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UPDATE: Washington County, Md. false alarm ordinance

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009
HAGERSTOWN, Md—A public hearing held Feb. 3 found the Washington County Board of County Commissioners discussing a proposed false alarm ordinance. The ordinance as proposed looked to collect fines from consistent false alarm generators rather than punish, with a high yearly permit fee, all alarm users, most of whom, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, are not consistent repeat false alarm offenders. Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said the ordinance passed, but not as originally proposed. “There were some modifications to it. We did agree to drop the fee for the initial permit, and we also dropped the business permit, as well as the reinstatement fees,” Mullendore said. “It permits us to do the false alarm violation fees. Those are still established at $30 for residential, $60 for business." Mullendore said the first two violations result in a warning, while the third violation is when the fees kick in, adding $20 per residential violation and $25 per business violation to the respective base fees up to a maximum of $100 per violation for residential and $200 per violation for business. A recent story in the Herald-Mail claimed that business fines were capped at $250, but the Washington County Sheriff's Office assures me that $200 is the correct number. The new ordinance will take effect Jan. 1, 2010. “That’s because we’re in the process of doing a consolidated emergency communications center,” Mullendore said, “and we wanted to be sure that was up and running before we try to administer this.” According to Mullendore, permits will still be required but will have no associated cost. If alarm owners choose not to get the appropriate permit there will be additional fees to pay. “There would be a response the first time,” Mullendore said. “The second time, if [a business owner with an alarm system] still hasn’t gotten the permit, then it would be $60 violation fee.” Mullendore said that to his knowledge there were no industry professionals present at the public meeting, held here at the Washington County Administration Building. “There were a couple of citizens there, but we addressed all their issues prior to,” Mullendore said. “There were actually no public comments whatsoever.”

Yet another security job board

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009
It's a sign of the times: All of a sudden everyone's got a job board. Maybe you saw ours. It kind of whiffs. The service doesn't accept php files (or something like that) and implied to us that there would be a lot more jobs in the initial phase than there actually are. Anyhoo, it still might catch on if you post some jobs and resumes. It's worth a try. Also, if you're hiring, contact me and I'll let you post jobs for free (I think I have that power). Also, check out this new job board for those of you with security clearance. There are some videos and whatnot to help you understand the government hiring process (with that stimulus bill going through, you can bet Uncle Sam is hiring) featuring someone or other who's supposed to know all about it. All I know is senior technical recruiter Maureen Conte of Intelligence Consulting Enterprise Solutions, Inc., apparently speaks like she lives in 1954. "I'm always eager to assist job seekers with practical, real-world advice," says Conte. "Working with ClearedJobs.Net to help security cleared job folks improve their job searching and interview strategies via online video allows me to help job seekers beyond job fairs. I commend ClearedJobs.Net for taking the lead in helping our men and women in uniform to make a smooth transition from military to civilian employment in the security cleared arena." (You see why I hate press releases? It sounds like everyone made a pact to talk like a fifth grade teacher. Who uses the word "commend?") Anyway, layoffs are happening and people are looking for work. I'll keep posting things as I find them that might be of help.

Wichita PD to hold false alarm reduction meeting

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Monday, February 2, 2009
The city of Wichita, Kan. has announced it will hold an informational meeting in conjunction with the Public Safety Corporation aimed at reducing false alarms. All alarm installation and monitoring companies with clients who reside or do business in Wichita are encouraged to attend the meeting, which will be held Feb. 20 at 2:00 p.m. at the Wichita Police Department. The Wichita PD asks that if you can not attend, or if you have questions regarding the city's ordinance or the false alarm reduction program, you contact them by email or call 316-268-4525.

Generating leads through gun dealers

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Monday, February 2, 2009
Smith & Wesson, which recently got into the home security business, and had a visible presence at ISC East this year, launched a lead-generation program at SHOT, a gun show that took place Jan. 15-18 in Orlando. The program gives fire-arms dealers material to display in their stores about Smith & Wesson Security Systems. The fire-arms dealers receive a commission for resulting sales. Here's the press release. I've got a call into Wayne Wahrsager, CEO of Smith & Wesson Security Services, to see how the program's going.

Is the bad economy good for business?

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Monday, February 2, 2009
I raised this issue a couple weeks back, but I'll do it again, just because another juicy article has wandered across my Google reader: Does the bad economy lead people to value security more highly? Well, one installer thinks so: Terri Williams' security-system business usually slows in winter, but this year is different. "We've had a record December and January," said Williams, owner of All-State Security Authorized Brinks Dealer in Teays Valley. Some homeowners are increasingly fearful of break-ins for two reasons, she said: Drug activity in their neighborhoods and the bad economy. "There's no proof to why people [commit crimes], but desperation creates desperate measures," said Williams, who does business in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio. Of course, if it's always slow in the winter, and this year is just a little bit less slow, then you have record months, but this is kind of compelling: "I've been doing it for about 15 years, and there's definitely a spike," Johnston said as he installed wiring at a Charleston home. "They've got me busier now than I've ever been." ADT, the nation's largest electronic security services company, also has seen an uptick in interest recently, said spokesman Bob Tucker. That's happened in past downturns, too, including the early 2000s and late 1980s. "Even our current customers who have a basic system are calling, wanting to upgrade" with security cameras and other extras, Tucker said. The cops say it's all media hype, but that's kind of irrelevant, isn't it. Even if crimes aren't actually up, the impression that they are, or should be, is enough to be good for business. This guy may sound like the voice of reason
Putnam County Sheriff Mark Smith had similar thoughts. "I still think that a lot of our crime in that regard is probably related more to drug usage than the economy," he said. "The majority of people who may lose their jobs because of the economy are not going to go out and start committing crimes."
but reason has never really prevailed in American society, has it? Is it ethically or morally sound to play on those fears and irrationalities? Probably not. Should you look a gift horse in the mouth? Probably not.

EMERgency24 donates $1,000 to volunteer FD

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Saturday, January 31, 2009
EMERgency24, a central-station alarm monitoring company based in Chicago, announced on Jan. 30 that it had donated $1,000 through its Responder Reward program to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department, Company 10, in Bethesda, Md., on behalf of Splaine Security Systems of Kensington, Md. This Responder Reward donation was made to acknowledge the fast response by the Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department (CJPVFD) to Patti and Michael Hellyer’s home in Bethesda. The department's speedy response saved the couple's three dogs and substantially minimized property damage. The photoelectric smoke detectors installed by Splaine Security Systems quickly recognized the fire scenario and alerted EMERgency24 monitors who dispatched the authorities immediately. During the ceremony, CJPVFD Chief James Seavey said that incidents like this highlight the important role alarm-system installers play in keeping our communities safe and the value of having a security system monitored by a central station. “This situation underscores the importance of having a monitored alarm system.” Sam Splaine, President of Splaine Security Systems, explained that security is a linear process. “If any link in the chain fails – the sensor, communication to the control panel, alarm transmission to EMERgency24, dispatch of the emergency responders – then everything else is wasted. A smoke alarm monitored by EMERgency24 is so much more effective than a system that only has an audible alarm. If no one is home, the neighbors won’t hear your alarm because of the way houses are insulated, but they might hear the windows explode eventually. Unfortunately, by that time, most of the house is gone and pets have no way of escaping. That sums up the importance of having a monitored alarm system.” The purpose of the Responder Reward Program, according to Patrick Devereaux, Senior Vice President of EMERgency24, is to recognize firefighters who put out blazes and to draw attention to criminal apprehension when the police respond to EMERgency24 dispatches triggered by monitored alarm systems. "The EMERgency24 Responder Reward Program was developed to thank firefighters and police officers for the invaluable services they provide in communities across America. Police officers and fire fighters responding to alarms is a vital function that makes our communities safer," Devereaux said. EMERgency24, headquartered in Chicago since its founding in 1967, is a nation-wide provider of central-station alarm-monitoring services with branches in Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. The company monitors 165,000 subscribers’ accounts.

Pelco to exit access control biz

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Friday, January 30, 2009
I don't think this is entirely surprising, but Pelco has announced it's exiting the access control business. Maybe it's just coincidence, but it's PR gospel that Friday afternoon is the best time to announce bad news... Not that this is necessarily bad news. A number of people have commented to me that access is not Pelco's core competency and they wouldn't be surprised to see it annexed. I think Pelco has always had a great focus on their strategy and not deviating from it, and this may be good news for the company in the end. I don't have a web link for the release, so here's a cut and paste until I can get an interview or two done: Pelco to Exit Access Control Business and Close Indianapolis Facility Clovis, California (January 30, 2009) — Pelco management announced to its employees today that in consideration of the current economic situation, the company has decided to take aggressive steps in order to focus resources on supporting Pelco’s core video security business. Pelco President and CEO Dean Meyer stated that “As the general economic outlook continues to worsen and as forecasts call for a prolonged challenge throughout 2009, we as a company are forced to continually adapt to market demands. In response, we have initiated the necessary planning to exit the electronic access control (EAC) business with our Intelli-M product line. This decision requires that we explore the options to sell or spin-off the Intelli-M EAC business, as well as to close the EAC business in its entirety.” Management further noted that these options are being explored, and that regardless, the company will be closing the Pelco Indianapolis facility which primarily houses the resources for its access control development along with elements of general product support and training. Meyer added that, “As we have indicated on numerous occasions, we are forced to monitor the market and be prepared to make difficult decisions swiftly in response to whatever challenges we are presented. This is another such decision but one that is necessary for us to maintain focus on efforts that are expected to best help Pelco weather the storm.” According to management, employees impacted by this decision have been informed, and those placed on layoff status will be offered severance, outplacement and counseling services. Likewise, Pelco will provide additional information to its customers on future plans for product support, warranty, repairs, etc., within the next 30 days. “I would like to thank all of the employees in Indianapolis as well as those throughout the company who have supported our Intelli-M EAC business over this past year. Even though excellent progress has been made in the product offering and toward future releases, we must consider the realistic timing of future sales growth and the associated support costs between now and then. I ask for your support and understanding with this difficult decision,” said Meyer. I don't think this was part of the plan along, though. When I spoke with Dean Meyer, he expressed what seemed to be genuine enthusiasm for the access control division: Similarly, Pelco has taken Integral's access control system and run with it. "Pelco was working on its own access control prior to the merger," Meyer said. "Now Integral brings its own, and we've moved very quickly on marrying that together and presenting that to the channel." So, will Pelco's access system eventually be as universal as its cameras? "Let me dream," Meyer joked. "But Pelco's got a hell of a brand, and integration is becoming more important. We all know that." As for possible buyers? I'm not sure. It's interesting that Vicon just announced an access control platform. Guess they're out. What about Mace? They've talked about adding access. That wouldn't shock me. Not sure what the price tag would be, though.

Security and the Stimulus package

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Friday, January 30, 2009
President Obama's stimulus plan, which passed the House of Representatives yesterday lacked bipartisan support, (It passed 244-188 along party lines. Not one Republican voted for the plan. Trying to make a point, they knew it would pass) but it did have vocal support of some business leaders. Prior to the vote, Obama held a meeting where he wooed a group of 11 execs of major corporations. Of interest to the security industry may be the presence of David Cote, Honeywell CEO (parent company of Honeywell Security and ADI). According to a report in Reuters:
Cote said the current dynamic is bad for American industry and that his company supports the bill the House of Representatives is voting on today. "Our message would be that it needs to get done fast," Cote said. "
Here's the full story On a separate note: The NBFAA helped get language included in the House version of the stimulus package that should stimulate some security and fire business. There are two provisions in the stimulus package that you all should care about: one provides $16 billion to public schools and another provides $4 billion to colleges and universities. For schools, the grants can be used to bring public schools into compliance with fire, health and safety codes. That means they can spend the money on the professional installation (which is the key wording NBFAA helped out with) of fire alarms, and "modernizations, renovations and repairs that ensure schools are prepared for emergencies, such as improving building infrastructure to accommodate security measures." It's not a done deal yet. The language has to be included in the Senate version. We'll know if that happens by the middle of next week, John Chwat, NBFAA's guy on The Hill, told me. If it happens, though, the cash is there. No more authorizing or appropriating needed.

Monitronics launches new Site

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Thursday, January 29, 2009
Monitronics announced on Jan. 28 the launch of its new customer-account interface, MyMonitronics, aimed at bolstering the company’s online service offerings. The move follows on the heels of the sweeping overhaul of the company’s main website, www.monitronics.com. According to the press release, MyMonitronics was built in direct response to customer feedback. MyMonitronics lets users pay bills, download product user manuals, enroll in direct debit payment programs, and take advantage of business-referral rewards programs, among other features. The site also features video testimonials from Monitronics customers from across the country, and provides targeted alarm product information aimed specifically at families, single parents and seniors.

"Miracle on the Hudson," by Bosch

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Thursday, January 29, 2009
CNN has grabbed footage of the now-world-famous (and rightly so) landing of US 1549 on the Hudson River from the Manhattan Cruise Terminal surveillance cameras, which I've been informed were Bosch. The footage isn't the best, but you'll see the zoom in isn't half-bad resolution-wise. This is really just a chance for me to post footage of what I consider to be the feel-good story of the decade. Can you imagine being on that plane? I fly through NYC about 10 times a year. Of course, if those were all Mainers, they'd have all just swam to shore...

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