So I'm back from TechSec Solutions, and I have to say the action was pretty awesome. This was my first time at TechSec Solutions and I really enjoyed meeting all the presenters and exhibitors. TechSec presented a valuable opportunity for me to meet a portion of the people who comprise this industry upon which I report, as well as a chance for me to learn a little more about what makes security such an important and resilient industry. My trip to TechSec was not without its challenges. I traveled from Portland, Maine on Monday morning, February 23. My flight (which the airline assured me repeatedly was due to depart "on time") was supposed to leave at 6 a.m. Now, being a conscientious traveler, I wanted to be there two hours early, which meant I had to be there at 4 a.m. I live about an hour from Portland Jetport, which meant leaving my house at 3 a.m. Okay, that's pretty darn early, but when you factor in the blizzard we were having (complete with downed trees across the major roadways and area-wide blackouts) that actually meant getting up at 2 a.m. to ensure quality shoveling time with the 14 inches of heavy wet snow blocking my driveway. I arrived at the Jetport at 4 a.m. and was a little gratified and a little irritated when the x-ray machine operator at the security check point chuckled and said "Buddy, you're the first one through... hope your plane actually leaves." "You mean 'leaves on time,' right?" I asked. "Yeah, whatever you say, man," he said, shaking his head. My plane did leave, but not until around 8 a.m., after we'd sat at the gate for two hours, the tug trying and failing on the icy tarmac to taxi the plane out of the gate. It had been a long day already, and I wasn't even off the ground in Portland yet. Once in the air, things got a little better. I had some pretzels and a Diet Coke and took a little nap, waking up just in time to land in Newark, N.J. Ten minutes after my connection took off. The first thing I did was call NMC's Irving, Texas central station manager Stefan Rayner with whom I had a scheduled visit that afternoon. Obviously, I would be later than we had planned. He said not to worry and that he'd wait around until I could make it out there for a visit to NMC's cool new facility. I then got myself on a later flight and settled in for my layover, feeling kind of uncomfortable and sticky (I lost power while shoveling my way out of my house in Maine. I thought nothing of it while shoveling, and didn't realize the full implications of having an electric water pump until I'd finished shoveling and tried to take a shower--no such luck. Fortunately, Portland Jetport had power, and I had lots of time to kill since I'd gotten there two hours early. So I grabbed a shave and cleaned up a bit, much to the later delight, I'm sure, of Stefan and everyone setting up at TechSec.) I was rewarded in several ways on landing in Dallas. First of all, the snow I'd battled in the wee morning hours that morning was nothing more than a chilling memory in warm, sunny Dallas. Secondly, my visit to NMC's new monitoring center in nearby Irving was all I could have hoped for. My predecessor Leischen Stelter visited NMC last year, but it was before the center was fully staffed and operational. The facility is all glass and steel and concrete and chrome with stylish blue shaded lights hanging from the shadowed recesses of a high ceiling filled with ducts and piping. Stefan met me in a conference room off of the lobby, and when I asked to see the actual operator area, he walked to a wall of frosted, opaque glass and pushed a button. The glass wall immediately faded to clear, and I could see the banks of work stations on the other side, positioned below two large ceiling-mounted monitors dominating the room. I had a nice tour and talked at length with Stefan about NMC's Irving facility, the monitoring they do there, and what it was like to move from Aliso Viejo, California (where NMC's other monitoring center is) to Texas. Stefan was one of only three people to move from the original California center out to Texas to oversee the launch of the new facility. The third way in which I was rewarded upon my arrival in Texas was checking in at the Fairmont in downtown Dallas, where I finally took a shower, dressed in a clean suit, picked up my badge and began meeting and greeting attendees. The show went well. Everyone I spoke with enjoyed the networking and educational sessions. See ssnTVnews for highlights.
I just came across this story from localnews8.com, which promises a real hassle of time to come for any central stations with accounts in the Northern Utah area code 801. Apparently strong population growth has exhausted the allotted phone lines, and the Utah Public Service Commission is being forced to add a new area code, 385, to accommodate. I just did a quick check at NBFAA's website. There're close to 30 security companies in 801 who're members. Yikes. This will of course require centrals to track down their accounts with numbers that need to be changed, and set up a truck roll with their local technician to go to each account and reprogram the panel. Seems like a big pain in the neck. But such is the price we pay for progress and population.
Get the Recognition Your Company and Employees Deserve! The CSAA has announced it's looking for entrants for it's annual Excellence Awards. Three years ago, CSAA initiated the CSAA Central Station Excellence Awards program to recognize the industry's central station, central station manager and the central station operator that best exemplified excellence in central station operation. In every industry, there are outstanding companies, managers and operators who all perform to the highest levels and standards. In fact, these are the companies and people that are constantly exploring new ways to raise the standards of performance and quality in an industry. The Board of Directors of CSAA feels that it is fitting that we continue to recognize the efforts of extraordinary companies and the extraordinary people who make them work. The CSAA Awards are open to all UL Listed and/or FM Approved Central Stationsâ€”including company-owned, proprietary, and wholesale (third-party) central stations. This year CSAA will again recognize the best central station and individuals with three distinct awards: The Central Station of the Year Award The Central Station Manager of the Year Award The Central Station Operator of the Year Award The winners will be announced and the awards conferred at the CSAA Awards Breakfast on June 24, 2009 during the 2009 Electronic Security Expo in Baltimore, Md. How to Participate IMPORTANT: New this year, you will be asked to submit some of your responses on a downloadable spreadsheet: 1. Click here to download the spreadsheet. (Please ignore any messages indicating that the file is corrupted). 2. Save the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet on your computer under a new name (do not complete the form on the browser). 3. E-mail the completed spreadsheet before April 8, 2009 to the CSAA. 4. Download the rest of the materials by visiting the CSAA. You will also receive a mailing with the main application form. 5. You may e-mail the rest of the application as well, or you may send 10 completed copies of the rest of your application to CSAA, 8150 Leesburg Pike, Suite 700, Vienna, Va. 22182; Attention: Celia Besore. If you have any questions, please contact Celia Besore at 703-242-4670, Ext. 16. The deadline for submitting your Awards entries is Wednesday, April 8, 2009. All materials submitted are held in the strictest confidence. This is your opportunity to let your central station, your best manager, and your best operator get the recognition they deserve. Thank you for your commitment to raising the quality and standards of our profession and good luck!
LoJack, best known for helping bust crooks who try to steal your car is moving into people tracking with the launch, announced this week, of LoJack SafetyNet, which fills a market need for a solution that tracks and aids in the rescue of people who are at risk of wandering, including those with cognitive and developmental disabilities like Alzheimer's, autism, Down syndrome and dementia. The SafetyNet launch comes on the heels of LoJack's acquisition of Locator Systems, which provided technology to Project Lifesaver International (PLI), a network of more than 900 law enforcement/public safety agencies nationwide, which have been trained and certified in the use of electronic search and rescue technology. LoJack is now in the process of rendering Locator Systems technology more durable, eliminating equipment costs for law enforcement and public safety agencies, and establishing a working relationship with PLI. This seems like a natural expansion of the PERS market, and one that PERS providers could potentially get in on. It brings to mind a recent story I wrote on WindTrac and its admonishment that the industry do more, exploit all the avenues for growth before it, and go mobile. I'll be adding quotes from Paul McMahon at LoJack when I talk to him.
A story from ABC news affiliate WJRT in Flint, Mich. reports one city councilman pushing to assess false alarm fines against the alarm companies reporting alarms to police. Councilman Sheldon Neeley claimed in the story to believe that fees, currently charged to end users, should be shifted to the alarm company since they are the one's responsible for verifying the alarm and reporting it to authorities. Also, Neeley believes, alarm companies will be more capable of absorbing the cost. Critics, including Global Security owner Tonya Burns, of Neeley's proposal claim the added cost would simply be passed on to end users, anyway. "There are a lot of variables when you go into deciding what caused the false alarm. How can you label it [the alarm companyâ€™s fault] depending onâ€”for example in the city of Flint, we have a lot of vacant homes and the landlords donâ€™t heat the homes," Burns said. "They put security systems in them because they donâ€™t want the piping, the furnace, the items stolen out of them, but they refuse to heat it, and that sets off the false alarms." stay tuned for updates on this story.
VES announced Feb. 3 it had launched a new Web site that it promises has more information and is easier to navigate than previous incarnations. VES also promises further enhancements like a secure Dealer Area. It sounds like they're also going to be looking for site user input in the form of articles about installation and project experiences dealers have had. Interested dealers can submit their stories through the site. Here's what the release had to say about it:
If you have a story to tell or a site of specific interest please let us know we will be happy to consider it for inclusion on the site in the future. Remember this is your site which shoud provide information which you need, if you have any suggestions on how we can improve the site in future please let us knowMore information can be attained by visiting the site or emailing VES for more info.
HAGERSTOWN, Mdâ€”A public hearing held Feb. 3 found the Washington County Board of County Commissioners discussing a proposed false alarm ordinance. The ordinance as proposed looked to collect fines from consistent false alarm generators rather than punish, with a high yearly permit fee, all alarm users, most of whom, according to the Washington County Sheriffâ€™s Office, are not consistent repeat false alarm offenders. Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said the ordinance passed, but not as originally proposed. â€œThere were some modifications to it. We did agree to drop the fee for the initial permit, and we also dropped the business permit, as well as the reinstatement fees,â€ Mullendore said. â€œIt permits us to do the false alarm violation fees. Those are still established at $30 for residential, $60 for business." Mullendore said the first two violations result in a warning, while the third violation is when the fees kick in, adding $20 per residential violation and $25 per business violation to the respective base fees up to a maximum of $100 per violation for residential and $200 per violation for business. A recent story in the Herald-Mail claimed that business fines were capped at $250, but the Washington County Sheriff's Office assures me that $200 is the correct number. The new ordinance will take effect Jan. 1, 2010. â€œThatâ€™s because weâ€™re in the process of doing a consolidated emergency communications center,â€ Mullendore said, â€œand we wanted to be sure that was up and running before we try to administer this.â€ According to Mullendore, permits will still be required but will have no associated cost. If alarm owners choose not to get the appropriate permit there will be additional fees to pay. â€œThere would be a response the first time,â€ Mullendore said. â€œThe second time, if [a business owner with an alarm system] still hasnâ€™t gotten the permit, then it would be $60 violation fee.â€ Mullendore said that to his knowledge there were no industry professionals present at the public meeting, held here at the Washington County Administration Building. â€œThere were a couple of citizens there, but we addressed all their issues prior to,â€ Mullendore said. â€œThere were actually no public comments whatsoever.â€
The city of Wichita, Kan. has announced it will hold an informational meeting in conjunction with the Public Safety Corporation aimed at reducing false alarms. All alarm installation and monitoring companies with clients who reside or do business in Wichita are encouraged to attend the meeting, which will be held Feb. 20 at 2:00 p.m. at the Wichita Police Department. The Wichita PD asks that if you can not attend, or if you have questions regarding the city's ordinance or the false alarm reduction program, you contact them by email or call 316-268-4525.
EMERgency24, a central-station alarm monitoring company based in Chicago, announced on Jan. 30 that it had donated $1,000 through its Responder Reward program to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department, Company 10, in Bethesda, Md., on behalf of Splaine Security Systems of Kensington, Md. This Responder Reward donation was made to acknowledge the fast response by the Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department (CJPVFD) to Patti and Michael Hellyerâ€™s home in Bethesda. The department's speedy response saved the couple's three dogs and substantially minimized property damage. The photoelectric smoke detectors installed by Splaine Security Systems quickly recognized the fire scenario and alerted EMERgency24 monitors who dispatched the authorities immediately. During the ceremony, CJPVFD Chief James Seavey said that incidents like this highlight the important role alarm-system installers play in keeping our communities safe and the value of having a security system monitored by a central station. â€œThis situation underscores the importance of having a monitored alarm system.â€ Sam Splaine, President of Splaine Security Systems, explained that security is a linear process. â€œIf any link in the chain fails â€“ the sensor, communication to the control panel, alarm transmission to EMERgency24, dispatch of the emergency responders â€“ then everything else is wasted. A smoke alarm monitored by EMERgency24 is so much more effective than a system that only has an audible alarm. If no one is home, the neighbors wonâ€™t hear your alarm because of the way houses are insulated, but they might hear the windows explode eventually. Unfortunately, by that time, most of the house is gone and pets have no way of escaping. That sums up the importance of having a monitored alarm system.â€ The purpose of the Responder Reward Program, according to Patrick Devereaux, Senior Vice President of EMERgency24, is to recognize firefighters who put out blazes and to draw attention to criminal apprehension when the police respond to EMERgency24 dispatches triggered by monitored alarm systems. "The EMERgency24 Responder Reward Program was developed to thank firefighters and police officers for the invaluable services they provide in communities across America. Police officers and fire fighters responding to alarms is a vital function that makes our communities safer," Devereaux said. EMERgency24, headquartered in Chicago since its founding in 1967, is a nation-wide provider of central-station alarm-monitoring services with branches in Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. The company monitors 165,000 subscribersâ€™ accounts.
Monitronics announced on Jan. 28 the launch of its new customer-account interface, MyMonitronics, aimed at bolstering the companyâ€™s online service offerings. The move follows on the heels of the sweeping overhaul of the companyâ€™s main website, www.monitronics.com. According to the press release, MyMonitronics was built in direct response to customer feedback. MyMonitronics lets users pay bills, download product user manuals, enroll in direct debit payment programs, and take advantage of business-referral rewards programs, among other features. The site also features video testimonials from Monitronics customers from across the country, and provides targeted alarm product information aimed specifically at families, single parents and seniors.