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Rapid Response

ASAP getting closer to reaching ‘critical mass’

Central stations stepping up to speed alarm notifications to PSAPs
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02/01/2013

YARMOUTH, Maine—After big strides in 2012 that put an array of technical and logistical challenges behind it, the Automated Secure Alarm Protocol is getting closer to reaching “critical mass” nationwide, according to ASAP proponent Ed Bonifas.

Riders on the storm: Central stations take Sandy in stride

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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.”

New threat to RMR? Sizing up PhantomLink

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The headline on the news release is an attention-grabber: “PhantomLink technology pushes alarm monitoring to the cloud, threatens industry.” If that isn’t clear enough, the subhead rephrases it: “Cloud-based technology set to undermine traditional alarm monitoring industry.”

The PR piece from Phantom Data Services proceeds to trumpet the company’s new PhantomLink project, which encourages homeowners to monitor their own security systems for no charge via the Web. The project “leverages existing equipment, requires only a simple retrofit, and is offered for free with no recurring costs.”

“Nearly 80 percent of households in the U.S. have Internet access,” states Adam Peters, founder of PhantomLink.com. “So why are people still paying their hard-earned money to a central station to monitor their alarm? Just connect it to the Internet and monitor it yourself!”

The news release describes PhantomLink as a small, easy-to-install, build-it-yourself device that links an existing security system to the user’s wireless Internet connection. If the device senses an alarm, company servers alert the user with an email or a text message. Circuit schematics, interface specifications and instructions for using the “self-monitored security system solution” are available for free on PhantomLink’s Web page.

“Do-it-yourself alarm installers and electronics hobbyists are encouraged to participate in this project to develop and expand the capabilities of this technology,” the company states.

Visitors to the PhantomLink website will find all of the information mentioned in the news release, but little about the company promoting the device. Phantom Data Services is described only as “a New Mexico limited liability company specializing in website development and data-processing products and services.”

So is this the new age of monitoring? Is it time to mothball the central station and say goodbye to RMR? Will homeowners tired of “simply paying for piece of mind,” as the news release states, now opt for self-service?

Grammatical glitches aside, peace of mind is what many alarm customers are seeking. Millions have shown the willingness to pay a professional for it, even in a down economy. Do-it-yourself security will obviously appeal to some, but free doesn’t mean free of responsibility.

This also isn’t the first time the alarm industry has been down this path, said Morgan Hertel, vice president of operations for Rapid Response.

“This kind of stuff has been around for years,” Hertel told Security Systems News. “In the ’70s, it was tape dialers calling neighbors, work numbers and sometimes police departments. In the ’80s, we moved to pagers—you could get paged on alarms. Now we have email, SMS and IVR.”

While there is always something new coming down the pike, the bottom line remains the same for alarm companies: provide professional service at a competitive price and chances are you’ll stay in business. PhantomLink and other do-it-yourself offerings are unlikely to change that.

“The professional monitoring and installation companies are still here doing their thing,” Hertel said. “What most [customers] come to realize is that the cost of a monitored security system is so affordable these days, and is packed with so many features, that most people who take security seriously don’t ever consider [a DIY] solution.”
 

New VP looks to expand Mace CS’ footprint nationwide

Michael Joseph now overseeing California central
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08/22/2012

ANAHEIM, Calif.—Mace Central Station has seen its share of change in the past three years, including the acquisition of CSSS, a shift in CEOs and the recent departure of Morgan Hertel as vice president and general manager. As Hertel’s successor, Michael Joseph sees an opportunity and a challenge: instill continuity in the company’s operations and leverage the Mace name to expand nationwide.

Sizing up the competition

Go small for better service and big for better pricing? It’s not always that easy when comparing central stations
 - 
08/07/2012

“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
That pearl of wisdom from baseball legend Satchel Paige could very well be applied to the world of wholesale alarm monitoring. The competition is fierce and getting fiercer, raising the stakes for central stations of all sizes. Dissatisfaction over real or perceived problems can prompt a dealer to jump ship, costing a company a chunk of RMR and maybe even a bit of its reputation.

Rapid’s expansion plans reach east and west

Company moving ahead with headquarters project, new central station
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07/25/2012

SYRACUSE, N.Y.—Double-digit growth at Rapid Response is fueling a two-pronged expansion strategy, with plans proceeding for a new central station in the western United States and $11.3 million of new construction proposed at the company’s headquarters here.

Rapid plans to add up to 200 jobs in Syracuse expansion

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rapid Response has won preliminary approval for a tax break that could pave the way for an $11.3 million expansion on its home turf in Syracuse, according to a report Tuesday in The Post-Standard.

The project, which would add up to 200 jobs, would include the purchase and renovation of the 37,500-square-foot building that Rapid currently leases, according to the report. Rapid also plans to build a 20,000-square-foot facility nearby.

The “payment in lieu of taxes” deal, or PILOT, approved by the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency would save Rapid about $738,000 over 10 years. A sales tax exemption on construction materials is expected to save the company another $500,000, the report said.

The expansion is not a done deal, however. The tax plan still needs to be approved by the City Council, with a bigger potential hurdle at a higher level: acquiring financial help from the state.

Ben Walsh, the city’s deputy commissioner of neighborhood and business development, told The Post-Standard that the project is contingent on Rapid receiving assistance from Empire State Development, a state agency.

An application has been submitted to the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council, which recommends projects for state funding. ESD officials are expected to announce the list of projects that receive funds by late October.

A start date for the project, which the company says would take about two years to complete, has not been announced.

New partnership links alarm industry, police, insurers

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What may have seemed like a pipe dream to many a few years ago—getting the alarm industry, the law enforcement community and the insurance industry on the same page—is now reality with the Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response.

The new public/private partnership brings together all of the stakeholders in property crime to reduce losses and increase arrests through the use of video intrusion alarms. Among the participants are the National Sheriffs Association and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, with Don Young of Protection 1 and Steve Walker of Stanley Convergent Security Solutions representing the alarm industry on the PPVAR board.

"We are beginning to have credible data with encouraging results of arrest rates hundreds of times what is found with traditional alarms," said Keith Jentoft, coordinator for the partnership and president of RSI Video Technologies. "We have been working with many alarm companies, law enforcement and PSAPs, as well as insurers who ultimately pay the bill for property crime. This partnership will help gather real-world examples of what is working best for all the stakeholders."

Jentoft said large third-party monitoring companies have also gotten on board, including CMS, UCC and Rapid Response. On the law enforcement side, the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department—the second-largest police organization in the country—has joined and has designated a representative.

"If you ask people, nobody has ever heard of an organization that has brought together all of the stakeholders, so we're pretty excited about it," Jentoft said.

I'll have more soon on the partnership in the online and print editions of SSN.

Onward through the blog: Day Two at ISC West

 - 
Friday, March 30, 2012

ISC West kept up a strong head of steam on Day Two.

It started at 7:30 a.m. with the Security 5K to benefit Mission 500, a nonprofit group that aids impoverished children. An impressive turnout of runners raised an equally impressive funding total, according to race organizers, and the group later said it had topped its goal of 500 children sponsored.

Then it was on to the show floor for another day of networking and discussion among the thousands, with no letup from Day One’s brisk pace. Here are a few details from my stops along the way:

— Secure Global Solutions announced a May 1 launch for a new app, Stages Metrix, that will give users tablet access to key central station performance figures.
— Keith Jentoft of Videofied provided an update of the growing alliance between insurers, law enforcement and central stations to increase arrests and reduce false dispatches with the use of video alarms.
— Cliff Dice of Dice Corp. detailed his company’s Matrix software, which brings video into a browser environment and opens the door to continuous RMR for integrators.
— Morgan Hertel, the new VP of operations for Rapid Response, disclosed that the company is planning to build a new central station in the West sometime in the next year.
— Gordon Hope of AlarmNet at Honeywell talked about the move to 4G and the June 1 release of the LYNX Touch 5100 wireless control panel with Wi-Fi communications module, which finds the best signal—2G, 3G or 4G—in the user’s area.

Like Day One, there was obviously much more, but I’ll put it to bed for now and gear up for tomorrow’s finale. See you there …  

 

Hertel named VP of operations at Rapid Response

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Morgan Hertel has been named vice president of operations at Rapid Response Monitoring.

That information, courtesy of a new posting on his LinkedIn profile, greeted me today as I packed up my laptop and headed out the door to ISC West. It marks a quick turnaround for Hertel, who just two weeks ago stepped down as vice president and general manager for Mace CS.

In a March 12 news release from Mace Security International, the company said Hertel’s departure was “for personal reasons” and that he would be “working closely with Mace CS in a consulting role over the next several months.” Hertel took over as director of operations at the company’s wholesale central station in Anaheim, Calif., shortly after the CSSS acquisition in 2009.

As for what lies ahead at Rapid, the 30-year industry veteran states on LinkedIn that he’s working on “several high-level projects and initiatives. … At Rapid Response I have many resources, some of which include a complete software development team, a huge IT and technical staff and one of the most educated and talented operations and finance groups consisting of almost 400 staff members.”

Hertel will be a panelist at ISC West at an educational session titled “NFPA 72: Are You Ready for the Changes?” If I can’t catch up with him before I get on the plane, hopefully I’ll get a chance to do so at the show. It will be interesting to see how his expertise comes into play at Rapid.  

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