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Potter aids child burn survivors

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Many companies in the security and fire alarm industry give generously to a wide variety of humanitarian causes. Potter Electric Signal Co. is among them, providing support and education to a cause that seems poignantly apropos for a fire and life safety company: the Missouri Children’s Burn Camp for child burn survivors.

Here’s more from a news release from the St. Louis, Mo.-based Potter, saying it once again participated in the camp, which took place in August this year at Camp Sabra in Rocky Mount, Mo.:

Potter has supported this deserving cause for over 10 years and counting. Burns Recovered Support Group, Inc. sponsors the Burn Camp every year dating back to its inception in 1997.

With the assistance of St. John’s Mercy Medical Center, Burns Recovered Support Group, Inc. was formed in 1983 by a group of burn survivors with the mission of burn survivor support along with aiding medical facilities and providing burn care education and prevention. The Burn Camps hosts between 75 and 85 children every year as enrollment continues to grow. Organizers of the 16th annual Missouri Children’s Burn Camp raised approximately $150,000 for the child burn survivor’s community.

Bernard Lears, President and CEO Potter Electric Signal Company, LLC, “For over ten years, Potter has supported the Missouri Children’s Burn Camp. This noble cause truly gives back to the community and touches the hearts of every participant. Severe burns are a terrible tragedy that Potter strives to prevent everyday through our innovation and continued dedication to life safety. It’s why we are in business. Burns Recovered Support Group, Inc. provides an invaluable service to those in need and Potter looks forward to continuing to support this deserving cause in the future.

Due to the generous support of all its sponsors, all participants enjoy a week full of fun and support for free. The Burn Camp is intended for child burn survivors between the ages of 6-17 with severe burns.


Preparing for the new normal in the wake of Sandy

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hurricane Sandy, one of the largest storms on record and packing more destructive power than Hurricane Katrina, could very well be a sign of things to come. You can call it climate change instead of global warming and argue that the effects aren’t due to the hand of man, but there’s no denying the impact: the planet is getting warmer, ocean levels are rising and extreme weather events are becoming more common.

Coastal New York and New Jersey learned that the hard way last week. Despite a litany of warnings over the years that Lower Manhattan and the barrier islands were vulnerable to storm surge, it was business as usual until the borrowed time finally ran out. The ocean overran berms, subway tunnels flooded and electrical infrastructure once thought to be safe ended up under 5 feet of water.

“Anyone who says there is not a change in weather patterns is denying reality,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Oct. 30 as he inspected water damage at the World Trade Center. “We have old infrastructure, we have old systems. That is not a good combination, and that is one of the lessons I will take from this personally.”

The vulnerability of the infrastructure hit home for New York-based SecureWatch 24 on the morning after Sandy came ashore. The company had moved its critical systems to a facility in Texas before the storm, but it still had semi-critical servers at a co-location site in downtown Manhattan. That proved to be a problem when much of the island was inundated and the power failed, said Gene Dellaglio, chief technology officer for SW24.

“They have generators on the 17th floor of this building, diesel generators,” Dellaglio said last week as he traced a time line of the storm. “The pumps that supply the diesel to the 17th floor are in the basement, which is now flooded. Manhattan is flooded. The pumps shut down. By the time we get down there, people are carrying 5-gallon spackle buckets up 17 flights of stairs from a diesel tank downstairs to get the [generators] running. It’s a bucket brigade. I said we’ve got to get out of here.”

Within an hour, SW24 had moved the servers and had them up and running at its new Fusion Centre in Moonachie, N.J., which also served as a command post for emergency responders and local officials displaced by Sandy. While the company was happy to help and was grateful that it had weathered the storm, Dellaglio said it was easy to see that a threshold had been crossed.

“I did 12 years in the NYPD. … I saw the blackout in 2004, I saw Sept. 11 up close and personal, but I’ve never seen [an emergency] as expansive as this, with everything from the gas to the stores to the [shortage of] food,” he said. “And I think there is a lot to be learned here too in the bigger picture about critical infrastructure. How do you put pumps in the basement for diesel when the generators are on the 17th floor? They evacuated Bellevue Hospital for the same reason.”

It’s something that hasn’t gotten enough attention in New York, which relies on an intricate network below ground to drive just about everything above it. But with the region facing what Cuomo calls a “new reality” of extreme weather events, it might be time to rethink the game plan.

Honeywell helps first responders respond to Sandy

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

At Honeywell’s First Alert Professional conference in Hollywood, Fla. last week, everyone there expressed concern about the victims of Hurricane Sandy, which battered the East Coast last week. But Honeywell isn’t just expressing sympathy—this week it said it’s also taking action by donating more than a half a million dollars in first responder products for relief efforts and also providing financial and other assistance to its employees impacted by the storm.

New York and New Jersey—where Honeywell is based—were the hardest hit. Some dealers and Honeywell employees couldn’t attend the FAP event because they were grappling with everything from damaged homes to power outages.

Yesterday, Morristown, N.J.-based Honeywell announced it is donating more than $600,000 in first responder products to areas damaged by the storm and also providing humanitarian aid to its employees.

Here’s more from the company’s Nov. 6 press release:

Honeywell, the makers of Morning Pride turnout gear for first responders, will donate more than 19,000 personal protective products including protective footwear, gloves, hoods and helmets, designed to weather the most arduous conditions first responders face every day. The protective gear will be distributed via the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management in Long Island, New York, to first responder teams in affected areas in New York and New Jersey.

“As the world’s leading provider of personal protective equipment, we are deeply committed to worker safety and to helping those on the front lines of rescue and recovery efforts remain safe,” said Honeywell Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dave Cote. “Honeywell employees work and live in these communities, these are our own hometowns and we feel a sense of responsibility to support the first responders there.”

Honeywell also announced the Honeywell Humanitarian Relief Fund (HHRF) has been deployed to support employees who have been affected by the devastating hurricane.  Support will initially include immediate cash assistance for food, clothing, and shelter to employees who have been temporarily displaced. Honeywell will also match employee contributions to HHRF dollar for dollar.

“With a significant presence in the tri-state area, many of our employees have felt the impact of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction,” Cote added. “The fund will help with longer-term needs once the extent of the damage has been assessed and local efforts turn to rebuilding.”

Over the last year, Honeywell has donated more than $1 million of safety products to support disaster relief, first responder and other non-profit agencies to protect those serving our communities. Through the HHRF, the company and thousands of Honeywell employees have responded with donations and long-term rebuilding efforts for other tragedies in recent years, such as the tsunami in Japan, the Colorado wildfires, the earthquake in Haiti, tornadoes in North Carolina, hurricanes Ike and Katrina, and the earthquake in China.


Fike voice messaging system achieves highest MNS standard


BLUE SPRINGS, Mo.—Fike, a fire and life safety solutions provider based here, recently announced that its CyberCat platform with integrated voice messaging is now 100 percent compliant with the UL 2572 standard for mass notification systems. Fike says it is the only fire manufacturer currently listed to the new standard.

Koorsen on target for 23 percent growth

On margins, integrators need to charge for expertise provided, new president says

INDIANAPOLIS—Skip Sampson, newly named president of Koorsen Security Technology, a PSA Security owner, said this integration firm is having a very good year and is on target for 23 percent growth over last year.

Connecting—with costumes and without—at Honeywell's Connect 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Imagine Scott Harkins, president of Honeywell Security Products, lumbering about in an inflatable sumo wrestler suit. Envision Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, stalking around in a long cape as Count Dracula, looking for blood as well as donations to SIAC. And then picture Patrick Egan, president of Select Security, scarily attractive in drag as a red-lipsticked brunette in an elegant gown.

Those attending the Honeywell First Alert Professional Convention here in Hollywood, Fla. didn't need to conjure up those images—they were all there for everyone to see tonight as security dealer attendees let their hair down (quite literally in Egan’s case) at a belated Halloween costume party.

They got into the fun with inventive costumes, which included a nun and monk, wizards with tall hats, a beekeeper, a gladiator, a Wizard of Oz scarecrow, Popeye, cave men and cave women in leopard skin clothing and one brave dealer in a Scottish plaid kilt and matching tam–o'–shanter.

It may sound silly, but it turned out to be a good way to break the ice at a networking event—and it was just another way to connect at Connect 2012.

Earlier today, Harkins, in his more familiar attire of a suit and tie, explained why the event was given that name this year.

Speaking on the first full day of activities of the annual event, which launched yesterday and runs into this weekend, Harkins said, “Why the name ‘Connect’? … We wanted to rebrand the entire experience.”

Networking was one reason, he said—“connecting companies and individuals.”

But he said the word also shows how home automation services are transforming the security industry. “It’s not just a security space anymore,” he said. “It’s a connected home space.” And, he added, “we think interactive home services will continue to expand under our brand Total Connect.”

Harkins’ talk this morning also included a sober moment that contrasted with the lighthearted event that ended the day.

He asked everyone in the audience to pause a minute to think about fellow FAP members who couldn’t make the event because of Hurricane Sandy.

He said this year’s event was slated to have had pretty much the largest attendance ever, with 165 companies represented and 740 people total. But he said about 50 of those companies were “in the eye of the storm,” which early this week battered the East Coast, especially New Jersey, where Honeywell is located, so some people couldn’t attend.

However, Harkins said he was impressed with the numbers of people who did turn up despite problems like delayed flights and power outages in their homes. “There has to be about 400 to 500 people here,” he said. And some attendees were still arriving Friday evening.

Harkins already has set his sights on 2013, which will be the 24th year for the dealer program, which Honeywell bills as the “longest running” in the industry. “Our goal is 250 companies and 1,000 people next year,” Harkins said.

And what will the name be in 2013? Expect something similar. Harkins said that “Connect” also will be “a brand going forward.”

Sandy is gone, and Honeywell has new president of authorized dealer groups

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Here in Hollywood, Fla. on the first night of Honeywell’s annual First Alert Professional Convention, the weather is balmy and we dined on shrimp and key lime pie—and felt lucky to be here.

Not too many days ago Florida was being buffeted by the high winds generated by Hurricane Sandy, and of course other parts of the East Coast—particularly New Jersey, the state Honeywell calls home—took a beating from it early this week.

And what with the damage, loss of power and thousands of cancelled flights, some East Coast dealers areas who regularly attend this event haven’t been able to make it this year.

Still, attendance tonight at the convention, called Connect 2012, looked strong. And Honeywell officials tell me that while they don’t have an official count yet, they’re pleased at the numbers who did make it. The conference attracts dealers from across the nation and Canada. There also are dealers from places such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad. I had interesting conversations with some of those attendees at dinner.

And I’m looking forward to the first full day of the conference tomorrow. Among those we’ll hear from is Marek Robinson, a longtime Honeywell employee who recently was promoted to be president of authorized dealer groups.

Robinson, with Honeywell since 1995 and most recently western region director of sales for Honeywell Systems, will be focusing on the First Alert Professional and Commercial Security Systems dealer programs. He'll be introducing himself at the convention to dealers who haven't met him yet. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say.

Illinois fines Pinnacle $1m for alleged deceptive sales practices

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I just learned today that summer-sales-model company Pinnacle Security has agreed to pay a $1 million fine in a long-term settlement to the state of Illinois for such alleged violations as “slamming” customers and even hiring felons as sales reps.

In reaching the agreement, Pinnacle neither admitted nor denied the allegations. And the company sent me the following statement:

Pinnacle Security is pleased that it has come to a settlement with the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation of the State of Illinois to the parties' mutual satisfaction. Pinnacle Security has worked closely to address the generally historical issues related to licensing requirements of our sales representatives that allegedly took place as early as 2006.

Since 2010, Pinnacle has implemented industry-leading compliance initiatives to help ensure that Pinnacle's sales representatives meet all city, county and state licensing requirements.  We are confident that through this agreement, Pinnacle will continue to provide its thousands of customers in the state of Illinois superior support and customer service.

Here’s what the state said in its Oct. 31 news release:

State regulators announced today they have reached a long-term settlement agreement with Pinnacle Security, LLC, headquartered in Orem, Utah and licensed to sell home and business security systems in Illinois.  The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) alleged in its order that Pinnacle had sold its services using unfair and deceptive trade practices, knowingly hired unlicensed sales personnel, and allowed employees with criminal histories to sell their products door-to-door to Illinois consumers.  The company also ‘slammed’ consumers by changing their alarm service using fraudulent and deceptive means.

“When homeowners purchase security systems to protect their families from crimes, they should at least be assured that the company with which they do business is following Illinois laws,” said Jay Stewart, Director, Division of Professional Regulation, IDFPR.  “With this settlement agreement, families doing business with Pinnacle Security, LLC will know that Illinois’ consumer protection agency is making sure they meet their obligations.”

The investigation conducted by IDPFR included issuing subpoenas for all employees working in Illinois and found that 700 of the 1,100 were not licensed by the state.  Further, several of the employees listed on the employee roster had been charged with or convicted of felonies, including larceny, robbery, theft, conspiracy to commit burglary, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, assault, domestic battery, and possession of controlled substances, any of which would have been cause to deny a license, had an application been filed.

The case was referred to IDFPR by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, after her office settled a lawsuit to protect prospective customers.   Today’s settlement includes payment of a one million dollar fine, of which $250,000 has already been paid, a two-year ban on new sales to Illinois consumers, supervision of Pinnacle’s ongoing business of overseeing already installed security systems and five years of supervised probation by the Illinois.

Pinnacle has settled similar complaints made by other states, although the amount of this fine stands out.

Pinnacle has told Security Systems News that the company had some issues in past years with “rogue” door-knocking sales staff.  However, in 2010, Pinnacle made a company cultural shift to emphasize a code of ethics for employees and the implementation of new ways to monitor their behavior and enforce the code.


Riders on the storm: Central stations take Sandy in stride

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The snowy remnants of Hurricane Sandy are still blowing across the ridges of West Virginia, but the worst is over for the Eastern Seaboard. Now the recovery begins. And as is the case with any natural disaster, preparation holds the key to the extent of the difficulties ahead.

The lesson—one that’s often learned the hard way—is that it pays to do your homework and have a backup plan in place. The monitoring industry prides itself on that, of course, a fact that was validated by a quick SSN survey of central stations in the Northeast after the storm. It showed that while Sandy packed a tremendous punch, the industry was ready to handle it.

Long Island, N.Y., was one of the areas hit hardest by the storm, with thousands of homes damaged and nearly 1 million customers left without power Monday night. Andy Lowitt, vice president of dealer relations for Hicksville-based Metrodial, said via email Tuesday that despite the horrific damage in the area, the central station weathered the storm.

“Lots of downed trees and power lines … 912,000 [on Long Island] without power today versus 934,000 this morning, so tons of customers with beeping keypads, smokes and carbons,” Lowitt wrote. “Our natural-gas generator powered our central from 3 p.m. yesterday until power was restored today around 2 p.m. We had some valiant efforts of operators making it in during the day yesterday. Most PDs and some FDs stopped responding during the overnight hours and at one point we had over 3,000 signals in queue.”

New Jersey was also pounded by Sandy, but COPS Monitoring in Williamstown was prepared and took it all in stride, according to Executive Vice President Don Maden.

“In short, we proactively re-routed a percentage of alarm traffic away from N.J. to other sites, and significantly increased staffing at our other four central station locations,” he wrote in an email Tuesday. “We had 100 percent uptime in N.J. with services, did not lose power, and handled nearly double the normal alarm traffic across our network of central stations yesterday. Today, as expected, was heavy with alarm activity as well. [Generators] kicked on due to a few power flickers, but the grid stayed up.”

Don Piston, vice president of sales and marketing for Dynamark Monitoring in Hagerstown, Md., also reported heavy alarm volume but said “we knew that was coming.”

“We did great. We got battered with AC power loss and low battery signals because of all the power outages, so the traffic was just huge,” he told SSN on Wednesday morning. “But we sailed right through. We had the staffing in place. It’s almost no news because we did everything we were supposed to do.”

Despite Sandy’s mammoth strength and reach, it didn’t cause a lot of damage in Syracuse, N.Y.—just 250 miles from New York City and the home of Rapid Response Monitoring. Morgan Hertel, vice president of operations, said Wednesday that at the height of the storm, “we were getting pizzas delivered by the local pizza place. [Sandy] really wasn’t a big deal. It was like business as usual.”

That might have been the case meteorologically, but it wasn’t the case when it came to alarm traffic. At the peak, “we were seeing well over 100 signals a second coming in,” Hertel said, adding that Rapid is well versed in storm preparation and had extra staffing in place.

“We’re back to normal shifts today,” he said. “The technology did what it was supposed to do, the people did what they were supposed to do, and quite honestly we couldn’t be happier with the result. We even saved a few lives along the way.”

Pinnacle sells 93,000 accounts to Monitronics

Pinnacle says the $131 million transaction reduces debt, putting it in a better growth position

OREM, Utah—Pinnacle Security, a leading summer-sales-model company based here, recently announced an alliance with Monitronics International in which Pinnacle has sold Monitronics about 93,000 accounts and made an agreement for future account sales. The accounts represent $4.4 million of gross RMR, according to a news release.