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It's got a three-year warranty, dummy

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Friday, December 7, 2007
Sorry, but I can't help myself. Here's a press release I received just now: A new dummy dome has been launched by Bosch Security Systems as part of its FlexiDome camera range. The dummy is intended for use in applications where multiple, working models may already be installed, but where further deterrents may be desired. The product resembles the FlexiDome VF and is delivered, ready to install, with a Surface Mount Box. Each product has a three-year warranty. Sweet! A three-year warranty on a dummy dome. I mean, is there a chance it could break in three years? What would happen? the words, "I am a fake camera," appear on the outside glass?

Even small schools need big security

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Friday, December 7, 2007
A very well done story in the student paper of small liberal arts school Bowdoin College (in my back yard here in Maine) is confirmation of many of the trends we've been identifying lately in the paper and in the school security white paper we presented back in July. During the school's recent renovation of its museum, it used a continuing relationship with museum security guru Steve Keller to effect a significant upgrade, in the process helping its marketing department and adding to its overall building awareness, beyond traditional security matters. Exhibit A: "What good security does is allow us to borrow a lot of items from other museums. The people from whom we are borrowing want to make sure that the museum is the correct environment for their pieces," she added. This is security acting on behalf of the marketing department, right here. Good security means important art coming to the school, which means more headlines in papers local and national and means a higher profile for the school in general, which may mean more students willing to pay the ungodly amount in tuition Bowdoin's now charging. Exhibit B: "Among its security features are motion and vibration detectors throughout the building, and 24-7 video-surveillance monitoring of about 45 cameras. This surveillance monitoring occurs on-site, in the Communications Center, and at the headquarters of the museum's security company, Boulos," Nichols said. Here's that video monitoring and remote guarding as a service we've been harping about for the past six months. No doubt, Boulos gets a nice monthly payment for monitoring that video from its headquarters. Exhibit C: Keller's system takes all aspects of this environment into account, including temperature, air-quality, and humidity levels. Additionally, the museum's security guards play a large role in the process of monitoring these levels. Here's the security system being integrated into the building controls, as companies like TAC are pushing more and more often. If you can get the security budget to take on some maintenance duties, you're more likely to get a sale. Sounds like Bowdoin and Steve Keller are right on the edge of current security thinking. Good to see in little old Maine.

Cerasuolo to replace Mahler as ADS president

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Friday, December 7, 2007
Industry stalwart Mel Mahler today announced he’s is stepping aside as president of ADS Security, the Nashville-based super-regional company he founded, to concentrate on “strategic planning and acquisitions.” John Cerasuolo (pictured here) will become president and COO of the company. Most recently, Cerasuolo was vp of AFL Network Services in Franklin, Tenn., part of AFL Telecommunications, an international provider of telecommunications products and services. He'll start his new job in January. Mahler will continue to be CEO, and will become chairman of the board.

Pixels per foot

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Thursday, December 6, 2007
I had a chance to attend an IQinVision event on Tuesday (hence the no blogging) that was organized to push the concept of using pixels per square foot to spec video surveillance needs. There were about 12 people there, all integrators and consultants, and it was a good chance to talk shop. IQinVision VP and co-founder Paul Bodell (not pictured) delivered a concise presentation that seemed to make a lot of sense. The crux? If you want forensic quality video, you should spec the surveillance system so that you've got at least 40 pixels per foot of area being watched. So, if you've got a one megapixel camera, with field of view 1280 pixels wide by 1024 pixes high, you can cover about 32 feet wide by about 25 feet high/deep (if I'm doing my math right and understanding the concept correctly, which I think I am). If you try to cover more area, you'll be setting your customer up for some blurry pictures of bad guys. The good news (for IQinVision and their resellers, anyway) is that you can use the same calculations for all cameras and show that fewer megapixel cameras cover more space than the equivalent analog cameras (which use TV lines instead of pixels) and thus justify their cost. But don't trust me, IQ will do the calculating for you here (well, it will pick the camera and lens you need for the space you're looking at).

Bribery and private security

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007
I try not to get too much into the guarding market, except for when it overlaps with systems integrators and installers, but this is a crazy story. Many security firms work with the GSA, and it seems as though the GSA isn't always on the straight and narrow. Here's the nut graph: According to court papers filed in the case, [Michael] Holiday, a former Montgomery [Maryland] police officer, plied a government contracting official with $100,000 in cash and paid for her $7,000 Caribbean cruise. In exchange, prosecutors said, the General Services Administration employee granted favorable treatment in the bidding process to Holiday's company. Holiday's firm, Holiday International Security, went on to acquire $130 million in government contracts. Pretty good return on that $107,000 investment, no? Among the agencies that awarded contracts to Holiday International Security was the Social Security Administration, which continues to use guards from the renamed company at its Woodlawn headquarters and several other buildings in the Baltimore region, federal officials said. ... The Silver Spring company, which changed its name to USProtect when it was sold in May 2003, provides armed and unarmed security guards for 18 federal agencies at 120 installations in 32 states and territories. So, I'm guessing the company won't now lose all of its contracts. While the prosecutor called the case the largest government corruption case in Maryland history, it's not clear that you can really ascribe all $130 million in contracts to the bribery. Theoretically, Holiday/USProtect were really providing the services, so maybe it's only the amount of the bribe that should be evaluated. That's semantics, though. In general, I love it when real life is just like the movies: Prosecutors allege that the former GSA contracting official, Dessie Ruth Nelson, 65, of Oakland, Calif., received a shopping bag filled with $35,000 in cash and an envelope stuffed with $10,000 from Holiday, in addition to the cruise, among other benefits. In turn, between 2000 and 2003, Nelson steered millions of dollars worth of contracts to Holiday's company, federal authorities charged. I mean, where did that happen? In her office? In a shopping mall parking lot? Did Holiday just waltz into the GSA with $35,000 in a shopping bag and hand it over like he had just picked something up at the grocery store for her? Oh, and I can't believe this paragraph was left for last: In addition to the bribery and tax charge, Holiday also admitted as part of his guilty plea that in April 2004, he sent a video file depicting a young girl engaging in sex with an adult male to an undercover FBI agent in New York. He could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison for bribery and 20 years for transporting child pornography. Holy smokes! So, the guy's involved with Maryland's largest-ever corruption case AND he's into kiddie porn? Does anybody else feel like this is bad PR for the private security marketplace? Wow.

I can't be the only one making this mistake

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Monday, December 3, 2007
So, I have continuing interest in this USProtect story. You know, the one where a couple ex-cons landed $150 million or so in government contracts thanks to a little bribery? Well, Richard Hudec, who "served as chairman and chief financial officer for Silver Spring-based USProtect Inc.," "yesterday pleaded guilty to charges of lying about his criminal background to win contracts with the FBI, Social Security Administration and Air Force." Which is all well and good, but then I got to thinking, hey, don't I know a Richard Hudec? Turns out I was thinking of Richard Hudak, whom I'd just seen speak at Securing New Ground. Oops. If I was Richard Hudak, war hero and respected security director and consultant, I'd be none too pleased that there was a lying fraudster with ties to the physical security industry in the news with the name of Richard Hudec. So this is me doing a civil service and letting everyone know that Richard Hudec is not Richard Hudak. Totally different guy. But you know that. If anyone hears of a journalist who sells his sources down the river named Sam Fifel, make sure you let me know.

Something the security industry should get behind

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Monday, December 3, 2007
The NBFAA, CSAA, SIA, et al, should get behind the Treasury's effort to freeze mortgage rates, in an attempt to staunch the record levels of foreclosures. With the builder market already in the tank, residential alarm companies need to both find ways to increase new business and stem attrition. I'm fairly certain people don't pay alarm bills when they're being evicted. On a personal level, however, I can't say I'm totally in favor of my government bailing everyone out from their terrible decisions. This, right here, might be my favorite paragraph from a nationally syndicated news story all year: "We are working aggressively and quickly, utilizing available tools and creating new ones, to help financially responsible but struggling homeowners," Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in a speech to a national housing conference sponsored by the Office of Thrift Supervision. Now, I'm sure there are some homeowners who are defaulting on their loans because they've lost their jobs in what is an increasingly struggling economy, but those aren't the ones in need of a mortgage rate freeze, are they? Nope. The ones who need the freeze are the ones who bought too much house because they got suckered by a too-good-to-be-true deal where they could afford the first couple of years worth of mortgage payments, and either hoped they'd get a big raise when the adjustable rate started adjusting, or just ignorantly assumed they've be able to flip the house before the new rates kicked in. That doesn't meet any definition of financially responsible I can think of. And, seriously, the federal government has an Office of Thrift Supervision? The same federal government that's spent more than a billion dollars on the effort to freeze mortgage rates? That thrifty government?

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MMI wants former Brink’s Home Security prez, Peter Michel, three others, on board at Brink’s

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Sunday, December 2, 2007
There’s no rest lately for The Brink’s Company Board of Directors. On Friday, MMI—who along with Pirate Capital has been after Brink’s for months to consider selling one of their divisions—said in this SEC filing that it intends to nominate four people at the annual meeting. And one of these nominees, Peter MichelCEO of iSecureTrak knows Brink’s very well, as he served as president of the company for 13 years, from 1988 to 2001. “I am enthusiastic about serving on the board,” he told me Friday afternoon. (During Michel's tenure Brink's Home Security went from a $26 million in revenues to a $258 million.) MMI’s Clay Lifflander, said in a statement, said that MMI is “not seeking control of the board” but rather is trying to “ fill major gaps in the experience and skillset of the current directors, particularly as the board has limited direct Wall Street experience and no expertise in the security industry, other than Chairman, CEO & President Michael Dan.” Lifflander goes on to say that “MMI recognizes that election of our slate means the removal of Michael Dan from the board.” However, he says that if MMI is successful in getting its slate appointed to the board, it would “support expansion of the board by one seat and Michael Dan’s reappointment.” Other nominees are: John S. Dyson, Robert J. Strang and Carroll R. Wetzel, Jr. MMI owns 8.4 percent of Brink’s stock.

Miss Manners weighs in on tailgating

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Sunday, December 2, 2007
Yes, people, the tailgating problem has not only hit the mainstream, but has been definitively addressed by Miss Manners, so a security director can now emphasize not only security, but politeness as well, in trying to get people to card through doors one by one, etc. Miss Manners even gives some handy advice for how employees should address other people trying to get into the building/restricted area: Turn around to face the other person, rather than walking away in front of the closing door. Draw your eyebrows together, open your mouth slightly, and hold out your hands helplessly. Then shake your head sadly. Clearly, this should be posted as part of a nicely made plaque next to all restricted doorways. Don't fret, though, integrators - the tailgating solutions you're selling are unlikely to become obsolete. My experience with American society tells me very few people actually listen to Miss Manners.

American Alarm is famous now

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Saturday, December 1, 2007
The Boston Globe today has a long and flattering profile of American Alarm, run by the Wells family in Arlington, Massachusetts. Cool for them, but also a reminder to the rest of you independent alarm dealers that the mass media loves a "contrary to popular belief" story, and you should be putting in calls to your local papers to try to drum up similar stories, which are good for business. See this paragraph: Giant corporations like ADT, Brinks, and SimplexGrinnell dominate the $26 billion-a-year US industry. "However, there are lots of small- and medium-size firms represented," said Georgia Calaway, spokeswoman for the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, based in Irving, Texas. I mean, holy smokes! There are also lots of small and medium-sized alarm companies? Next thing, you'll be telling me there are more restaurants than just McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's! Contact your local paper and let them know you're a security expert, have security installations all over their coverage area, and that you are willing to be a source for stories. Security is a hot-button topic in the mass media today, but many of them are incredbly ignorant about the private security industry. When I was down at the America's Fire & Security show in Miami, a reporter from the Miami Herald contacted me about a possible story. I figured she was interested in the topic on which I was presenting, campus security, since it was only a few months after the Virginia Tech shootings. Nope. She wanted to do a tour of local nightclubs to see if they were fire-safe, a riff on the Station fire (albeit, a few years after the fact). Why was she calling me, when there were fire officials and fire product manufacturers all over the show? Because I was a fellow reporter and she was too unsure of herself to just ask one of the guys she didn't know. I told her to just call a fire marshal and to get him/her to take her through a tour of nightclubs, checking to see if they were up to code. How did she find one of those, she wondered. Seriously. That's what most reporters at small (and sometimes large) papers are really like. They're not the guys on CNN. They're usually young, not very well paid, and have poor social skills. That's why they gravitate to a job where they sit in front of computers all day surfing the Internet and maybe calling someone every once in a while. Generally, they want stories to fall in their laps. If you call them, they'll probably call you back when they're on deadline looking for a story. I know people get intimidated by the media because most of the stories you see out there on the big news channels are negative and accusatory, but think about your local daily's business section. They probably tend to write captions on photos like this gem from the Globe story: Wells A. Sampson, president of American Alarm and Communications Inc.: 'We want to continue to grow our business." If so, they can't be all that blood-thirsty. Are there company executives out there who aren't looking to grow their businesses? That would be news.

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