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Saving money by cutting security?

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Monday, April 13, 2009
This story out of Virginia could have some major implications for the security industry and the future of how we do security in the United States. Quite simply, we've got potential U.S. Congressmen arguing that the security being mandated for ferry service in their district is a waste of money and it should be cut or significantly scaled back in order to preserve the ferry service, which is important to the local economy. Check this quote out:
"Everybody who's ridden that ferry agrees that the security checks are not only not effective, but probably not needed," Clark said Thursday. "If we can save $1.6 million on the cost of providing security that isn't needed, we're most of the way to achieving the savings VDOT would achieve by cutting back on the ferry."
Further:
Stan Clark, an Isle of Wight County supervisor and a contender for the state House seat held by Del. William K. Barlow, is leading the effort. Barlow is a Democrat who represents the 64th District, which includes Isle of Wight and James City County.
Whoah! The security checks are not effective? Someone is running on a platform that the security is worthless? Has there been an incident on the ferries since they've begun? How do you know plans haven't been thwarted? That a potential terrorist passed up the target because it wasn't worth the attempt? Of course, there's no way of knowing those things. And after spending time in Israel, I'm actually pretty convinced that "random" inspections are worthless, as the guards can't actually perform random inspections - they naturally gravitate to certain situations and people and once you observe them for a while it's pretty easy to avoid the "random" inspection if you're a smart bad guy. But ought we to be politicizing the expense of security? Should this Clark guy be deciding what's worthless and what's necessary? Is he getting security briefings? Does he have any experience with security operations and risk management? These kinds of decisions need to be left to independent third-parties appointed by the government but operating relatively free from political restraint. The real problem, of course, is that this is an unfunded mandate from the federal government to the states. This is the nut graph:
Though security is mandated by the federal government, the cost falls on VDOT's shoulders. The $1.6 million covers a security detail of between 32 and 35 armed security guards provided by a private security firm, according to Hansen. The guards each are provided basic weather gear, a sidearm, a nonlethal weapon and a flashlight.
If security is seen as a burden, it's not going to be done right. If security is going to be mandated, there needs to be funding behind that mandate (this is the same kind of policy-making that has crippled public schools, by the way, and has set up resentment against kids who need special education - I've seen that firsthand as well). And people need to see the reason for the mandate, too. This bit, thrown in at the end of the story, is mindblowing:
VDOT does not keep a log of incidents handled by ferry security guards, but numerous arrests have been made involving "threats to the ferry, contraband and assistance in breaking up fights," Hansen said. "The biggest thing we have found is that having the security presence there has been a deterrent to people breaking the law," she said.
Um, maybe you want to keep a log of those things? Seems like a pretty easy thing to do, and it should fall under public right to know laws, anyway. If you can show the tangible benefit (the ROI, in today's speak), you can make a better case for getting the security funded. For some time, I've been hearing that transportation security and government-funded projects in general are a safe bet for an industry looking for new markets. But if security is suddenly seen as an unnecessary expense by any large portion of the the political population, that market could begin to dry up, especially on the state and local levels, where budgets are especially thin and they can't just go borrowing trillions of dollars, like the feds. I think this is a very interesting case to watch.

Unmonitored camera liability?

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Friday, April 10, 2009
Busy finishing up our May issue, but had a down minute and went over to check out VideoIQ CTO Doug Marman's blog, something I'd been meaning to do for a while. Check out the top post. There's an interesting discussion of the potential liability for corporations deploying cameras but not monitoring them. This isn't something I've heard of before and I'll be checking into it for a potential trends story.

Pelco's back in

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Thursday, April 9, 2009
Maybe ISC West was a REALLY good show. Not only has John Honovich starting thinking about turning around his dire predictions for 2010, but Pelco has decided IFSEC isn't such a bad investment after all. Check it out:
Pelco to Participate in IFSEC 2009 Clovis, CA (April 8, 2009) – Pelco is excited to announce that after careful evaluation and reconsideration, it will once again be participating in IFSEC 2009. This is a shift from an announcement made late last year that the company would not participate at the 2009 IFSEC show. “Following some last minute discussions with the show organizers we have reached agreement for Pelco to exhibit in the IP section of the show, albeit with a much smaller stand than in previous years, in order to launch several exciting new products including the Sarix megapixel camera range and the new Endura HD Optimised, enterprise-class video management system,” says Kevin Smith, Pelco Regional Manager for the United Kingdom and Ireland. The Pelco stand will be located in Hall 5, stand D80.
Those "discussions" might have gone something like this: IFSEC: Come on! We'll give you a free booth. Seriously, are you really not coming? Pelco: Birmingham is the suck, and there's no good hotel rooms left anyway. No way, we're not coming. We'll see you when you move back to London. At least then we can eat at some decent restaurants. IFSEC: Look, we'll put you in the IP section. You can say it's just because the demand for your new Sarix cameras is so high that you just couldn't deny the UK market a look at them. And we've got some rooms stashed at a sweet hotel right next to the river. You can have them. Seriously. Just come. Pelco: Right on the river? IFSEC: Seriously. Right on the river. They have a rooftop jacuzzi, too. Pelco: Alright, we're in! We'll put out a press release and stuff. Good news all around.

Background check legislation filed

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Thursday, April 9, 2009
The NBFAA announced today that Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) has filed legislation on its behalf that would allow fire and security companies to access to background checks before hiring personnel.
H.R. 1939, the “Electronic Life Safety and Security System Federal Background Check Act of 2009,” permits industry access to a database which can be used to check a potential employee’s criminal history. Congress has authorized similar access in the past to groups such as banks, credit unions and private security guards. “It is outrageous that a potential felon could have access to our citizens’ homes and businesses without the employer knowing his or her record, and that is why this legislation is so important,” Luetkemeyer said. “It would be irresponsible to allow this to continue because it puts those families and businesses who think they are being protected at risk.” States are not currently able to stay apprised of crimes committed from one state to another, and many private background check services do not capture complete law enforcement information upon which to base a hiring judgment. Some states have no background check requirements for this industry. The legislation is not a government mandate, but simply offers the electronic life safety and security industry access to the same background information that is currently available to many other groups. Americans do not want a person with a questionable criminal background installing systems designed to keep them safe in facilities such as child daycare centers, schools, public pools, chemical plants, water and nuclear facilities, banks, hospitals, port facilities and air terminals. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this commonsense legislation to keep our families, businesses, and critical infrastructure safe,” Luetkemeyer said. Once the legislation is passed, the industry will need to secure support from the Attorney General to permit states to access the database. The bill also recommends certain standards for the Attorney General and Department of Justice for those states wishing to participate, including a reciprocity requirement and NBFAA’s involvement as part of the background check process. The bill will require significant support to pass both the House and Senate, as other groups are requesting background check access, creating a long delay in accommodating non-law enforcement organizations such as NBFAA. With the help of the security industry, NBFAA will work on securing a senate bill and seek to pass the legislation.

Silent Knight success story

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I got an email today from Ken Scott, of Philly fire installation company FAMCO, who I'd written a story about a couple years ago. Here's the story Ken sent a follow-up about how the Silent Knight system he installed worked during an April 1 fire. Here's the bulk of the email. Thanks Ken for sending this along.
At 5:31 PM on December 30, 2000 a tragic fire happened at Simpson House that resulted in 3 deaths. (see NFPA Journal Sept/October 2001 and Security System News January 2007) After this fire FAMCO installed an IFP-1000. At 5:44 PM on April 1, 2009 a fire started in a residents room when a lamp was knocked into a trash can full of paper. Within seconds a smoke detector in the hallway activated sounding the general alarm and the Fire Department was dispatched. The IFP-1000 continued to send signals to our Central Station as the Water Flow, additional Smoke Detectors, and Pull Stations were activated. Due to the early warning provided by the IFP-1000 all residents and staff were safely removed from the building. The Fire was contained to one room. The fire was very hot and 4 sprinkler heads activated during the fire. FAMCO responded and within a few hours all of the damaged Smoke Detectors had been replaced and the IFP-1000 was fully functional again. No lives were lost and no one was hurt. This is remarkable due the fact that a lot of the residents use walkers to get around. Congratulations to Silent Knight for building a product that has worked and continues to work 24 hours a day for the past 9 years. A product that gives the residents and staff of Simpson House confidence it a Life Safety System. This is what it is all about, saving lives.

CSAA to have new Operations Management Committee chair

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009
The CSAA announced In March CSAA board member Joe Miskulin, superintendent of State Farm Insurance, will take over for Pam Petrow, COO of Vector Security, as chairperson for the Central Station Operations Management Committee. "We are very excited the Joe has volunteered to head this important CSAA committee," said Steve Doyle, executive vice president of CSAA. "Joe has been involved with the group for many years and has a keen understanding of its history and of the needs of this group." Miskulin recently joined the CSAA Board of Directors as the Board representative of the CSAA Proprietary Council.

Online marketing for dealers

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009
You knew it was coming - it just took a little longer for the security industry than most others. Here you have a company dedicated to nothing but educating security dealers about online marketing and selling them solutions to their problems. Here's the pitch:
Membership and training from SecuritySelling.com skyrockets your sales, grows your profits and increases lifetime customer value. Designed by industry professionals for security and life safety business owners and senior managers, SecuritySelling.com gives members and students sales and marketing strategies and tactics that work. No hype or theoretical jargon … just practical, put-to-work now methods that produce results.
They've got some free downloads available for tips on online marketing, how to evaluate a web company, and what exactly to make of Google rankings. And they've got a back story:
Brian Offenberger today announced the opening of Security Selling – a web marketing agency helping security companies, life safety companies and integrators increase online sales. The inspiration for Security Selling came from a security dealer complaining about the poor quality of web companies able to understand his business, recalled Offenberger, president and founder of Security Selling. “The dealer complained that his website never produced leads and how hard it was getting to find new customers via traditional marketing methods,” said Offenberger. “And on top of it all, he couldn’t find a web company that understood the industry, its customers or its products.” The idea that there could be a better way to increase online sales for security companies, life safety companies and integrators caught the attention of Offenberger, a 20+ year management veteran of the industry and a certified internet marketing expert. Pounds of almond M & M’s later, Security Selling was born.
Offenberger was a regional director for Siemens and was on the executive team for one of the big indies. It also says he's "a certified web marketing specialist by the eMarketing Association, Google, and Yahoo." You can be a certified web marketing specialist? Anyway, it's $20 a month. Might it be worth it? Hard to say, really. The site's pretty ugly, and the endorsements are all anonymous (which always makes me think they're fake, but I'm cynical that way), but it's not like security dealers couldn't use the help with their online presence. And they do have a money-back guarantee.

Dice introduces new Dean of Quantum University

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I got a press release from my favorite Dice client services rep. Melissa Roedel the other day. Dice has just hired Bill Pavlov as its new director of training. One of Pavlov's main jobs, it appears, will be overseeing the company's future products, their training programs, training materials, and the online Quantum University classes, which will be geared toward instruction for the bevy of Quantum-branded products Dice has in the pipeline, including Quantum Video, and Quantum Access Control. Dice also envisions a Wiki comprising all the Dice-originated training, as well as Dice customer-contributed info. It's nice to see security companies hiring people, promoting people, instituting more education and participation from the industry. Nice going Dice.

Show me the stats

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Here's another story about how alarm sales are up because everyone's afraid of crime. (This one's from Hawaii.) Are you seeing as many of these kinds of stories as I am? Do you ever see any crime stats included in these stories? Why the heck is I everyone's so nervous? If there's a crazed killer on the loose or a spike in home break-ins in certain neighborhoods, then I'd understand. There's no mention of any later-day Jack the Ripper in this story, or in any other "Bob and Betty Brewer, scared to death in East Pleasantown, buy a security system" story I've seen recently. Maybe I don't watch enough TV. (I watch none.) I read a blog yesterday about people being so scared of burglars and killers that they were buying guns to protect themselves. One guy was quoted as saying that he was too old to "fight people off" so he needed a gun. [If you're too old to fight someone off, how are you going to do as a new gun handler?? Now that's scary.] There are plenty of good reasons to buy a security system, but I just can't believe that killers are really prowling the mean streets of every suburb in the country.

Mace finally name drops

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009
In its earnings call today, Mace announced the name of that central station they're buying: CSSS. They've been around a while and apparently do about $3 million in revenue. Still no word on what they paid/are paying. But he told me he didn't get a discount, so figuring about 30x RMR, I'm guessing something in the $7.5 million range, which is about half the cash they had on hand. Best thing about the deal, obviously, is that it will be cash positive from day one and as long as they don't tinker too much with it should completely pay for itself in the not too distant future.

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