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Education answer to alarming problem of user error

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02/27/2013

MESA, Ariz.—“Alarm schools” run by law enforcement agencies—where repeat false-alarm offenders go to learn about their systems to avoid more false dispatches—have been found to work very well.

Deadly shooting follows low-priority alarm in Colorado Springs

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

It was what the Colorado Springs Police Department calls a Priority Three alarm: A minor incident “requiring a response that is dispatched based on the availability of patrol units.” What followed was the nightmare scenario dreaded by police, alarm companies and alarm users alike.

According to CSPD spokeswoman Barbara Miller, a security alarm was triggered at the home of David Dunlap and Whitney Butler at 11:10 a.m. on Jan. 14. The alarm company, ADT, then called Dunlap’s cellphone and left a message for him to call back. At 11:18, ADT called police to notify them about the alarm.

Based on department policy to reduce the burden of false alarms in the city, officers were not dispatched.

“We had no units available,” Miller told Security Systems News. “We do priority calls. … If there is a ‘crime in progress’ call [with a life-threatening situation], those are first. If it’s a human-activated alarm or a panic alarm, that’s also a high priority. We would respond immediately to that.”

At 11:25, Dunlap returned ADT’s call and was informed about the alarm, but he did not call police, Miller said. Thirty-five minutes later, CSPD responded to a report of shots fired at the couple’s Bassett Drive address. Police say Dunlap and Whitney were killed as they entered their home by 17-year-old Macyo January, who was arrested three days later and charged with first-degree murder.

Miller said the incident calls attention to a common and potentially dangerous oversight by alarm users: If an alarm is activated, they should not assume there will be an immediate response from law enforcement.

“Many times, the alarm company will notify the owner that their house alarm has been activated. If that person returns to his or her home to check on the alarm, they must be extremely cautious and vigilant,” she said. “For instance, if they notice a front door that might be slightly opened or a broken window, or see a suspicious vehicle parked outside their home, we would strongly recommend that they call 911 so an officer can check for a possible burglary in progress or burglary that just occurred.”

Miller said that Colorado Springs police will respond to any activation when there is evidence that a crime has been committed—“i.e., a responsible party is on scene and has told the alarm company there is a broken window at the residence or business. Another example would be an alarm service indicates they have video surveillance inside of the business and they can see someone inside of the location.”

Ron Walters, director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, told SSN that virtually all police agencies, even those with scaled-back response policies, handle human-activated alarms “at a fairly high priority.” That goes for video intrusion alarms as well, but as Walters pointed out, there is only so much a security company can do.

“Alarms are designed as a deterrent and cannot stop a crime from happening,” he said. “The best deterrent remains the threat of response by a well-trained and armed police official.”

Hertel to head new CSAA Video Committee, oversee subcommittees

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01/11/2013

VIENNA, Va.—Morgan Hertel, vice president of operations at Rapid Response Monitoring Services, has been named chairman of the new CSAA Video Committee, according to a statement from the organization.

Flint billing security companies for false alarms

SIAC urges Michigan city to shift fees to customers
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12/05/2012

FLINT, Mich.—A decision by the city to begin billing security companies for false alarms—more than $31,000 in the first month alone—has the industry working with police to shift the burden to end users.

SSN poll: Most alarm companies 'all in' on customer training

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11/14/2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—The fight against false alarms begins at home, according to the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, which cites end-user error for 77 percent of incidents.

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

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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.”

'Last big bite' in fight against false dispatches

SIAC director says alarm industry needs to step up and properly train customers
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10/10/2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—A conversation at the 2012 Electronic Security Expo in Nashville reminded Ron Walters just how far the alarm industry has to go on the home front to reduce false dispatches.

Texas twist: N.Y. city outsourcing to collect alarm fines

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Long Island, N.Y., city frustrated by unpaid false-alarm fines is taking a familiar corporate path to change its fortunes: It’s outsourcing the collection work.

Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney told CBS News that the city of 35,000 is the first on Long Island to hire an outside company to go door-to-door collecting the fines.

“I’m proud that we are innovative and the first ones doing this,” Tangney said. “And I think many municipalities will follow suit.”

The City Council on Aug. 7 voted to hire Texas-based PMAM Corp. to collect the fines, which start at $100 and rise to $700 for chronic offenders. The company will receive 24 percent of all revenues collected.

While the work went to a firm with stateside headquarters instead of one based in Mumbai, many city residents have voiced their displeasure about the outsourcing and have questioned why the city can’t do the job itself.

“I think it shows how desperate the community is for collecting revenue, and turning it over to a collection agency is a little ridiculous,” business owner Steve Felix told CBS.

City Manager Jack Schnirman defended the move, saying the city doesn’t have the resources to collect the money.

“Like many other municipalities across the nation, this is the form we’re choosing to move forward and go out and collect the fines,” he told the Long Beach Patch, adding that outsourcing is “a lot more cost-effective.”

Apparently lost in the discussion is what could be done to reduce the 1,100 false alarms that city police respond to annually, which would mitigate the fines and the need for the collection work.

Maybe a SIAC session is in order.
 

Cooperation spells success in Sacramento

SIAC teams with California Alarm Association, law enforcement to strengthen city’s alarm ordinance
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08/01/2012

FRISCO, Texas—Add Sacramento to the list of SIAC success stories.

The Security Industry Alarm Coalition, working with the California Alarm Association and Sacramento’s police department, announced last week that SIAC’s best practices have been incorporated into the city’s revised alarm ordinance. The guidelines include annual permit fees and enhanced call verification to reduce false dispatches and maintain police response.

SIAC honors Mahler, Malice for service and perseverance

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Longtime alarm industry leaders Mel Mahler and Maria Malice padded their laurels last week with SIAC’s 2012 William N. Moody Award, which pays tribute to those in the industry who exhibit “integrity, fairness and perseverance in the face of adversity.”

Mahler, chairman and CEO of Nashville, Tenn.-based ADS Security, was a charter board member of SIAC and is currently co-chairman and treasurer. He oversees daily operations and has helped the group clear a hurdle that long defied it: establishing a better relationship with police agencies around the country.

“SIAC’s success in building bridges to law enforcement, creating new standards for equipment and encouraging best practices in alarm monitoring and regulations would not have been possible without Mel’s dedication,” SIAC Executive Director Stan Martin said in a prepared statement. “We are pleased to add the Moody Award to the many awards Mel has received for his leadership.”

Malice, VP of special projects for COPS Monitoring and president of the Arizona Alarm Association, was instrumental in getting a statewide licensing law enacted in May in Arizona. [http://www.securitysystemsnews.com/article/arizona... [Link - statewide licensing law enacted in May in Arizona.] Alarm dealers there will soon be able to operate with one license, replacing a web of local regulations that subjected many companies to duplicative background checks and paperwork.

“No one has faced more challenges in a single year than Maria Malice,” said Jon Sargent, industry/law enforcement liaison for SIAC. “Opponents constantly tried to undermine her efforts [on behalf of the AzAA]. Maria rallied the troops, fought back with facts and traveled to numerous meetings to help elected officials understand the issues.”

Mahler and Malice will receive their awards June 26 at the ESX IceBreaker Luncheon in Nashville. Congratulations …

Say “cheese”: The Wisconsin Electronic Security Association has bestowed its annual Bill Cooper Award on Dave Simon, who recently stepped down as SIAC’s public relations chairman after being named marketing communications manager at Brink’s Inc. The Cooper Award embodies “the ultimate in hard work and fun, tenacity and getting the job done, but with a lighter side,” said Mike Horgan, former WIESA president.

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