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Atlanta revamps alarm ordinance, looks to collect $3 million

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Friday, January 23, 2009
ATLANTA—Atlanta's City Council hopes to collect $3 million from people who have multiple false alarms at their homes or businesses. The 15-person council voted unanimously Thursday, Jan. 22 on a proposal that increases fines and simplifies the penalty process regarding fire and burglar alarms. “The Atlanta Police Department supports the legislation on false alarms which will reduce the number of false alarm calls generated,” said Deputy Chief George Turner of the Atlanta Police Department in a statement. “This will create additional manpower hours to respond to the present call volume and increase police visibility in the Atlanta communities.” While Atlanta has had false alarm penalties in place for a while, it has not collected any fine revenue since 2005. According to the proposed ordinance, a project of Councilmember Anne Fauver, Atlanta had $4.4 million in issued, but uncollected false alarm fines in 2002. From 2000-2004 Atlanta saw revenues of only $1.5 million in collected fines. The reason for the drop off in collected fines? Fauver claims the ordinance was too difficult to enforce and that police stopped giving citations. Fauver believes the new ordinance will help the city out of its current budget hole. “The City’s emergency personnel need to be available for valid alarms and for their primary purpose of protecting our citizens,” said Fauver in a release. The ordinance gives a free pass for the first false alarm, but after that, penalties escalate from $100 for the second false alarm to $1000 for any false alarms over six in a calendar year. Under the ordinance, citations would be enforced like traffic tickets through the city's municipal court, and would allow for appeals. The legislation will go into effect upon approval by the mayor.

BICSI and NBFAA: we're pals

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Thursday, January 22, 2009
In yet another sign of the IP-oriented times, note this press release from BICSI and NBFAA. I have never actually seen such an announcement in my 10+ years of getting press releases: Today, BICSI and the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) entered into an honorary friendship agreement. What's an "honorary friendship agreement" entail? The two organizations plan to engage in a variety of cooperative activities, including exchanging visits and views between the members of the two entities in order to promote a qualified and skilled work force; promoting and developing reciprocal training, education and certifications of ITS and ELSS design and installation professionals; and pursuing other cooperative activities as appropriate. I'm not sure why that's different than a partnership agreement or memorandum of cooperation or some other such thing, but I guess I kind of like the whole "friendship" language. It's cozy. And in the business world, so much can be kind of cold and calculated. Regardless, it's pretty interesting that the NBFAA, the old-school alarm industry vanguard, is being so progressive and hooking up with an "information transport" organization. No, that IT doesn't necessarily mean IP/network IT, but I'm sure that's a bulk of the work done by the membership at this point. In fact, I bet they're dealing with, or have already dealt with, many of the convergence and technology-shifting issues that security is dealing with right now. It must also be noteworthy somehow that I had never heard of BICSI until about three months ago, but now seem to find it popping up all over the security sphere.

Sonitec Corp. to offer PERS via SafetyCare

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Thursday, January 22, 2009
Sonitec Corp. on Jan. 20 announced it had become a SafetyCare Authorized Partner and would soon begin the roll-out of SafetyLink, the company’s new personal emergency response system. I spoke with SafetyCare general manager Mike Bodnar last year on the growth coming in the PERS industry. SafetyLink customers in metropolitan New York will have the benefit of access to a 24-hour-a-day safety and security system at the push of a button. Unlike other PERS systems, the owner of a SafetyLink system gains instant two-way voice contact with a certified emergency medical technician at the National SafetyCare Response Center, based in Reading, Pa. Leslie Lief, president of Sonitec Corp., believes the partnership with SafetyCare will benefit end users and Sonitec dealers immensely. “We've chosen to make a strategic and substantial investment in the SafetyCare product,” Lief said in a statement. Lief also said that a comprehensive website and a sales staff are being dedicated to SafetyLink now. Bodnar said Sonitec brought a strong industry reputation as well as a 33-year record of service in the New York area to the table. “We're pleased that Sonitec recognizes the unique product offerings at SafetyCare, as we work to steadily revamp and improve the security industry in this country,” Bodnar said in a release. Sonitec is the most recent addition to a growing stable of security companies taking advantage of the growing PERS industry through the SafetyCare Authorized Partner Program. Other recent Authorized Partners include LifeCall, LLC, Independent Living Solutions, and Eastern Distributing, among others. Pictured below are SafetyCare general manager Mike Bodnar (left) and Leslie Lief, president of Sonitec (right). [caption id="attachment_1661" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="SafetCare general manager Mike Bodnar and Sonitec president Leslie Lief"]SafetCare general manager Mike Bodnar and Sonitec president Leslie Lief[/caption]

Mace now has more cash on hand

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Mace continues to sell off its car washes, which gives the company cash with which to grow its security business, whether through sales and marketing spend or through acquisition. Considering leadership's recent comments, I'd be shocked if they don't buy somebody this year. The question is whether they're looking to add technology or a dealership base or a customer base. Obviously, all three wouldn't be bad. The way I read the release, they're adding about $3.5 million in cash to the reserves right away. Eduardo Nieves, Mace VP, made a point in a recent interview of noting Mace's cash reserves and pointing out that this allows the company to eye acquisitions as part of its growth strategy, with a central station being a possible addition. Look for an interview with new Mace security division president John O'Leary in our February issue.

Who won't be at ISC West?

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Following up on last month's posts about the big shows feeling the bad economy pinch, I got an interesting note from Denise Gadowski at Johnson Controls this morning, in response to a call for ISC West new product information. She says: [W]e will not be exhibiting at the ISC West show this year. There are many reasons for this decision: 1) our dedicated resources that are traveling around the globe to ensure everyone is trained are the same staff that run the booth (I'm running the risk of stretching everyone too thin) 2) the ASIS show is on the west coast as well this year 3) budget constraints force us to look at other ways to market ourselves. We will have representatives at the show and we are working with the show management on other marketing opportunities. Maybe this is just a random occurrence. Johnson Controls is in the middle of a big upgrade in security capability and is focusing much more on their integration business, for example, so they're a little bit of a company in flux and I can see why they'd want to take a year off from ISC West. But I didn't hear anyone complain in 2007 when both ISC West and ASIS were in Vegas in the same year. And Johnson Controls has never been shy at ISC West in my experience. They could have easily just downsized a bit and saved a bunch of cash. I think the "other ways to market ourselves" gets at a growing feeling in the industry that the big shows just don't deliver as much bang for the buck as they used to and I think we would be seeing them start to wane regardless of the economy. They'll continue to have their place, but won't be as "must-attend" as they've been in the past. I'll keep you posted on other ISC West developments.

NFPA goes to Chicago

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009
09conf60The National Fire Protection Association's Conference & Expo is going to be in Chicago this year from June 8-11, with pre-conference meetings the few days before that. I was checking out the lodging for the event and learned that the main hotel, at McCormick Place where the event is being held, is already sold out. In fact, it's been sold out since November. I'm hoping that's because registration is way up, rather than because it was only a small block of rooms. I've got a call in to Lorraine Carli, the press person at NFPA to find out. I spoke to one of the event organizers and she said there will be shuttle buses running from the other conference hotels. There are six other official conference hotels. The bad news is that they're all at least three or four miles away from McCormick Place. Here's the good news: They're in a much more fun part of town. McCormick Place is kind of off by itself, while the other hotels are further north, within the "loop" near restaurants, Millennium Park, the Art Institute, you know, near all those other fire-related activities you'll be doing while you're at the conference.hotels-nfpa There will be two Behind-the-Scenes fire tours on June 6, one to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and one to Underwriters Laboratory. I think I might go to Fermi since I toured UL a couple years ago. I'd highly recommend a visit to U.L., it's a very cool facility, where you get to see all the ways they think up ways to set things on fire. Here's the link to the NFPA conference info

Frost & Sullivan briefing tomorrow

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009
While you could surely wait for my report on it, you might want to throw this webcast by Frost & Sullivan into your Outlook calendar for tomorrow. The short description: Michael Suby, Director of Stratecast (a Division of Frost & Sullivan), has completed extensive analysis for the Business Security Services market. The research expert will lead a short teleconference about new findings that affect the market, followed by a live question and answer session. Whatever your opinion of Frost & Sullivan, this seems like a good free opportunity to gain some market data and analysis. There's a Q&A session that follows, as well, so you can use it as a research opportunity if you're so inclined. This may end up being IT security heavy, but, if so, you can always close the window.

What legend would you ask to lunch?

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009
One thing I've learned about business after covering the security world for the last three years is that the good managers always steal from other people. I think some people have the idea that successful business people are just visionaries who have great ideas strike them like lightning, mavericks (oh, how that word has been degraded) who don't need anybody's help. But I don't think that's often true. Sure, there are some people who follow pretty much exclusively their own path and strike gold, but I haven't met many of them. Most of the smart people I know have a mentor they often talk about, or have a few authors they admire, or are just generally on the lookout for good ideas they can steal. That's why I love this op-ed that came across my desk, written by Mark Thompson, owner of a security firm in Plano, Texas, called Smith Thompson Security. It's a great story about how he admired Southwest honcho Herb Kelleher so much that he decided to write him a letter and ask him to lunch. Lo and behold, Kelleher accepted and the two of them ended up talking for two hours over lunch. That must have been a blast. So, who would you love to have lunch with from the business world? My pick would have to be Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb. There aren't many people out there I'd label as geniuses without ever meeting them, but this guy really changed the way I think on a regular basis, right down to common every day occurrences. He basically posits that trying to predict the future is pointless because it's always the unpredictable occurrence that shapes the future, and, further, the way we predict the future (based on history) is fundamentally flawed. My favorite example of this is when something breaks around the house. Recently, our beloved waffle maker just decided one day, after nine years (it was a wedding present), that it didn't want to get hot anymore. My wife lamented, "It's worked every time we've plugged it in for nine years, why would it just stop working?" Well, it's exactly because we've used it so often for nine years that it stopped working. Each day it became more likely that it would stop working, not the other way around. It's the most sensible thing in the world that a relatively cheap waffle iron would crap out after about 2000 waffles. But that's not the way we think. We think, "Well, because it's worked every other day, it will work today." When we should be thinking, "Well, it's worked every day so far. Maybe this will be the day it fails." When you begin to think like that, you're much more flexible and ready to adapt to change because you're not surprised by it, you're expecting it. I'm not surprised at all, by the way, that Taleb has made huge bank on the recent financial crisis. Rather than expecting the market to continue to soar, he expected that it would eventually fail and was ready for it. So, yeah, I'd like to have lunch with Taleb. In fact, I wouldn't mind being offered the opportunity to intern for him for free (and I don't work for free). Who'd you want to take to lunch? Is there someone in the industry you'd like to have a couple hours with? Is there someone you're hoping to seek out at a show and get a drink with? What about outside the industry? Who's a businessperson who, like Thompson, you definitely steal ideas from?

Should IT take over?

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Monday, January 19, 2009
Yet another good discussion going on over at John Honovich's site, this time regarding the impending/never-gonna-happen takeover of security operations by the world of IT. Here's the nugget of John's take: I believe it would be dangerous for IT to take over physical security. If IT did take over, this would increase security and liability risks. Which is a little bit of a "no, duh!," but is also right, in my opinion. Here's the comment I left, below. Feel free to comment here or at John's place. Would love to hear the opposite view point. I think the analogy with HR or sales is apt. Obviously, both departments need IT to function, and some of their old duties have transferred to IT, but you wouldn't consider scrapping HR or sales entirely just because some of the functionality has been moved to IT. I think the IP telephony analogy is also apt, if in a different and not-bad way. Phones don't really have a department that manages them. The move to IP just shifted maintenance work from one person to another. Similarly, the maintenance of the security system will shift from one person to another. But the operation, installation, and upgrading of the system will still reside with security. The security department will still operate the system in the same way that HR operates the HR database/payroll/everyone's benefits. But when it breaks, they'll call IT, which can fix many, but not all, of the problems. When a specialized HR software program craps out, you call the HR software maker. When the security software/system craps out, you'll call either the integrator or the manufacturer. As for IT's increasing role in security decision-making, I liked something I heard recently on the Pelco-Cisco webinar: IT won't be the guys who say yes, they'll be the guys who say no. Security will select a product and bring it back to IT for vetting. If it's copacetic with the network, they'll approve, but not really care what you selected. If it's not going to be a good network citizen, they'll veto and the security guy will keep looking. So, for the integrator and the manufacturer, the idea is not to get veto'd.

Video monitoring pays off

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Saturday, January 17, 2009
I just got this news alert in my inbox. Entertainingly accurate, if somewhat journalistically-questionable transcription aside, it's a pretty cool testament to the power of having your premises protected by video monitoring. It's nice to see the security industry doing it right, helping people out, being a powerful tool to help police stop the bad guys, and reducing false alarms. Keep up the good work guys!

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