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by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, May 12, 2010
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The latest edition of Ken Kirschenbaum’s newsletter has some more viewpoints on the image of the security industry issue I addressed in earlier stories and blog posts.

John Elmore of Birmingham, Ala.-based Security By Elmore advocates vigilance in defending against false information and bad press. Speaking of bad press, I came across a rehashing, a repurposing of the SmartMoney article I blogged about before on Washington-based radio station WTOP FM’s website. Anyway, Elmore had some good things to say. From Kirschenbaum’s newsletter:

To all:

As an industry we should always remain vigilant against incorrect information being published. In most cases we can not prevent it or respond to it in the same media form as our bashers. However, we can continue to pay attention to refining procedures, equipment, installations and customer relations. An example of an industry policing itself, CP-01. Use of CP-01 panels can cut a major percent of customer false alarms, if used correctly by both the alarm company and the monitoring station. The new version will address certain programing features of the old version and enhance even further prevention of a false dispatch.

A great way to react to public opinion is through your state alarm association. Thru [sic] that association working with local authorities, State Fire Marshal, etc. a more favorable opinion about the reliability of alarm systems and usefulness can be put to the public. It may not have the flash of an article in the Times or some other large media, but the word does get out locally if not national. Sometimes we just have to be the turtle in the race toward equality in information.

Other programs are out there being used by other alarm companies so sharing other input toward good public relations could be helpful to all of us.

John Elmore

Security By Elmore Inc

Birmingham, Alabama

I have to assume that Elmore’s reference to the Times is in regard to their two articles that I blogged about earlier.

David Stewart of Louisville, Ky.-based Ace Monitoring discusses an article by Stealth Monitoring’s Rick Charney about the current state of the industry. Stewart advocates education, honesty and communication with the end user. Again, from Kirschenbaum’s newsletter:

To all:

There’s more going on in the security industry than meets the eye of the casual observer, Ken. A recent article by Rick Charney in Security Magazine is titled “Does Your Security System Actually Catch Intruders?” (http://j.mp/c07ar2 or the long version: http://www.securitymagazine.com/Articles/Online_Exclusives/BNP_GUID_9-5-...). I think the point is that the technology is out there. Those of us in the security business need to educate our customers to help them understand that we can make their homes and business safer. I believe that is called ’selling.’

David Stewart

Ace Monitoring

Louisville, KY

I’m glad to see this conversation continuing.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, May 12, 2010

First of all, thanks to John M for calling me on my poor bombastic 80s hair rock band recall skills… I had originally said it was a Journey cover. Eye of the Tiger was, of course, brought to us by equally mulleted power ballad band Survivor.k.

Keith Jentoft over at RSI has been hard at work.

Driven by his creative muse (the security industry and that rush you get from apprehending the bad guys), Jentoft has whipped up another video-verification-vaunting rock video.

If you loved “Video Killed the Blind PIR” (and who didn’t have it stuck in their heads for all of ISC?), you’re going to love the new installment.

Keith assures me there will be an air-guitar rock-out competition at ESX. So change up those air-strings, grow out the mullet, don your best leopard-print leotards and get ready to rock with security!

Enjoy “The Eye of the Motion Viewer.”

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, May 11, 2010
boxingpart2 I'd like to think that NYT columnist Paul Sullivan's follow up to his April 30 installment "Weighing the Value of a Home Security System" was, at least in some small part, driven by my coverage of the piece in this blog and subsequent tweeting to my legions (Okay, I only have 155, but most of yesterday the reader read 0 so who's the wiser?) Twitter followers. I'm probably not that powerful, but it's nice think about. Sullivan, in his follow-up titled "Protecting Your Home, Part 2, or, What Readers Think," notes that his April 30 entry incited a "spate of responses." Sullivan puts all of those who responded to his initial story into one of three categories: Technologists, Pessimists, and Pragmatists.
TECHNOLOGISTS The technologists contended that I had not given security alarms their due. Through advances in monitoring technology, they said, the false alarm rate could be lowered and police response time shortened. Peter Goldring, the chief executive of Sentry Protection, told me about video verification systems that send a clip to the security company of the thief inside your house. With this, the company can tell the police there is a crime in progress, which gets them to your door quickly. 'We can prioritize,' he said. Likewise, Jeff Kessler, a managing director at Imperial Capital, an investment bank, and a former security industry analyst, said advances in notification via cellphones helped reduce the false alarm rate, while add-ons to alarm systems--like heating and plumbing monitors and services to provide medical assistance--expanded the uses and value of security systems.
I've been writing about security going mobile and verification of alarms for a while now. It's nice to see Sullivan catching up.
PESSIMISTS This group consisted of people with first-hand experience in the monitoring centers of security companies. They painted a far worse picture than I did. David Scott, who said he used to work as a customer service representative in Florida and is now a computer programmer, complained that security companies give customers a false sense of efficiency with advertisements showing NASA-like monitoring centers. He said that he worked in a cubicle and that standard residential service--as opposed to prominent clients or businesses--was handled by the newest hires. He had two pieces of advice to cut down on frustration with the security companies. One, make sure your system is properly coded so it tells you where a problem is--bathroom window, for example, as opposed to 'Sensor 1.' And if you have guests, particularly anyone who does not speak English well, make sure they know the code. 'I can’t tell you how many times I called inside, and mom or dad who spoke little English accidentally set off the alarm while the kids were at work,' Mr. Scott said. 'No one is happy when that happens.' Larry, a retired Suffolk County police officer and security consultant who did not want his last name used because of his law enforcement background, said police response times got slower after a few false alarms. And he cautioned people who rely on barking dogs that an experienced burglar knows how to get by the pet.
I'm not sure I would have classed these people pessimists. Scott worked at one monitoring company. There are approximately 2,700 U.S.-based central stations that interact with the law enforcement, fire and emergency services agencies. I've visited some of them, some with a typical office feel complete with cubicles and some that were so NASA/sci-fi-command-center, they out-NASA'd NASA. So it's kind of unfair to generalize. Contempt prior to investigation is a dangerous thing. Also, as far as Scott's advice for proper zone labeling, and making sure guests know the code--the CSAA Central Station Operator Training Course level 1 covers stuff like that. I can only surmise that Scott maybe was lacking some training. I like all the talk about false alarm reduction. That's something else I do a lot of writing about. Sullivan's third pigeonhole, pragmatists, is, according to Sullivan, the most useful group since they "provided the most useful insights. The pragmatists admitted that the security industry had many faults but instead of defending or excoriating it, they offered simple, cost-effective advice." Sounds good. So what did Sullivan's responders have to say? Sullivan quotes two people: Alan Lurie, vice president of operations at the Kenstan Lock Company, who recommends bars on windows to keep intruders out, and Mike Jagger of Provident Security. Mike's a vocal member of the industry with a strong blog and Twitter presence. SSN managing editor Martha Entwistle sat down with Mike at ISC West to discuss his take on the industry in an edition of ssnTVnews. Mike's advice is important because it focuses on an often overlooked truth of security: Security does not stop break-ins. Losses will always occur. The function of security is to deter, to impede, to add an extra layer or protection, to slow the bad guys down. From Sullivan's story:
[Jagger] suggested putting a deadbolt lock on your master bedroom. However unsightly this may be, he said master bedrooms are the first place burglars go to look for jewelry and money. While they could still break down the door, the lock will slow them. Similarly, he suggested people with alarms put poles in their sliding glass doors that are two inches too short. That way, when the burglar tries to force the door open, he will trip the alarm but still be stuck outside. (People without alarms might try putting a thick washer at the top of the slider to keep the crook from lifting it off the track.) To keep your high-end plasma-screen televisions on the wall, Mr. Jagger said people should use a bicycle lock to attach the TV to the mounting bracket. Yes, the burglars may still rip the TV off the wall, lock and all, but it will take them a bit of time. The same goes for bolting down computers and safes. If they’re not fastened to the floor they are easy to take out.
I recently spoke with ESA president Mike Miller about the state of the industry and whether or not there should be an appointed industry spokesman to manage public perception of the security industry, and he made much the same point as Jagger. "Someone could kick in my door and run in and steal my beautiful, commemorative coffee mug and be gone before there was a dispatch," Miller said with a chuckle. "Does that mean the security didn't do it's job?" Both Miller and Jagger make the point that a security system is only one part of a series of preventative measures people could take to decrease the likelihood of a break-in and subsequent loss. I feel part two of the NYT look at residential security was a little more balanced than the first part, and a whole lot more accurate than the recent SmartMoney article.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, May 5, 2010
boxing My recent blog post on the April 30 NYT article that I felt could prompt end users to question the value of their security along with the attendant poll we put out incited some angry emails to SSN. A primary reason for the backlash, I think, is that I did not, in that post, make clear that the article was talking about residential security and not the whole security industry. I'll be clearer here: Hot on the heels of the New York Times article, SmartMoney has posted a story called "10 Things Home-Security Firms Won't Tell You." It's subtitled "Updated and adapted from the book '1,001 Things They Won't Tell You: An Insider's Guide to Spending, Saving, and Living Wisely,' by Jonathan Dahl and the editors of SmartMoney." Now, I'm no expert, but that sounds an awful lot like a reputable, consumer-oriented news source casting resi security in the light of deceiver in order to create sensationalism (and sell books). Keep in mind, the way this top 10 list is set up, the reader is thinking, as he or she reads, "Okay, these are the TRUTHS the security company KNOWS and isn't going to tell me..."
1. “A little home security goes a long way.” It’s official: We live in a society increasingly obsessed with the technology of safety ... Yet crime in general, and burglaries in particular, have been steadily decreasing. As comforting as it may be to have an elaborate alarm system — the average home-security package costs about $1,400 for installation and equipment, and about $23 a month to monitor—the reality is that you can deter most break-ins much more cheaply. There are lots of proactive—and inexpensive—ways you can protect your home from a break-in, says Frank Santamorena, founder of Security Experts, a security services company in New York. Lighting works wonders. Merely keeping the boundaries of your house ('perimeters' in security lingo) well lit— perhaps with motion-sensor lights, which cost less than $100—will discourage most burglars. But since the majority of home break-ins occur during the day, when people are away at work, experts suggest a few additional precautions. Keep hedges trimmed low to minimize hiding space around the house, and make sure there’s a good, strong lock installed on every door. And many homeowners make the mistake of putting their name on their mailbox. A burglar can get your phone number and find out if you’re not home immediately, “without even having to knock on the door,” says Santamorena.
Right off the bat, SmartMoney tells its readers you resi guys are going to lie to them about what they need to be safe. Again, readers are advised to have lots of light and trim hedges--similar to the NYT article reader who said "just get a dog"--as a way to keep their property safe cheaply. In other words, the reader is being told to expect you're going to try and sell them more security than they need. Also, I like that the story mentions people today are increasingly obsessed with technology-driven security solutions, DESPITE the fact that crime and burglaries have been on the decline... Is there maybe a correlation between the two? I mean, a decrease in crime and burglaries couldn't possibly BE a side effect of the public's increased desire for and investment in security, could it?
2. “The cops can’t hear your alarm.” Think your alarm will ring right in your local police station? Forget about it. The majority of today’s home security alarms ring in a so-called central station, where monitors will phone your house, ask for a code word, and notify the police if you don’t respond. That central station can be anything from a boiler room downtown to a concrete bunker in another state, and it may or may not be manned by your security company, but rather a third-party subcontractor. Not thrilled with the idea of having your alarm ringing 1,000 miles away at a company you’ve never heard of? You should be. For one thing, a feel for local conditions might come in handy when your life is at stake. “You’re better off being with a local alarm company with a central station than you are with a national company,” says Santamorena. And more than that, he says, you want a “UL-listed” system.
No. 2's kind of a mixed bag... It's true that almost no municipalities have private alarms ring right in at police headquarters (some do). However, the point goes on to allude that there may be willful subterfuge in the third-party monitoring model. I'll ignore the fact that when SmartMoney asks, "Not thrilled with the idea of having your alarm ringing 1,000 miles away at a company you’ve never heard of?" and then says, "You should be," they're actually telling their readers they should be thrilled with the long-distance, third-party monitoring scenario they're trying to vilify, rather than the opposite, which is what I think they meant. It's easy to get confused... SmartMoney advises its readers--your potential customers--to insist on the dealer/integrator having his/her own UL-listed central station. It does talk about UL-listing, which I'm sure most security companies are behind (some aren't), but how realistic is it for every integrator to have his or her own UL-listed central?
3. “This system is more trouble than it’s worth.” Sales of systems might be up, but once they’re installed, not all folks actually use them. It could be that they’re worried about false alarms or that they only set the alarm when they’re away for an extended period. 'Any system that you have installed, it’s important you get the proper training on how to use it. And you want to use it every day,' says Michael Miller, president of the Electronic Security Association (ESA), an industry group.
Again, remember that the way the list is set up ("...the things they know and won't tell you...") tells the end user that you, the resi security installer, believe that the system you're selling them is more trouble than it's worth. Again, you're being cast as a liar. It may BE true that many people don't use their security systems once they're installed, but that says something about the individual end user, not the resi security company that installed the system. SmartMoney says "not all" owners of security systems use the system... What is that? Less than 100%? So it's greater than 0% but possibly not 100%. That doesn't mean anything. Did they actually talk to anyone? Do they have a real number? Thankfully, they did talk to Mike Miller over at ESA who gets it right on: If you own a system, use it. It can't do anything to protect you if you don't turn it on.
4. “The local police hate us.” If you have an alarm system installed in your home, one thing is almost certain: You will trigger false alarms. This is, of course, a nuisance in itself. But the real problem is that police departments know it. Nationwide, the majority of alarm calls are false, rendering alarms’ overall reliability quite thin. In some locales, the police have responded by fining homeowners for repeat false alarms...
Hate's a pretty strong word. SmartMoney's telling its readers you know you're a pariah and are keeping that dark secret from them. And the police department representatives with whom I've so far spoken over my tenure here, reporting on false alarm ordinances and false alarm reduction efforts nationwide have not been hateful. By and large, they've wanted to enter into a cooperative relationship with the industry to reduce false alarms and make security systems more effective, increase the inherent value. No. 5 (“We’ll try to sell you expensive gadgets you don’t really need.”) is really a repeat of No. 1 (“A little home security goes a long way.”), and so I won't address it except to say, it's okay SmartMoney if you couldn't come up with 10... you could have done a Top 9 list, even though that's not the norm. No. 6, (“Our rent-a-cops are very low-rent.”) I'm also not going to touch since it's about security officers... Suffice it to say that the alleged lie you're going to tell the reader is that your "rent-a-cops" are top-notch when they're really under-qualified. Also, my colleague Leischen Stelter, managing editor of Security Director News, assures me that the term "rent-a-cop" IS, in fact, derogatory (was there intention here?). Come on now, SmartMoney... Name-calling?
7. “Getting past our alarms is tough—unless you have a pair of scissors.” Last year, nearly a dozen homes in Lewisville, outside Dallas, were burglarized. In an attempt to disable the alarm systems, the criminals cut power and telephone lines before forcing their way inside the homes, according to a local news report... The standard home alarm is transmitted over a telephone line, and getting around it requires little more than the ability to figure out where the line is and the skill to handle a good pair of wire cutters. Most alarm companies now offer some sort of backup protection, which typically consists of a radio or cellular device that notifies the central station your line has been cut. But these backup systems can cost a lot more—around several hundred dollars extra in addition to monthly charges.
Well, I addressed this issue a while ago... The POTS sunset is coming, and the time is now to talk to customers about the alternatives... if you can convince them that, despite the insistence of SmartMoney, you're not a liar.
“We may use unethical sales tactics.” These days, homeowners need to beware of salespeople who come knocking. The Better Business Bureau received nearly 3,000 complaints about burglar-alarm companies in 2009, up from 2,087 in 2008. Many complainants allege that the salesperson used high-pressure tactics and made claims that were not included in the final contract, according to the BBB. Last month, the Electronic Security Association announced a new code of ethics for door-to-door sales in an effort to cut down on deceptive pitches. “Rogue salespeople,” as the ESA called them in a statement, have been making headlines with lawsuits filed by major security-alarm companies against door-to-door salespeople for misleading customers...
Yeah, unethical sales tactics hurt the entire industry, that's for sure. No. 8 does, at least, mention the attempts of the industry to tackle the problem. It mentions ESA's Code of Ethics, which is good, and SmartMoney does have the good grace to use the word "may" so as to allude to the possibility that maybe all security companies aren't unethical. No. 9 (“You’re stuck with us.”) I'm not going to get too far into since it deals with multi-year contracts that auto-renew, and any person signing his name on a dotted line should be held responsible for knowing what they just signed--it's that simple. Does smart money think people have never heard of multi-year auto renewing contracts? What about cell phones? Ken Kirschenbaum discusses contract issues of relevance to the security industry at length in his newsletter. Sign up for it and keep informed. No. 10 (“If you have a pet, we might be less effective.”) seems kind of silly, too. I mean, are there really any resi installers out there who wouldn't say that a cat or dog might confuse the security system's motion sensors? And can't the sensitivity, the detection threshold, on those things be adjusted or something to allow for pets? I don't know... I'm not an installer. I guess with number 10, if you, as an installer, aren't willing to go back to a install site having false alarm problems due to a pet and do some tweaking, then maybe you should feel pretty badly about yourself... My point in this whole blog post is that the industry's being smacked around here. I think both the NYT article (albeit to a lesser degree than SmartMoney's piece) and SmartMoney's Top 9 list cast the industry in a hurtful and false light. SSN has been reaching out, asking you guys if there's something that can or should be done to offer end users a counterpoint. Let us know what you think, either by commenting on this blog, emailing me, or my editor Sam, or voting in our current poll.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, May 3, 2010
associations So I got my May 3 edition of Ken Kirschenbaum's Alarm - Security Industry Legal Email Newsletter. Ken points to an April 30 article in the New York Times, which calls into question the value of the security industry and may prompt some end users (I assume some end users of security probably read the New York Times) to question the necessity of their security systems. After the Eli Lilly warehouse heist, my editor Sam and I began talking about the mainstream media coverage we saw. Most stories I read mentioned the fact that there was security in place at that warehouse. Our thought was that people (normal end user people, not us industry types who know the value of security) might start to wonder if criminals could get around (either through Hollywood-esque heist know-how or through an accomplice perpetrating an inside job) the security systems in their homes and businesses. We asked ourselves: "Should there be someone from the industry who gets up and does some PR to assure the public that security is good?" I pursued that story and got some interesting points of view from some industry leaders. We'd love to hear what you think. You can have your say on this question at SSN's current newspoll. I mean, BP's come forward and let us all know it's going to do what it has to do to clean up the oil rig leak... Oh, and that oil's still good. It is... Alternative energy sources have their downsides, too. The NYT article opens thusly:
PEOPLE may be surprised to learn that when they most need their security system to protect their house, they oftentimes cannot rely on it. Jackie Ostrander discovered that when a storm knocked out power to her home in Greenwich, Conn., for a week in March—too long for her backup battery to keep going. And it took her security company three weeks to restart her system.
Oh, that's just not pretty... If I made my living off of people's willingness to pay for the systems this article is talking about, I'd be a little antsy. And I'd want someone to stand up with a counterpoint. The NYT article also quotes Stan Martin (somewhat misleadingly, I feel) of SIAC--someone with whom I've spoken at length--as saying police response to alarms is bad because of all the false alarms. What they don't go on to say is what a proponent of proaction and municipality/industry cooperation Stan is. I embarked on a quest to speak with the leaders of the industry's associations on this matter. I did eventually get Mike Miller over at ESA and Ed Bonifas over at CSAA to speak with me on the record for a story. Both of them spoke to the point that with security, it's dangerous to try and spin any loss in a PR machine because to do so is akin to admitting fault. That's understandable, but when the NYT article kind of purports to reveal the "truth" about the much-touted Rutgers study (ie: that a single security system only has value if it's part of a broader, neighborhood-wide security-system blanket), maybe it's time for someone, some security industry guru to stand up in the public eye with a rebuttal? I mean, I grew up being inundated with commercials for dairy, beef and pork. I'm not talking ads for specific products, I'm talking about "Milk: It does the body good," "Got Milk?" "Beef: It's what's for dinner," and "Pork: the other white meat." And I'm a proud meat-eating, milk-drinking consumer today. What does this say? Other than the fact that I watched way too much TV... It says that despite the onslaught of soy milk, yummy flavored tofu and news stories about food-borne illnesses like mad cow disease, E. Coli and salmonella poisoning, the PR worked. The original NYT article also links to another article inviting readers to dish about their security systems, asking them the questions, "So how’s your system working for you? Or have you gotten rid of it after deciding that it was a waste of money?" That seems like a problem to me. Especially given some of the reader comments. Like this one complaining about police response:
How about 45 minutes for police to arrive after calling 911 to report a burglary in progress? Seriously. Not sure alarm performance is the issue, unless the companies can dispatch their own security forces.
Lack of police response is a problem. Remember, however, that police are not required to respond. To anything, really. What's needed is cooperation with police and municipalities, and above all a PROACTIVE approach. Verify your alarms, reach out to your customers. Or this one that seems to say, despite advances in technology, low-tech is more reliable:
1. Get a dog. 2. The name of the game is to not stop a burglary: it's to prevent it from starting. So make your place less inviting than your neighbor's. Have a fence. Have a light on. Don't have visible valuables. 3. Get a dog.
When readers read an article in the NYT that tells them they "oftentimes cannot rely on [their systems]," and then they start telling each other they'd be better off buying a dog and leaving a light on, that's a problem if you make your money selling security systems. This person only sees the value of the fire alarm:
I do have an alarm system, but mostly I think it helps should there be a fire. For burglary, I agree with Colin [the get-a-dog-guy]
and this one:
I agree with Colin (#4). I have an alarm system, but rarely turn it on. I am always concerned that it will go off by accident. There are few break-ins in our area and I've always felt that the sign that I have a protection system is worth as much as the actual system. I also have a dog who (although very small) sounds like a large nasty animal and barks whenever anyone comes close to the house ---and keeps barking!!
Those are just a couple of the reader comments. Shouldn't there be some security industry entity whose job it is to get on TV and talk about how security is supposed to work, what its value is and set everyone's mind at ease? What do you think?
by: Daniel Gelinas - Friday, April 30, 2010
csaasia Just got my most recent issue of CSAA's Signals. Looks like they'll be taking over administration of Alarm Call Center Education, Networking, and Training (ACCENT) listserver. ACCENT was launched by CSAA and SIA to facilitate the networking of their members. ACCENT has been managed and administered by SIA since it began over 10 years ago. From the entry in Signals:
'We would like to thank SIA and its CEO, Richard Chace, for making this great resource available to our industry so many years ago,' said Steve Doyle, executive vice president and CEO of CSAA. 'The time and effort spent in the management of this great resource by the SIA staff was remarkable. We have enjoyed our partnership with SIA and want to thank, in particular, Kimberly Roberts and Arminda Valles-Hall for their work these past few years.' CSAA President Ed Bonifas echoed Doyle’s comments. 'We are grateful for SIA’s generous commitment and assistance to our association and our industry,' said Bonifas. 'From providing the initial funding for the CSAA Central Station Operator Level I online training to partnering with us at the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) and the Security Industry Standards Committee (SISC), SIA has always been willing to offer its support.'
More information on the ACCENT listserver can be found here at the CSAA's site.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, April 28, 2010
csaa2 So after receiving a few CSAA-directed comments of a bilious nature after I posted my APX gets Five Diamond certified blog post, I decided to consolidate said comments and rebuttals from the CSAA here for all y'all. Of course the news I blogged Monday was that APX, a summer-model company based in Provo, Utah, and one of the largest alarm companies in the country, had gone through the vetting process and had applied for and received Five Diamond certification from the CSAA. The blog post ran with a list of companies that have chosen to go out and spend the time and money on training in order to receive the certification. I love getting comments on my blog, and it wasn't long before a couple readers voiced their displeasure that APX (a company whose dealer base has employed the door-knocking sales method) had applied for a certification for their monitoring center and that CSAA had given it to them. Steve Nutt over at IP Alarms had this to say:
Pardon me for being controversial but… I’m curious CSAA…. when going through the certification process, do you deduct points, or award extra points for the methods that companies use to 'attract' subscribers? I suggest that you use some of the money you earned from the APX certification to setup a help line to council victims of the door knockers that are traumatized on their own doorstep. As for the damage caused to the rest of us trying to earn a living in the security industry, I guess we’ll have to earn our 'bragging rights' rather than pay for them. A sad day for the CSAA.
Gary D over at Scientific Security also disapproved of APX's monitoring center's achievement, displaying a seemingly misplaced anger toward door knockers or perhaps an amorphous disenchantment with the industry in general. "APX CSAA certified? looks like Brinks and Protection One aren’t the only things money can buy." Five Diamond certification is monitoring-focused, not dealer-focused. CSAA is the association for monitoring centers, not dealers. Please note, ESA has issued it's door-knocking code of ethics. They sorta got the whole ethical/non-ethical thing covered, I think. I mean, it's not really CSAA's business to penalize a monitoring center for the morals (or lack thereof) of the company's dealers, is it? Five Diamond certification is about vetting a monitoring center's compliance with UL standards, vetting its operators' understanding of communications technologies, alarm processing procedures and best practices, etc... I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with anyone's sense of right and wrong. Celia Besore, CSAA VP of marketing and programs addressed the implication that a company can buy certification, that CSAA is selling monitoring cred.
There is no fee to be certified as a CSAA Five Diamond company. Most certifications, such as ETL, UL, etc. (and others outside our industry) require a submission fee. Obviously, CSAA is not in the certification for the money since we do not charge for it--rather it takes many staff hours to process and deal with the CSAA Five Diamond process. We are in it to raise the standards and the educational levels in our industry.
Besore did admit that there was a charge to take the online operator training course, but that does not mean a company is certified Five Diamond. Anyone can take the training. I did, but I don't have a monitoring center to bring into UL compliance, so I can't really get Five Diamond certified. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that one generally pays for most online training courses. Besore argued the value of the training was measurable, regardless of whether or not a company chose to go the extra mile and meet the other requirements for certification. "We’ve had hundreds of companies that have had their operators certified. The value of the training is that hundreds of companies (Five Diamond or not) have had their operators certified by it," Besore said. "Good training is good training no matter what the ultimate use." CSAA EVP Steve Doyle addressed the purview of the Five Diamond certification process.
There is no charge to become a Five Diamond Central Station if you meet the requirements which are, very basically, that you have a duly Listed UL Central Station, are a member in good standing of CSAA, have all operators trained through the CSAA on-Line Training program and agree to abide by the rules of Five Diamond Central Stations and CSAA membership policies. This only applies to the monitoring central station and does not include dealers. CSAA can and does set the standards. However, we stay away from individual company sales practices as this could have legal implications in the area of anti-trust.
Is it wrong for a dealer to use dishonest sales tactics? Absolutely. I don't think anyone denies that. The question is, into whose jurisdiction does policing the actions of dealers fall?
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, April 26, 2010
5diaapd1 My colleague Martha forwarded on an email to me about one of her resi companies achieving Five Diamond status at their central station. Utah-based APX Alarm announced the news April 26 that their first center (they recently opened another one at their corporate headquarters in Provo, Utah) in St. Paul, Minn. had gotten the Five Diamond certification. From their press release:
PROVO, Utah—APX Alarm Security Solutions, one of the nation’s largest residential security companies, announced April 26 that it had received the Central Station Alarm Association’s Five Diamond Certification for its St. Paul, Minn. central monitoring station. The certification recognizes that 100 percent of the operators at the St. Paul monitoring station have achieved proficiency and certification by passing the CSAA On-Line Operator Training Course. This course covers all phases of central station communications with customers, law enforcement, fire and emergency services. This critical area of communications is the life-saving link between the residential customers and emergency personnel in local areas. “We take great pride in providing an exceptional customer service experience. Our response time to an alarm event is one of the fastest in the residential security industry and we take response times extremely seriously,” Lindsay Grauling, APX Alarm vice president of operations said. “This certification signifies our resolve to provide our customers with the security and peace of mind that we are there for them in time of need.”
I took the CSAA On-Line Operator Training Course last year. It was quite an experience. The course, which costs $180 (CSAA member companies receive a 30 percent discount on all purchases. Go to the member area of CSAA's site to obtain a discount code to use when purchasing this course), can be demoed for free. CSAA director of marketing and communications Celia Besore said Five Diamond companies have demonstrated an exceptionally high degree of responsibility to their local community and their customers through the investment of time, money and commitment to 100 percent quality operator training. "Whether a small company or a large one, these [Five Diamond] companies are committed to being engaged and active. We believe their engagement exposes them to the best ideas in the industry and makes them better each day," Besore said. "In addition, being able to have a certification that speaks of their commitments to the highest standards gives them additional 'bragging' rights." As per the comment below, I decided to track down the list of Five Diamond Centrals, available at CSAA's site. Here they are:
List of Five Diamond Central Stations We are pleased to present the following list of central stations that are committed to the highest training standards (in order of receiving the designation). For detailed contact information about these companies, please visit the online Membership Directory. Acadian Command Central (since 05/2009) Baton Rouge, LA Acadian on Watch (since 01/2005) Lafayette, LA Ackerman Security Systems (since 09/2008) Atlanta, GA ADS Security (since 09/2003) Nashville, TN Affiliated Central Inc. (since 09/2005) Brooklyn, NY Alarm Center, Inc. (since 04/2007) Lacey, Washington Alarm Central LLC (since 03/2006) Kansas City, MO Alarm Detection Systems (since 08/2003) Aurora, IL Alarm Monitoring Services (since 06/2008) Monroe, LA Alarmco, Inc. (since 07/2008) Boise, ID Alarmco, Inc. (since 06/2006) Las Vegas, NV Alarm Tech Central Services (since 12/ 2009) Islandia, NY Alert Alarm of Hawaii (since 09/2004) Honolulu, HI All-Guard/Grand Central Station (since 11/2008) Hayward, CA Allstate Security Industries, Inc. (since 09/2006) Amarillo, TX American Alarm and Communications, Inc. (since 04/2004) Arlington, MA American Burglary & Fire, Inc. (since 11/2005) Fenton, MO Amherst Alarm Inc. (since 03/2004) Amherst, NY 14221 APS Security Ltd. (since 09/2005) Vancouver, B.C. Canada APX Alarm Security Solutions (Since 04/2010) South St. Paul, MN ASG Security (since 07/2009) McAllen, TX Atlantic Coast Alarm (12/2009) Mays Landing, NJ Atlas Security Services (since 03/2005) Springfield, MO AvantGuard Monitoring Centers (since 01/2007) Ogden, UT Barcom, Inc. (since 11/2007) Swansea, IL Bay Alarm Company (since 01/2006) Pacheco, CA www.bayalarm.com Centerpoint Technologies (since 06/2006) St. Louis, MO Centra-Larm Monitoring (since 06/2009) Manchester, NH CenturyTel Security (since 02/2005) Monroe, LA Checkpoint Systems (02/2010) Chanhassen, MN Cincinnati Bell/Complete Protection (since 11/2008) Cincinnati, OH CPI Security Systems (since 08/2009) Charlotte, NC Commercial Instrument & Alarm Systems (since 10/2008) Fishkill, NY ComSouth Monitoring Services (since 09/2009) Hawkinsville, GA C.O.P.S. Monitoring (since 02/2008) Scottsdale, Arizona Counterforce USA (since 07/2006) Houston, TX Devcon Security Services (since 12/2008) Hollywood, FL DGA Security Systems (since 02/2005) New York, NY Diebold, Inc. (since 12/2003) Honolulu, HI Diebold, Inc. (since 11/2003) Uniontown, OH DMC Security Services, Inc. (since 09/2005) Midlothian, IL Doyle Security Systems, Inc. (since 02/2004) Rochester, NY E & J Gallo Winery (since 10/2004) Modesto, CA Electronic Security Corp. of America Security Alarm Corporation (since 05/2009) Woodlyn, PA Electronix Systems Central Station Alarms, Inc. (since 06/2005) Huntington Station, NY Engineered Protection Systems (since 06/2004) Grand Rapids, MI F. E. Moran, Inc. Alarm and Monitoring Services (since 12/2006) Champaign, IL Federal Response Center (since 01/2006) Springfield, MO Fifth Third Bank (since 10/2004) Cincinnati, OH Fire Monitoring of Canada (since 05/2009) St. Catharines, Ontario First Alarm (since 12/2007) Aptos, CA Fleenor Security Systems (since 07/2006) Knoxville, TN Gillmore Security Systems (since 01/2009) Cleveland, OH G4S Monitoring & Data Center (since 11/2009) Burlington, MA Guardian Protection Services, Inc. (since 09/2006) Warrendale, PA Interface Security Systems (since 08/2004) Earth City, MO InterTECH Security,LLC (since 02/2008) Warrendale, PA Island Electronics Security & Monitoring, Ltd. (since 10/2006) Georgetown, Grand Cayman, BWI iWatch Communications, Inc. (since 01/2008) Beaverton, OR 97005 LifeStation (since 02/2007) Brooklyn, NY Lowitt Alarms – Metrodial (since 11/2004) Hicksville, NY Marlin Central Monitoring (since 09/2009) Kissimmee, FL Matson Alarm (since 06/2008) Fresno, CA Merchants Burglar Alarm Systems (since 11/2007) Wallington, NJ Microsoft Global Security (since 03/2008) Redmond WA Monitoring America Alarm Co-Op (since 02/2009) Tulsa, OK Monitoring Partners (since 04/2009) Delray Beach, FL Monitronics International (since 02/2005) Dallas, TX Mutual Central Station Alarm Services (since 05/2009) New York, NY New York Merchants Protective Co., Inc. (since 04/2007) Freeport, NY NEXgeneration Central (since 07/2009) Providence, RI Pacific Alarm Systems, Inc. (since 05/2009) Culver City, CA Paladin Security Group, Ltd. (since 04/2008) British Columbia, Canada Panhandle Alarm & Telephone Co. (since 10/2008) Pensacola, FL Peak Alarm (since 02/2006) Salt Lake City , UT Per Mar Security Services (since 06/2005) Davenport, IA The Protection Bureau (since 11/2007) Exton, PA Quick Response Monitoring Alarm Center (since 10/2005) Cleveland, OH Reliance Protectron (since 03/10) St Leonard, Quebec, CANADA Reliance Protectron (Since04/2010) Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA RFI Security (since 10/2006) San Jose CA Rocky Mountain Security Services, Inc. (Integrated Systems, Inc.) (since 12/2006) Denver, CO Safe Systems (since 08/2004) Boulder, CO SDA Security Systems, Inc. (since 11/2005) San Diego, CA Sebastian Corp. (since 12/2008) Kerman, CA Security Equipment, Inc. (SEI) (since 06/2004) Omaha, NE Security Partners, llc (since 05/2007) Lancaster, PA SentryWatch (since 02/2008) Greensboro, NC Siemens Industry, Inc. (since 03/2004) Irving, TX State Farm Insurance (since 03/2004) Bloomington, IL 61791 Superior Central Station (since 06/2007) McAllen, Texas Supreme Security Systems Inc. (since 12/2004) Union, NJ SVI Systems, Inc. (since 05/2009) Stuart, FL Texana Security LLC (since 12/2008) San Angelo, TX Thrivent Financial for Lutherans-Appleton, WI (since 09/2005) Appleton, WI Thrivent Financial for Lutherans-Minneapolis, MN (since 08/2008) Minneapolis, MN TnT Security Services L.L.C. (since 10/2006) Tulsa, OK Trans-Alarm, Inc. (since 04/2007) Burnsville, MN United Central Control (since 07/2004) San Antonio, TX United Monitoring Services, Inc. (since 04/2004) Columbus, GA Universal Atlantic Systems, Inc. (since 03/2004) Broomall, PA Vector Security, Eastern District (since 08/2003) Plymouth Meeting, PA Vector Security - South Central Station (since 03/2006) Richmond, VA Vector Security, Western District (since 08/2003) Pittsburgh, PA VRI, Inc. (since 04/2006) Dayton, OH Washington Alarm, Inc. (since 12/2006) Seattle, WA Wayne Alarm Systems (since 12/2003) Lynn, MA Wegmans Food Market Inc. (since 04/2008) Rochester, NY WH International Response (since 12/2004) Rockford, MN WM Security Services, Inc. (since 02/2008) Houston, TX 77032
by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, April 22, 2010
dpdbadge1 Just got an email from Paramount Alarm's Chris Russell over at the North Texas Alarm Association. He passed on a mailing from Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. Looks like the police in Dallas are cracking down on alarm system registration there and have instituted a strict policy of non-response to any unregistered alarm beginning on Monday, April 26. Here's Chris' email, short and not-so-sweet:
Important Notice! Dallas Police Effective Monday, April 26, 2010 the Dallas Police Department will resume its No Permit No Dispatch policy. This means they will not respond to burglar alarm activations unless a valid permit number is provided by the alarm company. As always, they will still respond to all panic alarm activations regardless of permit or permit status.
If you have accounts in the Dallas area, now would be the time to be sure your customers are all registered with the police. We here at SSN have written a lot about ordinances, the threat of non-response, and what the whole thing can look like when municipalities and the industry work together. As I write this blog post, my editor Sam is moderating the previously blogged Video Enhanced Alarms webcast with statistics, case studies and advice from leaders in a sort of movement in the industry that promotes enhancing all alarms with video (the movement's pushing audio as well (fret not, Sonitrol)), but the webcast is focusing on video). That webcast will be available on-demand at SSN soon. I wrote about this movement back when it was just forming. An interesting thing to note here, if not a very comforting thought for the industry, is that law enforcement is in no way legally obligated to respond to security alarms. They do it as a courtesy and really could stop at any time. Just one more reason, I suppose that the industry needs to be active and informed, willing to compromise and concede on occasion. I emailed SIAC director Ron Walters to see what he had to say about non/verified response to alarms. "Actually police have no obligation to respond to anything, including 9-1-1 calls. Pretty amazing huh?" Ron said. "The first alarms were flocks of geese used by the Romans to let them know when someone approached (this is true)." Ron went on to cite the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice study done in cooperation with the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation (AIREF) and the city of Newark, N.J. The study shows that security systems have a demonstrable effect on decreasing crime. "Alarms became a tool for police when society moved to the suburbs. Police as recently as today recommend alarms to help deter crime," Ron said. "If the alarm failed to deter the event then the alarm rings a siren and now calls the monitoring station. We believe that it is the threat of response by a well-trained law enforcement official with a gun and arrest powers that is the true value of alarms ... We fight the fight to maintain the value of having an alarm." Law enforcement agencies generally want to respond to security alarms in order to better protect lives and property. The security industry needs to try and help combat the false alarm problem and help to educate end-users. SIAC executive director Stan Martin agreed the threat of non response was there, but pointed out there were certain protections for the end user in place.
We do have an equal protection amendment to our U.S. Constitution that in theory keeps police from picking/choosing who or what they will respond to--in other words they should always make response decision based on the good of the community as whole... think about what would happen if they could choose to only respond to the wealthy people or intentionally choose not to go into minority neighborhoods? In fact this is an argument we use with police--private industry does not have that same obligation to respond to all areas & all people and in fact private guard services do pick and choose the areas that they can service profitably--that's a huge downside to private response--there is no guarantee a citizen can hire a guard to respond--there is no legal obligation.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, April 19, 2010
untitled-1 The webcast is now available on-demand. If you couldn't attend it live, check it out now. Security Systems News will be conducting a free webcast on this hot new topic on Thursday at 1:00 p.m. I've been writing a lot of stories about enhanced alarms lately, and this webcast is your chance to find out what all the buzz is about from some of the experts in the emerging field. The webcast will be moderated by SSN/SDN executive editor and heck-of-a-nice guy Sam Pfeifle and will include contributions from Sandy Jones, president of security industry resource and consulting firm Sandra Jones & Company, Keith Jentoft, president of RSI Video Technologies and a veritable zealot for the enhanced alarm movement, Tony Wilson, president of CMS monitoring, and Rob Lucas, president of security company All Secure. From a recent SSN release:
Enhanced Video Alarm Systems are creating significant value for the companies that sell them. Hear new research that highlights the value of Enhanced Video Alarm Systems. Through reduced attrition, reduced operating costs, incremental RMR, increased cash flow, and greater account value, Enhanced Video Alarm Systems are proving to be a solid investment for your company. Sign up for this FREE webcast and discover: * How to calculate the increased value of your company when using Enhanced Video Alarms. * How 'Priority Response' is a productive alternative to non-response and increasing fines. * What you need to consider when adopting Enhanced Video Alarms. * And more! Watch this LIVE event from your computer, for FREE! Thursday, April 22, 2010 – 1PM EST Register Now
As I said before, verification of alarms is one of the hottest topics at SSN. Here’s some of what people are reading: “If You’re Not Offering Verified Alarms, Are You Missing the Boat?” “Emza, Bold Team for WiseEye Monitoring” “RSI Brings Verification to Mace CSS” “Amcest Launches Dealer Program with CheckVideo” Sign up for this free webcast today and learn how to start adding value to your business.

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