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Maybe there's hope for the guard industry. Maybe not.

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Friday, March 21, 2008
In the past, I've been critical of the security guard industry, saying guards are, for the large part, underpaid, under-trained, and unlikely to be particularly helpful in times of crisis. This opinion was sharpened by my time in Israel, where guards are a more highly valued piece of society's machine. However, some news coming out of USProtect's bankruptcy gives me hope. Well, a little hope. Basically, it's impressive to me that security guards, after having their paychecks bounce, didn't just walk off the job. I would have understood that inclination, certainly. But they kept their posts, which are theoretically important to the safety of others. That's the good. If they see their jobs as valuable and important, that's a great thing and proves true the argument that guards would be more dedicated and professional if they were just given some more training and made to feel like professionals. However, some of this article troubles me. As in, we don't actually have a security officer quoted saying her job is valuable and important. Instead, it's a financial thing, which, again, is understandable, but maybe disappointing. Jones said her co-workers have been professional and continued to work in the chance that they can keep their jobs and get paid for the work they did for USProtect. Imagine a quote from a firefighter, working, say, for a town that didn't get the tax receipts it expected and had to declare bankruptcy. Imagine her check bounced. Wouldn't you hope for a quote along the lines of, "Hey, we're going to keep working because someone's house might catch fire tonight, and I couldn't bear death or destruction I could have protected"? Maybe Jones said something like that and the reporter just didn't feel it was part of the story, but I would have liked to have heard it.

Brivo and ADT do 24-hour fitness

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Thursday, March 20, 2008
A couple posts down, I linked to a story about 24-hour fitness centers and their need for a good security partner. Well, it looks like ADT and Brivo have already gotten the message. They've partnered with a company called eFit Financial, which does a bunch of back-end web and HR stuff for fitness clubs, so that eFit can offer a 24-hour access service to any company that wants to tack it onto eFit's standard management package. Brivo provides the access software integration through its XML-based software and the panels and ADT does all the installation. Here's a glowing quote: “The integrated software has been great. We use it more than our security cameras,” said Nikki Funk, Owner of 24 Athletic Club in Benton, Arkansas. “I can log in from home, see who exactly is at the gym, and when they’ve come in. It’s awesome, we can even open doors remotely—like when one of us is late to a meeting or the janitorial crew wants to drop off supplies. We can pretty much take care of everything from anywhere, instead of having to run to the club at all hours.” If ADT is involved, then the business model probably makes a lot of sense.

Ports are a problem

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Thursday, March 20, 2008
In this story out of Canada, I'm fairly certain you can substitute the words "United States" for "Canada" and not change the accuracy in any way. Unfortunately, it takes an incident to draw public attention to North America's various security holes. In this case, four Algerian guys stowed away on a bus on a container ship, then "sprinted away from the commissionaire staffing the entrance of the Cerescorp container terminal in Fairview." Those dudes must have been fast, because it took five hours to catch them. What the incident has done is get people talking, which is good: "Right now, they throw a lot of publicity at it and they say the system’s working well and they got these guys," said Bruce Brine, who headed the Halifax ports police more than a decade ago. "And I can appreciate that. They’re police executives and they have to maintain a positive public image. But basically, we’re wide open and this incident the other day just shows it. "They were just illegals trying to get in. If they were actually organized, they would have been more covert. ""What it amounts to is anybody who wants to get into the country illegally can." Brine is advocating for a dedicated ports police force. That may be a solution to the problem - there may be a number of solutions to the problem. The important thing is that people take the problem seriously, then apply whichever solutions make the most sense. Here's the scary stuff: "With that, I think they’ve accepted a tremendous liability for the taxpayers of Halifax," Mr. Brine said. "Let’s say an American cruise ship comes in and something happens, somebody gets at it because there’s no waterside security and the thing’s blown up and we have hundreds of people killed. Who is going to get sued?" It would probably take a major terrorist attack in a Canadian port to revive the ports police, said Mike Toddington, executive director of the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police. "Had the port police been around at the time of 9-11, there would have been absolutely no consideration of getting rid of the port police," said Mr. Toddington, who used to head the Vancouver ports police. Brine seems like a well-meaning guy, but I'm a little more worried about the "hundreds of people killed" than I am about who's liable for for the lawsuit. Doesn't that seem incredibly cynical? Security isn't about saving money, it's about saving people. Until governments (and the public that elects them) start valuing life a little more highly, security is always going to be an after-thought, something governments deal with because they don't want to look bad.

In defense of false alarms

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Next time you find yourself trying to defend the amount of false alarms in the industry (yeah, yeah we all know somebody said 97 to 99 percent of all alarms are false), cite this case to prove that SOMETIMES, false alarms can be a good thing. After all, they do get the police out there and in cases like this, cause them to hit the jackpot:PHOENIX — Officers seized 900 pounds of marijuana, thousands of dollars in cash and three firearms at a Phoenix home after responding to what turned out to be a false alarm. Sgt. Andy Hill said Sunday that patrol officers responded to a west Phoenix home after a burglar alarm went off at about 2 p.m. Saturday. While investigating, Hill says officers spotted a man jump a wall by the house. Not knowing if there had been a burglary, the officers chased the man into the backyard of a nearby home. While arresting him, officers saw a storage room door open with numerous bales of marijuana inside. They found a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun and about $10,000 in cash inside the house. All I have to say is 900 POUNDS of marijuana?! In bales? Really? I sure hope the police waived the fine for that guy's alarm.

Vultures swarm around USProtect carcass

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Not that I have any sympathy for them, but I wouldn't want to be the execs (former execs) at USProtect right now. You know, they're the guys who bribed a GSA employee with cash and cruises and landed $100 million+ in federal contracts? Yeah, those guys. Anyway, they're getting what's coming to them. As in: The Maryland U.S. attorney's office is seeking $6.9 million and property from a bank account owned by a Silver Spring security company whose former executive has admitted bribing a government official to secure $130 million in contracts. Federal prosecutors filed the forfeiture claim yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore against USProtect, formerly called Holiday International Security, which provided guards for 18 federal agencies at 120 installations in 32 states and territories. USProtect is also now in bankruptcy filings, so if they owe you money, fat chance seeing it. As in, if you're a guard working for them, your paycheck is going to bounce. I'm kind of shocked the Baltimore Sun is the only real mainstream outlet covering this story. It seems ripe for the Dateline treatment, if you ask me - fat government contracts, bribery, everybody's fessed up.

business, video

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008
So this morning I found an interesting video monitoring application being used in meat processing plants. I realize it's not exactly the market for the average security installer or integrator, but I thought it was a good example of how security technology is moving beyond traditional applications and is actually being used to improve business operations (and, in this case, the health of consumers). Arrowsight is a company that provides remote video auditing (RVA) technology (a new acronym for me), and installs these systems in meat processing and animal handling factories so managers can constantly monitor "the line" to ensure that employees are following food safety standards. In the wake of this massive meat recall with video surfacing showing unimaginable violations of meat handling compliance, knowing that somebody is keeping an eye on how the nation's meat is being handled is slightly comforting (although the company's who are progressive enough to install video monitoring systems probably aren't the ones using fork lifts to move sick cattle into the slaughter house). For the security integrators out there, this is just another example of how security systems are moving beyond traditional applications and truly becoming a tool to improve business.

Who's looking out for the industry on Capitol Hill?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008
To support member of Congress who are looking out for the interests of the security industry on Capital Hill, the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association has formed a new Political Action Committee. NBFAA's government relations guru John Chwat said in a statement that PACS are a great way to facilitate contributions to U.S. Congressional candidates in House and Senate races. "The legal minefield one must navigate to give directly to a candidate is confusing at best, and PACs avoid the possible problems inherent in companies trying to manage individual contributions," he said. The NBFAA will soon begin soliciting PAC contributions from member companies.

RMR that will make you fit

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I've been meaning to write about these 24-hour gyms for a while. What a great RMR opportunity for a central station with some extra capacity. If you don't have a business partnership with one of these franchises now, it's time to find one. Basically, the gyms never close, and don't need staffing at night because everyone just wears a panic alarm while they work out, and have access cards to get in the building. Just look at all the tasty business outlined here: Snap Fitness uses a slightly different panic system, said Sternitzky. Buttons are still on necklaces and walls, but a security company is called instead of police. The security officer converses with people through an intercom. If a patron collapses or is too weak to speak, rescue crews are dispatched. ... Keycards help protect members, too, said Collien. People swipe their card to gain access at Anytime, Snap and Club Fitness. At his business, patrons sign a policy not to let anyone in, even if they think the person is a member, Collien said. The measure prevents people from entering with stolen cards. Sorry, not to interrupt, but how exactly does a policy not to let people in prevent people from entering with stolen cards? If they have a card, they don't need people to let them in, right? Customers who lose their cards receive new ones, he added. The old code is canceled so others can't use it. Even when they aren't working, operators can still watch their establishments. All local 24-hour centers have surveillance, and many owners can control the cameras from off-site. Collien said his cameras are connected to his home computer so he can monitor the business anytime, even when he's home with the flu. So, that's a monthly contract for the monitoring, plus a monthly contract for the managed access control (you don't think the gyms want to deal with issuing cards and changing PINs, do you?), which needs an access control system, preferably IP so you can manage it better at the central, plus an IP surveillance system (or a networked DVR, anyway), plus some analytics (you can't allow tailgating, can you?), plus the panic buttons. That sounds like a nice little system sale, plus a substantial chunk of RMR, no? I think it's time to promote fitness in your hometown.

Surveillance is for the dogs

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Monday, March 17, 2008
Sorry, just couldn't pass this story by. Have you thought about marketing your integration firm as an animal-cruelty prevention service? Maybe you should. Anderson hired a security company to install surveillance cameras that allegedly caught the neighbor on tape, tossing two small objects [rat poison, it turns out] in the direction of Anderson's yard. A couple of years ago, the same neighbor had filed enough noise complaints about Pete that the dog's owner had to defend himself in a DeKalb County court. Last week, DeKalb County police arrested the neighbor, 46-year-old John Groover, and charged him with felony cruelty to animals. "It's like that show, 'To Catch a Predator,' [but] doggy-style," Anderson said. There seem to be a number of jokes I could make here, but none of them seems appropriate. One question: When will we stop using the phrase "caught on tape," when, in fact, nobody actually uses VCRs for surveillance anymore (at least not in new systems. I mean, right?)?

Getting ready for ISC West

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Monday, March 17, 2008
ISC West is fast approaching and all of us here at SSN and Security Director News have been booking meetings and getting ready for this annual Vegas extravaganza. I have to admit, I don't dislike Las Vegas as much as I used to. The smoke, the crowds, the faux-everything used to leave me thinking the red-eye home was a pleasant experience. After a few trips, however, I'm kind of getting used to Sin City. It's nice to see all the people I talk to all year in person at the show, and if there's no natural beauty in Vegas, there are some great places to eat and shop. Coincidentally, at my house, my husband and kids and I have been watching, and enjoying the Ocean's series of movies, having missed their first runs in the theater. Last weekend we watched the original Ocean's 11, filmed in pre-high rise Vegas, before ISC West even existed. There are a lot of dated references, but lots of cool as well: Cesar Romero's mid-century modern home; a Nelson Riddle score; a very young Angie Dickinson; Dean Martin singing 'Ain't it Kick in the Head' ; Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford, and how wicked cool is Sammy Davis Jr. here singing Ee O Eleven...

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