Perks of the job

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11/15/2010

Before becoming associate editor for Security Systems News this fall, I was a newspaper reporter in Maine. As part of my job, I sometimes met famous people. They ranged from President George H. W. Bush when he was in office (Members of the media got to power walk with him on the beach near his family home in Kennebunkport, Maine —he set a fast pace!) to actor Alec Baldwin (He came to Portland, Maine in 1997 to support a state clean elections law, and was just as handsome and personable in real life as on screen.).

When I switched jobs to cover the security industry, I didn’t realize I would continue to have an opportunity to meet well-known people.

For example, while attending the Honeywell First Alert Professionals Convention last week in Boca Raton, Fla., I and the hundreds of First Alert dealers in attendance got to hear from two speakers with national reputations.

One was the opening session’s keynote speaker Ross Shafer, a corporate trainer whose fascinating career has included hosting TV talk shows and writing a best-selling comedy cookbook, “Cook Like a Stud—38 recipes men can prepare in the garage with their own tools.” (We saw a video of him peeling a potato with a bench grinder!)

Shafer said he also helped launch the career of Bill Nye the Science Guy, the quirky engineer and comedian who strives to make the public scientifically literate. Shafer said that when he was host of a Seattle TV talk show in the late 1980s he had invited Nye, who liked to write jokes, to sit in on writers’ meetings for the show. One day, Shafer said, he was in a panic when Geraldo Rivera stood him up about 20 minutes to airtime, and he asked Nye to do an experiment on camera. Nye obligingly performed a demonstration involving liquid nitrogen and kitchen vegetables. As a video clip showed, instantly freezing an onion and smashing it on a cutting board is definitely quicker than chopping it! Nye also proved he was a natural on TV.

Shafer said the corporate lesson from the story is: “The folks that work for you have talents that you’ve never leveraged.”

The other nationally known speaker was Marc Klaas of the California-based The KlaasKids Foundation. The foundation was established in 1994 to protect children following the 1993 kidnapping and murder of Klaas’ 12-year-old daughter, Polly Klaas.

Klaas accepted a special community service award with which Honeywell honored the foundation, and praised the role the security industry plays in helping to stop crimes against children.

At the conference, Honeywell also gave community service awards to 18 security companies. Their efforts may not be known nationwide, but Joe Sausa, president, First Alert Professional, said the companies stand out in their communities for the public service work they do, which ranges from teaching children about fire safety to sponsoring self-defense classes for women.

The companies receiving awards were: Ackerman Security Systems; ADS Security; Alarm Protection Services; ASG Security; Central Monitoring Services; Certified Security; Dial One Security; Engineered Protection Systems; Grupo Hefestos; Guardian Protection Services; Holmes Electric Security Systems; Koorsen Fire Security; OneTouch Security Plus; Per Mar Security Services; Secas; Secure US; Sentry Alarm; and Worldwide Security.