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by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, January 6, 2009
The City of Chicago recently (I heard about a notice being posted on the city's website on Dec. 30) and quietly enacted some radical changes to their False Burglar Alarm program. These quiet and sudden changes have been meeting with some resistance. Chuck Mishoulam, owner/president of Chicago-based Alert Protective Services, Inc., said the changes are not only sudden, but extreme. “It’s pretty radical … We’re all a bit taken aback by it,” Mishoulam said. “It’s a big deal. People make mistakes, and come in and can create a false alarm—an employee, an owner, or whatever the case might be—and I think having the three free passes before was just a better way to do business … You know there’s a human factor involved here. It’s not just an equipment thing … so people have to have the ability to have some wiggle room to make a mistake. So the three free ones gave people enough warning to know `I’ve only got three of these things, so I should be careful.’ But you hit somebody with a $100 fine and an administrative hearing and that all takes time for people.” This is one way to assure that people maintain and test their alarm system, I guess.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, December 31, 2008
As many of you know, one of the big problems faced by everyone involved in selling, installing, monitoring, owning and responding to security systems is false alarms. I produce a regular column for every issue of SSN called False Alarm Ordinance Watch in which various new false alarm ordinances from around the country are highlighted. This morning I came across a column from that discussed the new ordinance in Yukon, Okla. It's fun and lighthearted and has a few funny ideas for how to spend your freebie false alarms... At first I was taken aback, because false alarms are a serious problem that cost taxpayers and communities time, resources and money, and the industry itself, in terms of bad PR. However, the idea of spending your freebie falses, and not wanting to "waste your free false alarms," to quote the column, got me thinking. In tough economic times, maybe responsible security and fire alarm system owners who don't use, or "spend," their own freebie falses should start a market in which they sell their unused freebie credits to those less fortunate... Hmmmm... You know, similar to how companies can buy and sell tax credits, and pollution credits. I think the creation of such a False Alarm Credit Exchange would help reduce the number of false alarms drastically since it would operate on a system of positive reinforcement, rewarding people for operating properly rather than punishing them for operating falsely... Such a system could even begin to take on characteristics of a real economy with false credits from areas that have a rampant false alarm problem being valued and traded more highly than communities that don't have much of a false alarm problem, thus producing a living and changing false alarm credit exchange rate... Just an idea... I welcome your comments. Or a piece of the action if you choose to implement this idea ;-)
by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, December 23, 2008
My Photo Daniel Gelinas Raymond, ME, United States I am a journalist who enjoys writing short science fiction and literary fiction. I also enjoy reading, acting and spending time with my son. I began my editing career as an intern at children's book publisher Charlesbridge Publishing in Watertown, Mass. From there I moved into trade publications at Nielsen Media in Boston, working as a newswire editor at Nielsen's Entertainment News Wire. And no, even though I worked in entertainment journalism, I've never met anyone more famous than the guy doing backstage security at a Tori Amos concert. I now cover the Monitoring beat at SSN. Please feel free to email me with comments.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, December 23, 2008
In news from, San Angelo Security's Central Monitoring Station, a division of Texana Security, LLC, has received "Five Diamond" certification from the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA). The company has been providing security services in San Angelo and the surrounding communities since 1961. "Five Diamond" certification is awarded only to central monitoring stations approved by Underwriters Laboratories and requires every monitoring operator to complete specific training courses, which can be demoed for free. According to the CSAA, less than 4 percent of central monitoring stations have received the certification.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Friday, December 19, 2008
The CSAA announced in late November that yet another central station had achieved Five Diamond Certification. Commercial Instruments & Alarm Systems, Inc. of Fishkill, N.Y. earned the certification by putting 100% of their central station operators through the CSAA's Central Station On-Line Operator Training Course. The training courses cover virtually all phases of central station communications with customers, law enforcement, fire and emergency services communications centers. In order to achieve Five Diamond Certification each and every operator must have not only passed the course, but demonstrated: proficiency in alarm verification, which helps reduce false alarms; proficiency in communications with public service answering points, such as 911 and other emergency responders; knowledge of electronic communications equipment, including radio; an understanding of the codes and standards of such organizations as Underwriters Laboratories, the National Fire Protection Association and others; as well as proficiency in the area of emergency preparedness under a wide scenario of possibilities. There are approximately 2,700 central stations in the United States, which communicate and interact with the law enforcement, fire and emergency service agencies. Of this group, fewer than 100 centrals have achieved Five Diamond status. Intrigued by this training offering from the CSAA, I decided to check it out and am in the process of undergoing the Central Station Operator Level One online course now. The training is administered by the CMOOR Group. CMOOR principle Chris Moorhead spent some time on the phone with me and made sure I was ready to go. Interested central station managers can check out the offerings and demo the course for free.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, December 18, 2008
I wrote a story last month that appeared on Security Systems News' newswire, and which will appear in our next issue. The story was about the Seattle Police pushing for compliance to the city's municipal code, part of which requires the use of enhanced call verification. In Seattle, beginning the first of the year, central stations will be required to make two verification calls to alarm owners to ensure the alarm is real as opposed to false. Just Tuesday (Dec. 16), I came across another story from the Star News online about the city of Elk River, Minn. recently adopting an ordinance requiring enhanced call verification as well. Police from both Seattle and Elk River point out that the new two-call-to-the-end-user requirement is part of a much needed false alarm reduction endeavor.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I saw this story this morning and was reminded that it's probably a good idea to always be on your best behavior, especially in a day and age when surveillance video solutions are becoming more and more widespread. Public building perimeters, private business perimeters, parking lots, street intersections, concerned private citizens... you never know when you'll be the unwitting star of captured video. I blogged last week on courtesy and how we could all benefit from a little more gratitude and a more polite approach, and now I guess I'm saying that maybe if we all acted on our best behavior at all times, acted as though we were being observed--whether by our ancestors, by God, by Karma, by surveillance infrastructure, or by a concerned tourist is up to you--maybe everyone would come out ahead.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, December 10, 2008
A recent press release from SIAC spotlighted the Colorado Springs Police Department for its instrumental role in developing an open to the public process for creating an agreed upon false alarm ordinance for city officials to vote on. The SIAC award, presented to the CSPD at the city's Dec. 9 city council meeting, recognizes the CSPD's foresight in establishing an open public meeting process that ensured all parties with an interest in the alarm ordinance had a forum in which to express opinion on issues of concern. The award emphasizes the importance of the initiative's community spirit, exemplified by the coming together of law enforcement, private citizenry and the security industry in a decision making process, the results of which affect everyone. In the release, SIAC representative Dave Simon said he saw the action of the CSPD as trend setting. Over the past five years, many communities across the United States have revised their ordinance. The Colorado Springs Police Department stands out for openly engaging its citizens and setting an example of grassroots democracy for other communities across the country. By involving all interested parties, the Department should be saluted for its leadership in developing a consensus alarm ordinance document that can be emulated in other cities. In the release, Colorado Springs mayor Lionel Rivera praised the joint efforts of all to produce a document that was universally fair and acceptable. Good public policy is a direct result of hard questioning that has our community's best interests at heart. The open public discussions of the ordinance hosted by the police department and council's public hearings have resulted in an ordinance that is fair to the alarm users, alarm industry and our Colorado Springs taxpayers.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, December 8, 2008
It struck me as a little odd this morning when I read that the Cordele, Ga. city commissioners had decided to add false alarm fines to alarm users' utility bills, and that failure to pay the false alarm fines would result in loss of utilities. An excerpt of the story, from the Cordele Dispatch, follows: CORDELE, Ga. According to the Cordele Dispatch, city commissioners here voted on Dec. 4 to adopt a new ordinance that will result in fees for excessive false alarms. The move comes from concerns that false alarms generated by alarm systems in city residences and businesses often lead to a misallocation of police manpower. Once the ordinance takes effect on January 1, 2009 alarm users will be allowed five false alarms for the year. Any false alarms past five will result in the user being charged a fine. The sixth and seventh false alarms will carry a $50 fine each. False alarms 8, 9 and 10 will result in a $100 fine for each. Alarm users will be fined $250 each for the 11th and 12th false alarm, and a $500 fine will follow 13 or more false alarms. Fines will be added to the utility bill of the user. Failure to pay fines will result in loss of utilities. The ordinance extends to churches and schools as well as residences and businesses. Alarms installed on motor vehicles, fire alarms, domestic violence alarm, or alarms designed to elicit a medical response are not covered by the ordinance. Users will be required to fill out an application and register their alarm systems through the Cordele Police Department and pay a registration fee of $10. Anyone failing to register an alarm system will be fined $100. Now keep in mind, I live and work in Maine, where right now it is a crisp 20 degrees out. It seems kind of scary to me that the city could take away my utilities, my heat, even though I've paid my obscene oil bill. Don't get me wrong, I know that the city needs to recoup losses due to excessive false alarms, and attempt to implement some sort of system to hopefully encourage people to make sure their systems work properly, but messing with people's water, electricity or heat seems a little over the top to me. Well, I guess that's one more reason to be sure your alarm systems are registered and in proper working order.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Friday, December 5, 2008
Secure Global Solutions (SGS) just announced the installation of new alarm call monitoring software at Brinks Home Security Holdings, Inc. The software platform is called stages and is designed to improve speed of access to customer data by operators monitoring alarm signals. Approximately 1.3 million alarm accounts have been transferred to stages. I spoke with SGS senior vice president Hank Goldberg who assured me that stages would revolutionize the industry with its ease of use and interoperability. “The fundamental issues are, number one, it’s an advanced application that’s browser based. Which means that there’s only one application to maintain,” Goldberg said. “Most of the applications that have grown up in the industry are actually pieced together little bits of application and are difficult to maintain. So we have a much lower cost, which we reflect in a much lower price.” Goldberg would not go into specifics of pricing, but said that stages is “extremely cost-effective, not only to purchase but to maintain.” Despite the lower cost of ownership and maintenance, Goldberg insists that stages is not just another piece of software, but is instead a powerful new tool, allowing all user types to interact with one easy to use, Windows-like application. “It is exceptionally high-performance," Goldberg said. Look for the full story of stages' take off in the January issue of Security Systems News