So in a few weeks I'll be heading down to Atlanta to attend ASIS International. I had a great time in Atlanta when I went for a preview visit in February (partially because there wasn't four feet of snow on the ground like there was here in Maine). One of the highlights was the Georgia Aquarium, which is an awesome venue (minus the hoards of children) with its three beluga whales, massive whale sharks and many intriguing exhibits. I read an article today from CNN about the latest addition to the Georgia Aquarium in the form of a 450-pound manta ray named Nandi. She has a nine-foot wingspan and made her debut in the acquarium just yesterday. I hope that someone out there is having some sort of event in the aquarium (it has an awesome conference room that has a window into the beluga whale tank) and, more importantly, will send along an invite to yours truly. If not, Nandi sounds like a great reason to get off the show floor.
This article is a tragic reminder that the security business is often a matter of life and death and that mistakes, even small ones, can have serious consequences. The widow of a firefighter killed in a house fire is suing two security companies, Pinnacle Security of Utah and Security Associates International of Illinois, alleging that the companies mishandled a fire alarm signal that led to the deaths of not only the widow's husband, but another firefighter and the two occupants of the house. Mistakes by an alarm company representative led to a nearly 10-minute delay from the moment the homeowners' fire alarm alerted her to when the first firefighter was dispatched, according to the lawsuit and a 122-page report by the Contra Costa Fire District, reported the Contra Costa Times. Here is more from the Contra Costa story: On the night of the fire, homeowner Grace Moore told a Pinnacle alarm company representative that there was an active fire in the their house over a two-way intercom system. The alarm representative called the Contra Costa fire nonemergency dispatch line and told an operator there was a fire alarm report instead of relaying that she had spoken to the homeowner and was told a fire was burning. The wrong terminology and incorrect phone line sent the call plummeting down the priority list. It's a sad situation all around. From that article it does seem like the operator mishandled the dispatch and highlights a point I made in an earlier blog about the importance of knowing local information as well as having well-trained operators who understand the severity of their job. I will be curious to see how this plays out in court and there could be a potential precedent set determining exactly how liable security companies are for their actions (or mis-actions, I guess).
You hear more and more about metal thefts due to the increasing price of scrap, but what about the increasing cost of food leading to more crop thefts? Here in Maine blueberry season is at its peak and according to this local article, blueberry-thieving is too. I'm guessing most of you are unaware how blueberries are harvested, but it involves using this short-handled upside-down rake tool that scoops up the berries. In short, it's back-breaking work, but apparently well worth the effort (from the farmer's perspective maybe not from the laborers). Blueberries are yielding about $1 per pound so we're talking pretty big money for farmers, according to this article. David Bell, executive director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, said blueberry thefts total an estimated $100,000 annually. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s definitely a six-figure problem,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Any pound of berries that is stolen is pure profit to the person who stole them, so itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a very serious concern to growers.Ã¢â‚¬Â ... Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to catch someone blue-handed, so to speak, but with berries moving in transit thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s another opportunity to catch the thieves,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Bell of the blueberry commission. First of all, I love that there is a Wild Blueberry Commission at all and secondly, it's priceless that he used the phrase "blue handed." Who couldn't love Maine? Anyway, to counter thefts, farmers have begun hiring security guards to patrol their fields, some of which are really out in the middle of Nowheresville, Maine. Apparently the thieves are coming in on four-wheelers and illegally harvesting the crop. Local police have also ramped up efforts to monitor vehicles transporting the precious fruit (you're only allowed to have 25 pounds without a permit) and are also targeting buyers of illegal blues. But, with all the tourist traffic here in Maine, apparently police can't dedicate the manpower needed to protect one of Maine's precious commodities. I guess nothing is safe in this economy.
Here's another article highlighting the dangers of non-response policies. In this case, police did not respond to an alarm because the user had not registered the system or paid the $10 fee. The owner ended up responding himself, discovering the thief still inside the building and foolishly locking himself and the thief inside the building until police arrived after he managed to call 911. The owner was a little banged up, but lucky for him, the intruder didn't have a weapon and he was able to out-muscle him. The whole situation is just ridiculous, but brings up an important point for security owners. It's vital that security companies know about local registration policies and inform their customers about them (or heck, even provide the forms to avoid liability). If I was this guy, I would be pretty annoyed at my security company (which the article doesn't mention by name, by the way, which seems like an important fact for the article, but mainstream media prefers the generic term "security company"). After all, the registration policy directly effects the systems that security companies are selling and, frankly, with my end-user hat on, I expect them to know about it. I realize it's probably a huge task to be up-to-date on all these policies, especially for a truly national company, but, honestly, I don't have a lot sympathy, it's just part of doing business in this industry. In today's competitive market there are plenty of other security companies that would gladly take on your disgruntled customers.
Here's an article that emphasizes how important it is for security and monitoring companies to have good data entry people as well as systems designed to double check information. A woman who had been a loyal ADT customer for four years received a message on her answering machine that her alarm had been activated and police had been dispatched. The only problem? Police never showed up. ADT had the wrong physical address for this woman. But, as the article points out: The company may not have known where to send first responders, but it did know where to send the bills. "I received all my bills here. I had all my contracts that stated 307 [her correct address]. As far as I'm concerned, they had the right contract," she said. I can see her point. If she was receiving bills at the correct address why would she even question that the company had the wrong address listed in their system? I wouldn't. I know managing all this customer information is a major undertaking and ADT is obviously a huge company with hundreds of thousands of customers, but doesn't that mean they would have software or something in place to double check information in their system? Don't most central stations have some sort of means of verifying information like periodic calls, form letters or something? Perhaps I'm being too lofty with my assumptions. I think this article points out how important it is for monitoring companies, big or small, not to lose sight of the business they're in. Because ADT wasn't really protecting this woman's home, they refunded her four years worth of monitoring costs. That's $1,400 of lost revenue and may be pennies for ADT, but could be big bucks for you.
Here's a profile article by CE Pro Magazine about Wayne Alarm Systems in Lynn, Mass. The owner, who if you're at all keyed into the monitoring industry, will know as Ralph Sevinor posing in his well-known alarm museum. Even a relative newbie to the industry like me knows Ralph (but I always want to call him "Wayne"- Does anyone else have that problem?). The premise of the article is exactly the topic we here at SSN continually tout: How can security companies increase their RMR by entering the home automation space? I think this paragraph makes a good point about some of the insecurities felt within the industry: A company like Wayne Alarm Systems can't snap its fingers and start offering control, according to Sevinor. "It's a philosophical change," he says. "When somebody looks at a home automation system or a TV, they're looking at a life expectancy of two or three years. When somebody is looking at a security system, they're looking at 20 years." According to the article, Sevinor has tasked an employee (the other guy in the photo) to investigate the profitability of entering the "control" space, as CE Pro refers to it. This is probably a decent and smart business strategy and I hope the next article about Wayne Alarms (perhaps done by yours truly) will be about its entrance into the space. It would be a good, reassuring example for the rest of the industry, many of who are also on the fence about all this ding dang new technology, and proof that, yes, it can be done. Show us the way Ralph, I mean Wayne, I mean Ralph.
Hard to believe the 4th of July has come and gone. I took a nice little trip to Ohio to visit the grandparents and ended up driving 16 hours straight back to the East Coast by myself. I was certainly cracked out on caffeine and loud music by the time I rolled in around 2AM. Certainly not a traveling strategy I would recommend. But, it's always nice to have a little time off work, which, by the massive amount of "out of office" replies I've received lately, I'm guessing many of you continue to enjoy. That's summer for you. I hope you got to enjoy 4th celebrations. I didn't get to see any fireworks this year, which I was sadly disappointed about. And, based on this news report out of Denver, others missed out on the show too. This guy had obviously spent a lot of money to buy his own holiday entertainment (or perhaps supplement his income since his entire garage was chock-a-block full of illegal fireworks). His burglar alarm went off, police showed up, discovered his stash and arrested him and ruined more than his weekend. Of course, no one was trying to steal his stash, just another case of a false alarm leading police to other violations. I sure bet he wished Denver had a stricter verification policy. Funny they don't include any statistics about how many unrelated arrests are made on the coattails of false alarm responses. I think someone oughta keep track.
So, I'm back from the ESX show in Nashville, and I must say, I had a blast. To start off the show they let me play with guns (for security guys, they really have no sense), but I felt surprisingly confident firing live ammunition at small flying discs during the TBFAA's skeet shooting event. A shout out to Andrew Stadler of Security Partners for his fine videography skills. During the first two days of the show I attended several great educational sessions, my favorite being the Gen-Y session. Maybe I was just particularly engaged because I'm just on the cusp of being a Gen-Y-er myself (missed it by a year), but I thought it was interesting to hear how the security industry, specifically central stations, are dealing with us youngin's. Sophie Gravel, the director at Monitoring Station for Reliance Protectron did a great job presenting this topic. She was informative and engaging, and not presumptuous or assuming. The message I took away was about the importance of keeping Gen-Y engaged, continuing to offer education options, allowing flexible work schedules, that kind of thing. Very reasonable, I thought, and something all companies should be offering their employees, but that must be my youth coming through. One question I thought was interesting was: "What if you just don't like these kids?" Hmm...that could pose a problem. The premise of the question was why should management have to coddle and pay more attention to these newbies who will likely only stay for a year or two than the 15-year veterans who do their jobs without question? Gravel's answer: Because we have no choice. This is the next generation of workers. "This generation is just starting to impact the workforce in profound ways, changes need to happen in our culture and management style," she said. "This generation doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t expect, accept or understand the same rules as their predecessors ...They're looking for relationships with coworkers, looking for a fun environment. They like structure but donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like to be in a box." I also got to sit down with Pam Petrow, the new COO of Vector Security. I really enjoyed our conversation and I think it was one of the most enjoyable and engaging interviews I've had in a long time. Plus, I really appreciate talking to high up women execs. They inspire me and Pam is at the top of my list. There was lots other industry things happening at ESX (obviously I was bad about blogging at the actual event), but on another fun note, I had a chance to go to the Grand Ole Opry and see Trace Adkins (he's a big country star, for those of you who don't know). He's also one of the biggest guys I've seen in a long time. I had a great time in Nashville and am a little disappointed the show is going to Baltimore next year. I bet they won't let you shoot guns in Baltimore and if you do hear gun fire, chances are you need to take cover.
Sometimes it's fun to laugh at other people's security ignorance, especially when no one gets hurt, but in this case we can only chuckle a little because it sounds like this dad just got lucky. This article (which was sent to me by a reader, and yes, I do have readers) is about a father who was awoken at 3 a.m. one morning by two police officers standing in his bedroom. Turns out this dad wasn't so vigilant about security and not only was the front door left ajar, but so was the garage door AND he had left the keys in the ignition of his truck. The police officers were apparently conducting a "public service campaign to remind residents to secure their homes to prevent thefts" and this was likely one of the grossest lack of security these officers had seen (hence it making the local paper). Oh, the article also notes the TV was left on, but that was probably because this dad was hosting a sleepover and there were four kids under the age of seven sleeping in the living room, so not only was he endangering his own kids, he was also risking someone else's offspring. The father said he feels violated by the police officer's intrusion, but he's probably just pissed that he got publicly outed as an incompetent parent. Further indication of this guy's character is in the paragraph noting that the kids were too scared to wake him up. Chances are that would be true of a lot of kids (a steadfast childhood rule is that you don't wake dad), but they were likely scared to death when two adults appeared in their living room after they had spent all night watching Freddie Krueger go on a murdering spree or whatever horror movies kids are watching these days. I bet those kids are catching some flak at school, too, since they'll never host a sleepover again, as no sensible parent would ever let their kid stay the night there. Poor kids, they can't help it if their dad is completely and utterly security-challenged.
So, for those loyal readers out there who were likely missing my posts last week, I was off partying at Bonnaroo in Tennessee. That's right, I drove from Portland, Maine to Manchester, Tennessee despite current gas prices just so I could hang out with thousands of people under the blazing Tennessee sun. The music was great, the people watching even better. I was seriously 50 yards from Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam under the clear night sky and a nearly full moon. It was an amazing moment. Funny though, I'll be heading back to Tennessee, this time to Nashville for the ESX show, but for that trip my expenses will be on the company card, so hopefully I won't be sleeping in a tent and paying $10 for a 15-minute cold shower (I mean, really). Anyway, it's back to work and our August edition is all about central stations and the monitoring industry. So, as the monitoring maven, it's my responsibility to get all you folks to contribute our Source Book listing which will be a resource for dealers and integrators to find providers of contract monitoring services. And, it's free. Yup, that's right. If you're a contract or third-party monitoring station, follow the link to fill out a survey so you can be included: Central Station Survey link The deadline is June 26, so no procrastination.