The great New York State legislation debate!

 - 
01/24/2011

I first wrote about Article 6-E, the proposed NYS legislation that would require licensing of all central station employees involved in the business of monitoring security systems in New York, a few months ago. Article 6-E is intended to be similar to 6-D, which requires licensing of the installers and service techs who actually go into end users' homes... There have been many voices pro and con, and a good debate is brewing... In addition to speaking with me and getting their voice heard, folks have also been sending their comments in to Ken Kirschenbaum's email newsletter. I've correlated some of the response I've seen there below.

Comments on New York's proposed monitoring license

To: Whom It May Concern:

From: Robert Keefe,  All American Monitoring

RE: Article 6E New York State

 

I have recently read of the New York State article 6E proposal regarding the separate licensing of Central Monitoring Stations and do not profess to know its content.

I also read Russ MacDonnell’s (of Rapid Response Monitoring) comments and do not detract from them.

I have been in this business as both a Monitoring and Installation Company for almost 38 years. I have seen Licensing and Alarm Ordinances come from nowhere to the bureaucratic and financial situation it is today for all of us.  Over the years, questions have been raised as to its purpose from quality of service to money to restraint of competition.

Fortunately, on the latter, while I have heard those voices over the years, always in the end wiser minds prevailed and restraint never materialized for the good of all.

We also are a Wholesale Central Station Monitoring Company for 1450 Alarm Dealers across the United States.  I agree with MacDonnell, that Dealers are very concerned regarding the monitoring of their accounts to the point we receive their visits from all parts of the country as far away as Alaska on a regular basis.  We welcome their visits and these Dealers go back home feeling they and their customers are in good hands.

Both they and us would have it no other way.

On the Licensing side, let me tell you a little bit about us.  We have been a Central Monitoring Station since 1973 and UL Certified since 1981.  We monitor in all of the United States and are licensed in all states where required with many, many municipal licenses as well. Yes, it is very time consuming and expensive, yet every state and municipality feel their purpose is beyond reproach so on it goes.  I’m not sure it stops as it seems to be the system in place and these jurisdictions want to police their area.

I am in continuous continuing education as you might imagine.

Regarding our Central Station Operation, we have two SIA trained Instructor Operators and all Operators are Level 1 or 2, CSAA certified. They are all fingerprinted and checked for criminal history by the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement. They are well paid and our well qualified trained staff are second to none.

Our technology is the latest and greatest. We meet all the qualifications of a CSAA Five Diamond Central Station.  With all that we would seem to be qualified to monitor anywhere which is true except one location, that is NYC Fire Monitoring which seems to be a very closed group, and extremely difficult to become part of, which is where the tone of my letter is going.  New York State will do as New York State will do and as so many others have done including my state of Florida, so I’m not sure I’m in a place to tell them what to do.  On the restraint side, I get even more concerned and I hope there is no consideration there.

As I said, you would think with our qualifications we would be qualified to monitor Fire Alarms in NYC, but it seems very difficult to accomplish, so we are unable to do that while NYC Monitoring Companies with a Florida License are permitted to monitor Fire Alarms in all areas of Florida as far as I am aware.  If there is to be free and open fair trade, the American way, then I guess New York State will not be much different than most which brings me to my final question, regarding New York City.  If New York State implements Central Station Monitoring Licensing and its intent is not to be restrictive as we would all expect, would that then mean we would be qualified for Fire Monitoring in NYC?

While we all understand that AHJ is the final authority, I would hope NYC Fire Monitoring would be an easier task to accomplish then it currently is for well qualified Central Station’s such as we are.  I would appreciate being advised by someone in the know.

Robert makes a good point: In order to be a successful monitoring station and compete in a free market with other businesses, aren't you already doing a pretty good job of vetting your employees? Why go with more licensing?

Joe Hayes of the NYBFAA has some counterpoints:

Regarding the licensing of alarm monitoring firms.

Point #1 Those who work in NY and hold the Article 6D license (Business of Installing, Maintaining and Servicing Security and Fire Alarm Systems) are required to be fingerprinted and to fingerprint our employees, resulting in a background check of the employees. Hopefully, we all comply with that requirement. We then obtain sensitive information from our subscribers (pass codes, open and closing times, vacation schedules, etc,) and give that information to a monitoring station who may or may not (ask them, and trust but verify) fingerprint their employees. Seems that there is a glaring vulnerability that needs to be closed.

Point #2 It wont be long before some enterprising member of our industry decides to open a monitoring station in, say Mumbai or some other third world call center area. How secure would you feel exporting your client's information to an offshore monitoring station? And what about those alarm companies who monitor critical infrastructure (consider sewer plants, water pumping, electrical substation, I could go on)? Would you feel secure in having someone in a time zone 7 hours or so away monitoring those accounts? Or having access to the account information?

Point#3 There are some in our industry who have been very vocal in their opposition to the proposed Article 6E monitoring law. Those of you who have, just be man enough to take the responsibility for opposing this law (and not proposing an alternative or improvement)  when an event happens that gives a black eye to your industry. An event will happen, it's not a case of if, but when. And then, take responsibility for the law that gets rammed down out throats by the "we need to protect the people" political types. It will be worse than anything we, as an industry create. Coming from a law enforcement background, I know it is always better to police yourself than to have "outsider" police your organization.

Point#4 The NYBFAA is holding an open meeting on Feb 10, 2011 in Albany to hear comments from the industry. Your thoughts? Oh, before you comment, I suggest reading the proposed bill on our website.  Thanks

Joseph Hayes, CPP, PSP, CET

President, NY Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NYBFAA)

Interesting... Joseph argues that it's better to police oneself than to wait for municipalities to be hurt by rogue central stations or operators from Mumbai...

Someone calling himself Portland Paul also comes down in favor of the licensing, saying it won't be that expensive...:

Let me figure out the increased cost of the proposed licensing requirement in New York  that will be passed on to the Rapid Response Dealers based on the cost of a license in my state, which is $310's every two years.  1200 dealers divided by $310.00 equals $3.87 per dealer every two years or $1.94 a year. Hopefully they already have their insurance coverage handled. That shouldn't change whether you are licensed or not. If you are already following good sound business practices, I doubt the law will have you change anything so your cost shouldn't go up to meet the requirements. If your are using good business practices in the security industry, than you are probably overcharging the dealers anyways. I will pay that $1.94 increase in a heart beat to know that I am dealing with a company that is regulated and following the law. Stop whining. Get licensed. You are already doing it other states, so what is the big deal.

Portland Paul

Someone else going by the name Dusan says it's not about the cost, but about the principle...:

To Portland Paul: It is a big deal! It isn't about the fee. It is about government control, extortion, fines and punishment of working people and businesses. When you allow the government to create unreasonable laws, or laws not clearly black&white on LOCAL LEVEL, then every County, every Town will have different laws. You won't be able to know, or follow the laws, you may not even be allowed to work in a ZIP code other than your own, and if you do, you may face fines and imprisonment. You may get busted by cops, locked up, your truck impounded or broken in - because you failed to recognize some local law which was never published and you couldn't even know existed. That's what LOCAL government control will do.

Dusan

Morgan Hertel over at Mace CSSS comes down against the proposed licensing law:

To all:

Regarding  6E, and state licensing of out of state central stations.

First of all if you don’t post your real name and company on Kens list no one takes you seriously.

1, New York has no money to fund and administer this program, read the papers they are laying off people everywhere.

2, Even if it were passed NYS has no standing outside their borders, no money to travel and prosecute and therefore cannot enforce this, the only people that will get this is the good guys that already have licensing and good employee screening and training, the rest of the companies will not get licensed and no one will care or be able to do anything about it.

3, The ordinance is poorly written in my opinion, having things like 69-EE, Section 5, Page 6 were principals SHALL be held responsible for the actions committed by their operators is a huge mistake, if you have not read the entire thing you need to.

4, To the group that thinks that legislating competition away is the answer, this is a mistake, dealers are very sophisticated today, saying that there is a threat of having central stations in India will take over is a farce, and if you really are concerned next time you call your bank and get an out of the country call center are you going to pull out of the bank, the world is changing but market forces are much better suited to deal with these concerns.

5, Everyone I have spoke with in the monitoring industry is committed to having cleared, smart and trained operators working, but what we don’t need is to license the same person 100’s of times in all the states and communities in North America, what we want is one federal monitoring license.

It only makes sense, the feds have the best resources to background check, they have standing everywhere in the country. We can still register with the states even pay a fee for this for those states looking for revenue.

Having a federal requirement assures everything you want to accomplish in 6e, makes it enforceable and makes it easier for the national monitoring companies.

Morgan Hertel

Vice President and General Manager

Mace CS

What's your opinion? Voice it here, or better yet, go to the NYBFAA meeting on Feb. 10 or at least draft your POV in a letter or email for the NYBFAA. Get educated by reading the proposal and stay informed. Get involved and make a difference now--when your efforts matter--and not after the decisions have been made when there's nothing to be done.