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by: Rich Miller - 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.”

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The world of mobile PERS and remote health monitoring continues to expand.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, ADT announced that it was getting into the game by teaming with Ideal Life, a Toronto-based company whose health monitoring and information technology will be integrated with ADT Pulse to provide “proactive prevention” for people managing chronic health conditions. The system uses digital, wireless, secure two-way communicators to measure and relay information about glucose levels, blood pressure, body weight, oxygen saturation and heart rate.

Royal Philips Electronics, which has long been a player in personal emergency response systems, also made news at CES by introducing Lifeline GoSafe. The mobile PERS system combines the company’s AutoAlert fall-detection capability with two-way cell communication and up to seven user-location technologies.

“Our intention is that GoSafe will provide users with the confidence to get back to activities or go to places they have scaled back on, knowing that help is easily accessible,” Rob Goudswaard, senior director of product and service programs for Philips Home Monitoring, said in a prepared statement.

The need to provide more protection for seniors as they maintain their independence isn’t lost on Mace Security International, which is “looking hard” at getting into the mobile PERS space, CEO and President John McCann told SSN last week.

“I think you’re going to see a shift from just home security to security 24/7,” McCann said. “As you look at that shift in the world, and I use my dear sweet mother as an example, I’m a little more worried when she’s on the road than when she’s at home. Therefore we’re looking at how do we increase that fence around her so she’s safe, so loved ones feel that the person they’re worried about is safe.”

Security dealers who want to take advantage of this growing market might want to think about attending the second annual PERS Summit, which will be held Sept. 10-12 in Park City, Utah. Last year’s inaugural session brought together more than 100 dealers, service providers and manufacturers’ reps for three days of networking. To learn more, go to www.perssummit.com.

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has attended ESX in the past couple of years that it’s one of the fastest-growing trade shows in the country.

There was confirmation of that recently from Trade Show Executive magazine, which named the Electronic Security Expo one of the publication’s Fastest 50 winners for audience growth. Attendance at ESX grew 15.1 percent from the 2010 event in Pittsburgh to the 2011 event in Charlotte, N.C., easily outpacing average trade-show growth of 1.9 percent across a wide spectrum of industries, according to Darlene Gudea, president of the Trade Show Executive Media Group.

“At a time when most trade shows were battling the Great Recession and could barely maintain attendance levels of the past, along came the Electronic Security Expo, achieving a dramatic 15 percent jump in attendance,” Gudea said in a prepared statement.

The performance lifted ESX to 45th on the magazine’s list, “a success story that others can emulate and … a tribute to [the show’s] organizers,” Gudea said.

George De Marco, ESX chairman, said the growth is based on a winning formula: enhancing the show floor each year, adding to the education program and providing an array of networking events for integration and monitoring companies.

“We remain focused on executing our strategy of providing a dynamic ecosystem for security professionals to experience at ESX, helping them develop new partnerships, uncover new business opportunities and connect with colleagues,” De Marco said in the statement.

ESX moved to Nashville in 2012—hello, Tootsie’s—and it will be held there again in 2013, with events running from June 17-21 at the new Music City Center. For more on what to expect, go to www.esxweb.com.

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mace Central Station announced late Tuesday that Michael Kallio, the company’s vice president of business development, died Jan. 10 after a battle with cancer.

Kallio was a 26-year employee of Mace CS in Anaheim, Calif., and was a member of the California Alarm Association.

“Michael was a dedicated, loyal manager and he helped guide the company to be one of the most respected central stations in California and the West,” said Michael Joseph, vice president and general manager of Mace CS, in a prepared statement.

Mace Security International announced that it will create the Michael Kallio Spirit Award and will provide matching funds for a scholarship endowment in his honor. The endowment will help deserving students with their college educations.

Kallio was promoted to vice president of business development at Mace CS in April 2012. Previously, he was manager of business development and operations manager. He was also a real estate agent at Joshua Realty & Loan in Orange County, according to his LinkedIn profile.

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, January 9, 2013

ADT is getting into the health monitoring game.

The company announced this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that it has teamed with Toronto-based Ideal Life to offer at-home and mobile health management services. ADT will integrate Ideal Life’s health monitoring and information technology into ADT Pulse, which gives customers remote access to home automation and security features.

Ideal Life bills its monitoring system as “proactive prevention” for people managing chronic conditions such as congestive health failure, hypertension, diabetes, asthma or obesity. The system utilizes digital, wireless, secure two-way communication devices to measure and relay information about glucose levels, blood pressure, body weight, oxygen saturation and heart rate.

“Ideal Life’s solutions empower consumers by educating them on the status of their conditions as well as the advantages of prevention,” Don Boerema, ADT’s chief corporate development officer, said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to working with their team to offer these valuable new services to our customers.”

Other monitoring companies have been into remote health management for a while, so it will be interesting to see what kind of traction ADT gets and how soon it will have an impact. But given the company’s size and marketing power, its push into the field will be hard to ignore.

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, January 2, 2013

One of the most newsworthy items for the alarm industry in 2012 was AT&T’s announcement that it will shut down 2G service by Jan. 1, 2017. Everyone knew the day was coming, but there had been a lot of speculation in the field about exactly when cellular equipment would need to be upgraded to stay ahead of the sunset.

With the uncertainty gone, the industry now faces the reality of swapping millions of devices that use AT&T’s GSM/GPRS network. Choices must be made that involve assessing the longevity, coverage and cost of competing technologies. The larger the company, the larger the stakes.

SSN covered developments on the 2G sunset throughout 2012, presenting opinions from industry experts and a few rebuttals about the best path for dealers to take. For those still unsure about which way to go, a summation of options is provided by Syed Zaeem Hosain, chief technical officer at Aeris Communications, in the latest issue of CSAA Dispatch. Here’s what he had to say:

Change service to T-Mobile. It may be possible to move service from AT&T to T-Mobile by swapping the SIM [card] inside devices. This requires a truck roll. Furthermore, T-Mobile will also remove 2G eventually. Thus, this option only delays the inevitable by about two years; however, it allows additional time for implementing other options. It could require two truck rolls: one to replace the SIM soon, and another to replace the 2G GSM device later.
 

Replace with 3G HSPA. Alarm device suppliers are making new 3G HSPA devices. However, the HSPA coverage is much smaller than GPRS and, in time, HSPA spectrum also will need to be swapped for LTE. Thus, there is likely to be an “HSPA sunset” starting in about seven to eight years. This sunset would be worse, since the number of deployed alarm units will be much higher.

Replace with 2G CDMA. Alarm device suppliers have not yet supported this option, though it is likely the best. CDMA carriers have committed to 10-plus years of service longevity, and the 1xRTT coverage is better than GSM. Given the lower cost of 1xRTT radios and the large number of deployed 1xRTT applications in other industries (notably automotive and trucking) supporting the technology, using 1xRTT for alarm units makes sense.

Replace with 4G LTE. Deploying LTE devices is not viable for the alarm industry today. Radio costs are very high, and coverage is simply not sufficient for national deployments. Both will improve in time, but not at a pace that makes it a viable replacement option today. Carriers have not yet worked out LTE roaming agreements—these also will take time. Most importantly, the spectrum fragmentation for LTE means that current-generation LTE radios are single band (dedicated for use on a single carrier when in LTE mode). This is too restrictive, since these units can never be moved from one carrier to another.

Whichever route is chosen, it should be noted that the four-year window is a best-case scenario. Frequency harvesting is expected to dilute AT&T’s 2G coverage well before the sunset, with constraints already being reported in some areas. While the best choice for dealers seems to vary depending on who—or which manufacturer—you talk to, one thing is clear: Procrastination is no longer an option.

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by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The outrage and debate in the wake of the Newtown massacre will inevitably bring change. It might not involve the federal action that many have demanded—a ban on assault weapons tops the list—but it is certain to include local initiatives that strengthen school security: improved access control, additional guard services, expanded video surveillance or a combination of the three.

Unfortunately, school shootings are a problem that security alone can’t address, involving complex issues that go well beyond simply installing metal detectors or better entry controls. A determined, well-armed assailant will still be able to kill despite the best intentions of public officials—that was proven in Newtown. Progress can be made to limit the scope of such tragedies, but to think we can eliminate them is naïve.

That being said, and with the horror of the Connecticut shootings still painfully fresh, it might come as a surprise to learn that the number of school homicides in the United States has dropped since the early 1990s. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were two years during that decade—1992 and 1997—when the school homicide toll among students ages 5-18 rose to 34. By 2010, that number had fallen to 17. The decline hasn’t been constant and one slain student is one too many, but it’s a decline nonetheless.

For many schools, the tipping point for action was the Columbine High massacre in 1999, which led to the widespread adoption of lockdown procedures and other safety protocols. That sense of urgency has faded, however, according to school security consultant Kenneth Trump, who told The Washington Post this week that “the conversation and the training that we have today [are] not at the same level of consistency and intensity.”

Physical security assets at the nation’s schools also have lagged. Michael Dorn, executive director of the nonprofit group Safe Havens International, told the Post that fewer than 10 percent of U.S. schools have strong access control with locked entryways, buzzers, protective glass and camera or intercom systems. That’s likely to change after Newtown, he said, as school districts feel pressure to upgrade security.

“There’s a shift from concern to panic, if you will, and you have parents doing something to improve safety,” Dorn said.

That presents an opportunity for security companies not only to benefit financially—the unspoken result whenever such tragedies occur—but also to strengthen the protection of children across the nation. Regardless of what happens at the federal level, local school districts are sure to come knocking.

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by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response has added four new voices to its campaign to increase arrests and reduce property losses through the use of video-verified alarms.

Joining the PPVAR’s board of directors are Jacqueline Grimm, vice president of security solutions for Diebold Inc.; Douglas Curtiss, president of Sonitrol New England; Jon Bolen, chief technology officer for Interface Security Systems; and Robert Baxter, president of Radius Security.

The new directors from the security industry will work with representatives from the National Sheriffs Association and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, an alliance of groups that would have seemed unlikely a few years ago.  

“We’re pleased to join PPVAR to promote priority response to video alarms that are verified by a certified central station,” Grimm said in a prepared statement from the partnership. “[Diebold has] offered alarm verification services for many years, and our focus on priority response, apprehension and risk reduction provides comprehensive threat protection. Also, by assisting law enforcement with a second-by-second situation analysis, we can help improve officer and customer safety while increasing criminal apprehension rates.”

Bolen, who was the chief product officer for Westec before it was recently acquired by Interface, is a 15-year veteran of video verification. He cited its benefits by breaking down the numbers.

“We have reduced and maintained our dispatch rate to less than 3 percent of events handled by our operators, meaning that over 97 percent of the alarms we receive are resolved without the costly, and often needless, intervention of authorities,” he said in the PPVAR statement. “We are pleased to join an organization promoting this kind of value.”

Curtiss of Sonitrol, which has a history working with police to make arrests through audio verification, echoed Bolen’s sentiments.

“Whether it is audio or video, the operator is a witness to a crime in progress,” he said. “From my perspective, the ‘V’ in PPVAR is ‘verification.’ We support his organization and its work to reduce false alarms and make more arrests.”

Canada gets a nod in the PPVAR with the addition of Baxter. He is president of Radius Security, a Greater Vancouver video monitoring central station.

“Alarm response in many cities in Canada has been degrading as budgets and police resources decline,” he said. “Video-verified alarms help us provide greater security for our customers and reduce false alarms for our law enforcement partners.”

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Picture the perfect world for a monitoring manager: Every dispatcher takes every call efficiently and professionally, with no need for motivation beyond a paycheck and the satisfaction of a job well done. There are no prizes, awards, back-patting or cajoling, saving you time, money and maybe even a bit of your hairline.

If your central station has a work force that rises to that level, congratulations. Chances are, though, that no matter how many self-motivators you have, you also have employees who are content to just do their time—punch in, punch out, repeat. Maybe the work they’re doing can be considered satisfactory, but that’s not going to cut it in an industry that is getting more competitive by the day.

So how do you get those staffers to take it up a notch to help themselves and your company? To answer that question, the CSAA has recruited Amy Becht and Michelle Lindus, central station managers for Vivint, to share their expertise in a Dec. 12 webinar titled “Measuring Performance for Excellence.”

The session will focus on what the CSAA calls “the nuanced art and science” of measuring and improving staff performance. That includes assessing objective and subjective customer call metrics, promoting professionalism among dispatchers, and implementing incentives. Becht and Lindus will highlight some of the best practices employed by Vivint, which was named 2012 Central Station of the Year by the CSAA.

Becht, honored as the CSAA’s Manager of the Year, oversees monitoring at Vivint’s central station in St. Paul, Minn. She talked about home security in SSN’s “How I Use My System” feature in the September 2012 issue. Lindus is manager of Vivint’s central station in Provo, Utah.

The webinar will run from 1 to 2 p.m. EST and is free for CSAA members. Click here to register or go to www.csaaintl.org.

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, November 28, 2012

SecureWatch 24’s new Fusion Centre in Moonachie, N.J., has a new tenant: Monitor America.

That’s the name of the company that will be operating the 25,000-square-foot central station at the facility, which served as an emergency command post for police and municipal officials after Hurricane Sandy.

Jay Stuck, chief marketing officer for Monitor America, said the company “brings together virtually all existing alarm and hosted video services available today, including video analytics, in one central point.”

Stuck said Monitor America is developing a third-party sales initiative and a traditional dealer program. It will all be anchored by the advanced technology at the Fusion Centre, with a 40-by-11-foot video display wall overlooking stadium-style seating for 36 operators.

“It looks like something NASA might put together—our dealer customers and integrators will be knocked out by it,” he said.

Monitor America is hosting a sneak preview of its new facility during ISC East and is expected to begin formal operations by the end of January.

After the storm: How did you cell carrier measure up?

It’s only been a month since Sandy, but officials are already deep into assessing its impact on everything from tunnel vulnerability to emergency communications. Part of the evaluation concerns cellular service, with FCC hearings set early next year on network performance during and after the storm.

Lou Fiore, chairman of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee, said the group plans to weigh in and is seeking comment on the following:

1) How alarm service was adversely affected by cellular carriers’ handling of the storm.
2) How cell carriers handled prioritizing restoration of service.
3) How cell carriers communicated with alarm companies about storm issues.
4) How any problems can be resolved.

Fiore said the issue will be discussed at the AICC’s Dec. 6 meeting and all comments are appreciated. Responses can be sent to Ltfiore@aol.com.
 

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