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by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Got my email newsletter from Ken Kirschenbaum today and was interested to see lots of input from various industry players on the NRTL debate and the rise of Intertek/ETL. I wrote about this before, as did my colleague, Martha. I like Kirshenbaum's email's. They're frequent, touch on important issues and include input from many industry luminaries. You can sign up for Ken's newsletter here. Ken opens the newsletter thusly:
The issue is NRTL and ANSI. Nationaly Recognized Testing Labs. American National Standards Institute. Most familiar, at least to me, is UL. you need to be UL listed in order to issue UL Certificates. In NYC you need UL listing for your central station before applying for approval to monitor fire alarms in the City of New York. But NYC FD will accept any NRTL listing. UL isn't the only NRTL. ETL/Intertek is another. FM, which stands for Factory Mutual, is another NRTL that lists central stations for fire alarm monitoring only. ETL and UL list for fire alarm and burglary.
So what's the big deal? Why is ETL's entry into the NRTL space ruffling some feathers? Ken then goes on to add newsletter reader commentary. Mark Hillenburg of Digital Monitoring Products had this to say:
Actually, the Standards are not UL standards; they are ANSI standards and are therefore available for any NRTL to test to under the authority of OSHA ... We recently brought a new control panel to market. A WHOLE NEW PANEL. ETL had all the testing done and completed by the time that UL got back to us with the quote. You guys couldn't stay in business if you were that lax in getting your customers quotes. We're talking about testing to the exact same standards as ANSI in the exact same rigorous manner. The costs are only slightly lower, but the time savings is a fraction of the time to do a UL project. This is why most of the manufacturers are moving to ETL, because they will actually get your project done in a time frame that the product is still relevant when you can introduce it. At the end of the day, our economic system is founded on competition and competition makes all of us better.
That makes sense to me. More competition on any playing field assures better pricing, better service, better quality, better standards, etc. It's the American way. Thomas F. Connaughton of Intertek spoke up with the following:
Why did Intertek enter the Life Safety and Security space? Manufacturers wanted and needed CHOICE in NRTLs ... During our product service launch to the manufacturing community it became clearly evident that these companies [central stations and ASCs] were also in in need of a choice in third party certification. Why? Their current service provider accepts only 1 NRTL brand (their own) which puts owners, operators and service professionals at a distinct disadvantage as the manufacturing community continues to diversify their NRTL providers, be it Intertek and our ETL brand, FM, CSA, etc. Their pool of acceptable and available equipment will continue to shrink as competitor market share grows. History shows that as the goods pool shrinks, the costs of these goods will rise directly impacting these organizations. In addition, when an organization has a CHOICE regarding the equipment that they can purchase and use they can effectively manage their bottom line (while still complying with the OSHA NRTL third party requirements).
Again, it's all about choice, and as long as their testing to the same standards as the other NRTLs, choice is a good thing. Bart Didden of U.S.A. Central Station Alarm Corp. was pleased with the discussion but advocated for UL more than some others.
So many correct points have been made about the Standards and ANSI and NRTLs, I love it--more great information ... Remember, I am all about increasing PROFITS, maximizing return on investment (ROI), and separating my organization from those who are substandard ... SOON WE WILL PRESS FOR AN ADDITIONAL LISTING CATEGORY FROM UL FOR MULTI- OFFICE CONFIGURATION, and if UL won't author it with us we can go to NBFAA (ESA) and get it done. But back to certificates because that is where the money is. Let's hear about how is ETL going to support the creation of more jurisdictions requiring certificates. UL, for all its faults has been working with various CSAA committees to expand these jurisdictions for years. If equality for ETL begins to dilute that effort, as small as it may be and does not pick up the shortfall, we will be the ones that lose in the long run.
Pete Tallman from UL added his voice to the discussion as well:
The alarm industry really consists of two parts: 1) manufacturers of equipment and 2) alarm services companies. OSHA's NRTL program only addresses organizations that assess the equipment and materials for manufacturer's so that an OSHA inspector can determine a product installed int he work place is safe. The eveluation of alarm service companies and the alarm systems they install, service, maintain and often monitor is beyond the scope of OSHA's NRTL program. So being a NRTL has no relevance to the certification of alarm services or the evaluation of central stations. Does that mean being a NRTL is a bad thing? Of course not. Nor does it mean that as a NRTL the organization necessarily has competency in the alarm service side of the industry. What is important is to tone down and clarify the sweeping claims and broad statements being made by others that have in effect brought confusion to a relatively simple question. What is relevant in a discussion about the certification of alarm systems and central stations is competency of the staff performing those assessments. Competency of staff which can only be determined by technical certifications such as NICET and independent accreditation agencies assessing the process by which staff makes certification decisions, not by having an OSHA designation of being a NRTL. All will agree that the industry should have choices; but let's agree to ensure that the industry has correct information from which to make an educated choice.
It's an interesting debate.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, October 26, 2009
Came across an Oct. 22, 2009 Reuters story that highlighted the results of a Harris Poll Survey that showed 96 percent of Americans were okay with video surveillance used in public in order to combat terrorism. I wrote a piece on the opportunities available to security companies in an age where people expect more public surveillance. I actually couldn't find this "recent" Harris Poll at Harris Interactive, the company that runs the Harris Poll. The most recent Harris Polls on video surveillance I can find online are from February and August of 2006... not really that recent... I've got an email back with the hard data from Harris. Looks like this poll was conducted from May-June 2009. Hopefully they'll put it up online soon. Regardless, it appears the piece is less a news story on a recent poll and more a sales pitch for Behavioral Recognition Systems, a software development company that provides "cognitive video analytics software," that purports to learn the particulars of an environment. Their website also has an audio pitch that starts up automatically and plays regardless of whether you want it to or not... I hate that. The problem, according to the Harris Poll piece, is that "citizen support of video surveillance rests on the assumption that more cameras will result in more secure environments, but that isn't the case. Recently, the security staff at the George Washington Bridge in New York City--responsible for monitoring bridge cameras and security kiosks--was photographed sleeping on the job. Thus, camera proliferation alone ... will not solve the problem." Enter the MacGuffin, in this case analytics from BRS Labs. We here at SSN have written about this problem before, highlighting what many of you are doing to combat the problem of too-thin human resources, including easily overwhelmed or fatigued human attention span. We're all aware that adoption of analytics has been slower than it could be due to over promising capabilities. The November issue has a stats piece (linked in the previous sentence and available in SSN's premium section) on the drivers for future analytics growth. It seems to me, however, that with the price of video coming down, coupled with advances in analytics and wide-spread acceptance of being monitored there should be a lot of opportunity out there for the security industry to get into monitoring of public spaces.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Friday, October 23, 2009
I got a press release from ESA the other day. That's the Electronic Security Association, or what used to be called the NBFAA, or National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. The release points out ESA as the "evolution" of NBFAA... and here we just thought they'd simply changed their name... Anyway, it appears ESA is now accepting applications for their annual Youth Scholarship program. Everything costs more nowadays, so if you're a security professional with kids at home in need of higher education, look to your industry's associations for help. It's what they're there for. SIA also offers a scholarship for first responders. Good luck with all submissions.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, October 20, 2009
ATHENS, Greece--So I was checking out my Twitter feeds from the CSAA Annual Meeting in Athens, Greece today, and there appears to be some pretty heavy stuff going on. And while it's true I'm definitely NOT in Athens, Greece right now (we had our first snowfall over the weekend in New England, which may or may not have helped the Pats trounce Tennessee...), through the magic of social networking, it's almost like I'm actually there covering the meeting. Vector Security's Pam Petrow's (Twitter handle PamPetrow) phone keyboard has been on fire during the sessions with topical (and perhaps tropical, given the meeting's location--according to the member survey at this year's meeting, next year's should be held in the Caribbean...) tweets on issues such as the new FTC Red Flag Rules, which will go into effect Nov. 1. The FTC Red Flag Rules apply to financial institutions and creditors and are intended to help protect consumers by fighting identity theft. At first, I was confused how this applied to the security industry, but then I saw a tweet from Pam that put it in perspective.
alarm ind.qualifies as creditor under FTC defn. If bill in arrears,extend credit,have mtple pymts you must comply
Makes sense that the industry could qualify as a creditor if it regularly extends credit, through payment plans, to past due accounts. CSAA has been letting us know about these impending rules since last year. Another tweet--this one from CSAA VP of marketing and programs Celia Besore's Twitter handle CSAAIntl--let me know that ETL had, indeed, become the the next nationally recognized testing laboratory, allowing the industry more choice in whom they go to for their testing lab listing or approval. My colleague Martha Entwistle wrote about ETL's rise here. UL and FM were the two NRTLs approved by CSAA. ETL has been covered by SSN before, and the CSAA member vote to change the by-laws and allow companies listed by any CSAA-approved NRTL other than UL and FM to join association was expected. Pam also let us know Honeywell Security and Communications president Ron Rothman was approved to the CSAA Board to represent associate members. Martha also interviewed Ron back at ISC West. A kind of big issue facing the security industry today is the life expectancy of POTS (or Plain Old Telephone Service) lines, and the increasing need for solutions to have multiple pathways of communication between the panel and the central station. An announcement from Verizon--AICC-10 yr life projected on POTS by Verizon (as tweeted by Pam)--should raise even more concern from the industry. The AICC is a pan-association group, made up of the three main associations in the industry: the Security Industry Association, the Electronic Security Association (formerly the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association) and the Central Station Alarm Association. An SSN Market Trends piece from 2008 addressed the need get off of POTS post-haste. I'm actually working on a story right now about a partnership between NationWide Digital Monitoring and Visonic that will help dealers future proof their solutions with multiple pathways of communication. NWD EVP and chief technology officer Mark Fischer, in an interview with me the other morning, said the time to expand beyond POTS was now. "Right now, what's happening in the world is there's a move away from having POTS phone lines," Fischer said. "What you see is--especially with people 30 and under now--you go to houses and people don't have standard phone lines, period. If they even have phone lines--they're just cell only ... By allowing multiple paths you have a higher degree of security." It's all about more security.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, October 19, 2009
Of course, you're probably wondering what the headline means. I found myself thinking about false alarms this morning upon reading a catchy headline--Alleged pork chop theft a false alarm--and saw a developing trend in some of the stories I came across in my Google Alerts. This blog post's headline refers to three stories with the common theme of people making stuff up, causing an unneeded and expensive emergency response and then, I'm sure, wondering what all the fuss is about and why they're being treated like criminals. The first story is about a guy from Texas who called in a hoax 911 call about his grandmother having chest pains. The caller then gave the dispatcher a fake address. That is just not cool. Waste of time, tempting karma with your grandmother's wellbeing... This kid should be locked up. It's curious to note his middle name is Wayne... which, if you follow News of the Weird means that he is, according to scientific proof, destined to most likely be a serial killer... Let's save him from himself and put him away now. The second story is out of New York and concerns a guy--probably mentally ill--who authorities assume pulled a fire alarm in order to vacate the firehouse and then slip in while emergency responders were out investigating the false he caused. Again, waste of time and money... another guy who would be better off locked up. And probably the worst of the lot is the balloon boy's father, who we now realize put his son up to the hoax so that he could get his own reality show. I won't, in this blog, call this guy the many names that come to my mind right now. Another guy who's lies and pathetic need for attention cost tax payers a lot of money. He should also have his kids taken away from him and be locked up. False alarms are not cool. They're a huge problem to the alarm industry and to municipalities and emergency responders. People who incite false alarms and panic on purpose, to gain attention need to be locked up. Just my opinion. I welcome yours.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I wrote a story way back in the warm month of July about opportunities that were emerging for security installers, integrators and monitoring centers in municipalities' increasing demand for surveillance. Cities and towns and the citizens thereof increasingly want their public spaces monitored for safety, and they're looking to you guys--the security industry--to get the jobs done. According to an Oct. 12 release from Schneider Electric, there's definitely money there for companies with the ability to step up to the plate and deliver the systems and the monitoring for municipal-wide solutions. Here's some of the release:
DALLAS—The city of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., has awarded Schneider Electric … a $2 million contract for a wireless video surveillance system. Schneider Electric will design, install and maintain a network of more than 200 digital surveillance cameras located throughout the city’s downtown area, commercial areas, school zones, parks and parking garages. The city of Wilkes-Barre and Hawkeye Security Solutions, a nonprofit corporation established by the city specifically for the deployment and implementation of a citywide video security system, selected Schneider Electric based on the company’s experience and technical knowledge.
It seems to me there are probably quite a few security companies out there with the experience and technical knowledge of Schneider Electric (though, admittedly Schneider Electric's pretty dang big). Federal government programs also exist. I guess if there's any lesson here, it's that fortune favors the bold... and those who pick up the phone and do a little searching for the money that's there.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I was talking to RSI Video Technologies president Keith Jentoft the other day (actually my day today began with a chat with Keith as well), and he was telling me about a project he'd been working on with ESA (that's the new-fangled NBFAA, for those of you who haven't been paying attention). It seems the parties involved have been working on a "Technology Interest Group." Jentoft assured me the endeavor would be vendor-neutral and packed full of useful info to help traditional burg folks to start reaping some of the benefit of video. The first category explored at the wiki is video-verified alarm systems. I actually wrote a story with input from Jentoft and Sandra Jones and Company principle Sandy Jones. Look for that story on SSN's next newswire tomorrow (I'll update this post with a link when it's available). from the wiki:
The first category to be addressed is Video Verified Alarms as this is a small incremental step in both technology and business model from the traditional intrusion alarm business. We hope to complete all sections soon. We are especially looking for actual real-life input from central stations and dealers to bring value to the 'Best Practices' section under each of the three technologies covered in Video Verified Alarm Systems.
They're looking for real, live input from bona fide security industry folks, so drop on by and participate. And maybe earn some money and be part of the next big trend...
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, October 5, 2009
I just wanted to remind readers of SSN of some of the upcoming opportunities for education in the security industry field. I've written over the past couple weeks about several opportunities, including A CSAA-sponsored webinar this week on Oct. 8, which will focus on beating attrition and increasing RMR, an online PERS primer from Visonic, the company that held intensive PERS boot camps earlier this year, and training to become CSAA Five Diamond certified. The best part about all of these upcoming initiatives is that they are all completely, 100 percent, absolutely FREE. You don't get anything free these days except bad advice, usually, so the value is pretty dang hard to overestimate. Why not take full advantage of these opportunities and help to better yourself and the industry?
by: Daniel Gelinas - Friday, October 2, 2009
I just got a release from COPS Monitoring. It appears one of their own--Maria Malice, vice president of special projects--has won the prestigious Alarm Person of the Year award from the Public Safety Committee of the Arizona Alarm Association (AzAA) for the second year in a row. Here's the release:
Maria Malice, vice president of special projects at COPS Monitoring was voted Alarm Person of the Year by the Public Safety Committee of the Arizona Alarm Association (AzAA) for the second year in a row. According to the voting criteria, the person should present a professional image as well as offer positive contributions including ideas, time spent, dedication to the false alarm prevention program and implementation and completion of tasks in conjunction with the Public Safety Committee. Malice has been instrumental in the planning and set up of the Public Safety Days event, and has spent a lot of time on statewide licensing legislation that will be submitted for the next Legislative Session that starts in January. Held in September, the Public Safety Day event is specifically designed for alarm coordinators, security company owners and staff, monitoring station personnel and others in the security industry. The full schedule included a NICET Level I-II Test Prep Fire Alarm Class, various seminars and the Public Safety Appreciation Dinner. Malice, currently the Arizona Alarm Association president, was honored at the annual dinner, which was held at Don & Charlies’ Restaurant in Scottsdale. The dinner also provides the opportunity for alarm coordinators, their Chiefs of Police or Sheriffs, and alarm companies to discuss issues of concern. "It was truly a surprise to hear that I had been honored with this award a second time,” said Malice. “For me, working with the Public Safety Committee and serving the industry in the great state of Arizona is both an honor and a privilege.”
Congratulations Maria! Pictured below at the event are (left to right) Maria Malice, Becky Buchannon from Phoenix PD, Patty Rea from Phoenix PD, Jon Sargent from ADT, wearing his SIAC hat (and when I say "hat" I mean "shirt"), and Kathleen Schraufnagel from Broadview Security. maria-malice-wins-alarm-person-award-2nd-time
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I couldn't resist the turgid headline. As you may (or may not) recall from my first blog post, I'm fond of TLAs (or four- and five- letter acronyms, too, as the case may be). I just received a release from Mace Security International declaring its recently acquired monitoring center Mace CSSS had earned ETL Listing. Intertek/ETL, you'll recall from my cohort, Martha's, recent story is gaining in acceptance as an alternative to the other two main Nationally Recognized Training Labs, Underwriters Laboratories and Factory Mutual. Here's some of the release from Mace:
Mace Monitoring Center becomes one of the first U.S. central stations to earn the ETL Listing Mace Security International, Inc. ("Mace" or the “Company”) (Nasdaq Global:MACE) today announced that its subsidiary , Mace CSSS,Inc. has earned the ETL listing by Intertek, a testing laboratory recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The ETL listing indicates that Mace CSSS has been investigated and found to be in effective compliance with rigorous operational and safety standards and is eligible to use the ETL mark. This certification assures customers that their alarm monitoring center is maintained and tested annually by a nationally recognized testing laboratory to ensure full compliance with all federal, national, and local standard and codes.
It's nice that centrals now have more choice when it comes to NRTLs. Peter P. Giacalone, the recently hired president of Mace Security Services, said the listing was more proof of Mace's dedication to excellence. “We continue to strive to achieve the highest quality standards in the central station monitoring business," Giacalone said in the release. "The ETL listing combined with our UL standards listing places Mace CSSS on a standards level that only a handful of alarm monitoring companies have obtained.” In Martha's story from the October issue of SSN, CSAA officials said they expected members to vote for accepting listing from ETL. I emailed CSAA's VP marketing and programs Celia Besore to get a sense of how the voting was going, and she had this to say:
CSAA members will submit the final votes on the CSAA by-laws change at the Annual Meeting in few weeks. Some have submitted their votes by paper ballot, but the voting is not complete. The by-laws change will allow companies certified by any CSAA-approved Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) to apply for CSAA membership. The only two NRTLs that are CSAA-approved currently are UL and FM. If and when the by-laws change occurs, a CSAA committee will review any NRTL applications to see which additional NRTLs to approve.
Sounds like U.L. and FM might have to make room.

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