They're asking about standards. SSN is no stranger to standards discussions, and it couldn't hurt to check out DICE's discussion and offer some feedback. Here's the pitch from DICE:
Should standards be developed to promote hot-redundant phone switches and failover to a DR center? As new soft switches or software-run switches are deployed in more and more centers, a new area of failure points in the central station develops. Should there be a standard to promote and enforce the failover and redundancy specifications of PBXes and telecommunications equipment to ensure proper testing and performance? Furthermore, should alarm companies be required to have redundancy within the alarm center regarding such items as phone switches, multi-path IP and Telco signaling? Also, what standards do you feel should be enforced when routing your entire Telco infrastructure to a DR center?In my opinion, anything that assures accepted practices are followed, fights errors, and more regularly ensures quality is a good thing. Rock on DICE.
Just got a blast from LinkedIn through the CSAA group. Wanda Valenteen, central station manager at The Protection Bureau, is looking for some best practices on training of Gen Y employees. Here's her posting:
Y-Gen Training: We studied them and know that they are unique in their behavior and work ethic. We discussed the studies and behavior and then began to hire them. We've all developed our own unique ways of training and retaining them. Does anyone want to share their training efforts, successes and failures relating to the Y-Gen employees?Drop on by and give her some feedback. ESA, or the evolved NBFAA, sponsored the creation of a group earlier in 2009 called the Young Security Professionals group which is intended as a resource to get those younger security pros involved in the stewardship of their industry. If you really want some input from younger security professionals who are going above and beyond, check out SSN's most recent 20 Under 40 feature. The young cream of the crop are highlighted therein.
The answer is they're all descendants of my favorite childhood toy ever. But what do they have to do with security? I blogged recently about video and audio verification of alarms and how they are improving relations with emergency responders and municipalities. I was speaking with Keith Jentoft at RSI Video Technologies, who--for obvious reasons--evangelizes video verification as the way of the future for the security industry. I spoke with former NYPD detective Edwin Day who backed up much of what Keith was saying. I wrote a story about the burgeoning trend of verified alarms last month, as well. My editor Sam touched on audio verification recently in a story he wrote about developing tensions between Sonitrol--who evangelize audio verification--and The Stanley Works. Security systems that allow us to hear and see what is going on and interact, via two-way voice are here... What about systems that do more? What about systems that really give us telepresence? Of course the military already widely uses unmanned drones called UAVs to perform surveillance and reconnaissance. And there are other projects in development as well. But when do I get to use my own personal robot to sneak up behind my son and scare the daylights out of him when he's doing something he shouldn't. The next issue of SSN will feature a stats brief dedicated to another possible future for video surveillance. I spoke with ABI Research's NextGen research director Larry Fisher about the forecasted growth of the personal robotics market and what role security applications might play in the next several years. Larry pointed out there were already a couple lower-end robots out there that offered real telepresence (full, wi-fi control of the robot, cameras, and two way voice). Wowee's Rovio seems the more serious of the two and with a $230 price tag, it's not really a toy. Erector also makes a model called the Spykee. This seems much more like a toy, though there appears to be no pricing information on the website... always a bad sign. If you have a free few seconds watch the video... it's AWESOME. I'll admit it, I'm a comic book, sci-fi geek from way back and the idea of a personal robot patrolling my property appealed to my inner nerd. At least I try to keep him "inner" most of the time. So how close are we to personal robots silently and autonomously patrolling our homes and businesses, surveilling and apprehending the bad guys? For those of you who're on the same geeky wavelength with me, when can we finally (FINALLY!) go out and buy our very own ED 209 (that poor guy--wrong place, wrong time--in RoboCop), UCAV named EDI, or Sentinel? Of course, I have to be careful what I wish for... All us nerds know the danger of autonomous robotic guards gone wrong... Here's some of what Larry had to say:
On the low end of this segment are surveillance and telepresence robots like WowWee's Rovio and Meccano/Erector's Spykee robots, both of which are essentially mobile webcams with a speaker. They can be programmed to patrol set paths, and can be controlled by a remote user over Wi-Fi (and through the Internet). Their low height and low-resolution cameras provide limited functionality, but over time this will improve as features will be added to give them greater security and telepresence capabilities. In the long term, the market for high-end security robots will be limited by lower-end products gaining much of their functionality. High-end robots will be sold mostly to owners of large estates for use outside the house, where large size is required to prevent trespass and theft, and better sensors and mobility are required to view and navigate the terrain.So not now, but perhaps someday. Baby steps... Baby steps... Baby steps.
I was speaking with Keith Jentoft over at RSI Video Technologies today about yet another partnership, this time with Mace CSSS. Earlier this week it was CMS. Keith was telling me about a recent case study RSI put together about the Detroit Public School system. Apparently there were a large number--100--public school buildings in Detroit that were closed and in need of protection from thieves and vandals. An RFP was issued and a bid accepted. 30 schools were outfitted by D/A Central of Security-Net with the Videofied solution as apposed to traditional video surveillance at a cost to the city, according to RSI's study, of $5,000 as opposed to $100,000 for each school. That's a lot of money and a lot of savings. Keith's point is that a Videofied system--which he is quick to point out is NOT video surveillance ("Weâ€™re not monitored by a special boutique in the back. The ordinary worker bee does Videofied. Why? Because weâ€™re not video surveillance. All weâ€™re trying to do is answer the question: 'Is there someone there?' If there is somewhere there you dispatch.")--is much cheaper and more effective. Case in point: the Videofied solution costs just 5 percent, again according to RSI's study, of the full-blown surveillance solution. What's more, it was effective. According to the case study, after Videofied was deployed in the remaining buildings, and monitored by Exton, Pa.-based The Protection Bureau, the powers-that-be got 45 apprehensions in four weeks with no false alarms... That's a pretty good track record. Jentoft pointed out the savings didn't stop at the lower price of the Videofied solution. There's savings in not having to board up the vacant buildings as tightly, savings in the form of not having to clean up graffiti, savings of pipes and cabling that weren't stolen, savings in the form of reduced liability from lawsuits from those who break in. Some of the unprotected buildings in the original lot were so damaged by looters and vandals that, according to Jentoft, they had to be torn down at great cost to the city. Jentoft's main point, however, is that many municipalities are moving toward actively changing their dispatch procedures to prioritize alarms that are accompanied by video verification. NYPD was named specifically. I called Long Island City, N.Y.-based American Security Systems' senior security consultant Edwin Day for some background. Day has been around and has an impressive law enforcement resume. During his 22-year career with the NYPD, he was awarded 40 citations for meritorious and heroic actions in the line of duty. Day is an active member of ASIS and the Detectives Crime Clinic of New York and New Jersey. He has completed the Facility Security Design and Physical Security Technology and Applications courses, and is also the recipient of the Detectives Crime Clinic Award for Excellence, the NYPD Detective Bureau Certificate of Exemplary Conduct, and the Detectives Endowment Association Certificate. Speaking of dispatch procedures at the NYPD, Day said he had advocated for understanding of what a video-verified system could do. "They have made a structural change in the approach to video verification of alarms," Day said. "When I first saw this product my first reaction was 'this is fantastic.' ... My belief was basically that the typical burglar alarm is a victim of its own success. Everybody's putting them out there. I know, as a cop, it's a low priority job as a necessity simply because there are so many false alarms." Jentoft said cities in California were following suit. I have emails out to officials at CAA to follow up on this assertion. I wrote a story recently for SSN that postulated the genesis of a trend toward all alarms having audio or video verification. With prices coming down, perhaps now is the time to get into video and two-way voice.
I got a press release from SIAC on Thursday of last week. I love the guys over at SIAC. They're working hard to make the industry function more efficiently with municipalities so that everyone--the industry, the municipalities, and the end users--wins. Plus the guys over there are always, courteous, quick to call back, and copious in their comments on the issues about which I write. It appears the annual Police Dispatch Quality Award, which recognizes the North American security company that best demonstrates a dedicated and cooperative effort to reduce unnecessary alarm dispatches, and is sponsored in part by the False Alarm Reduction Association is underway. They're currently looking for applications from false-alarm-fighting North American security companies, so if you feel like you've been going above and beyond to reduce needless law-enforcement rolls and improve industry relations with municipalities, by all means, throw your hat in the ring.