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NFPA’s annual conference to colocate with new expo

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The National Fire Protection Association Conference & Expo will be held in Chicago in 2013, from June 10 through 12.

And the NFPA just announced that it will be colocating the annual event with a brand new expo, one featuring information and products designed to improve safety for people with disabilities. For a conference that’s all about how to save lives, it sounds like a great match. Here’s more from an NFPA press release on the event, to be held at Chicago’s McCormick Place:

The inaugural Accessibility Expo: Beyond the ADA will colocate with the annual. The three-day event will inform building designers, builders, managers and safety executives, and promote the idea of moving beyond the minimum requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“With each passing day I marvel at new innovations and advancements, particularly those that improve access to information, communications and the ability of people with disabilities to be more empowered with respect to their own safety,” said Allan Fraser, NFPA’s senior building code specialist.  “It’s time to shine a light on innovations so that building designers, suppliers, facility and safety managers, and first responders can connect and interact.”

Conference sessions will address life safety in five categories of disability, including mobility, vision, hearing, speech and cognitive, as well as creative and common sense best practices and solutions. The exhibition will feature enhanced alarm systems, directional sound devices, voice-to-text/text-to -voice devices, video phones for American Sign Language users, power wheelchairs, accessibility training and employer preparedness programs.

The NFPA Conference & Expo is the premier industry event for fire protection and life safety and attracts more than 5,000 professionals whose work involves code compliance, fire, building and life safety. To learn more, visit


Riders on the storm: Central stations take Sandy in stride

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The snowy remnants of Hurricane Sandy are still blowing across the ridges of West Virginia, but the worst is over for the Eastern Seaboard. Now the recovery begins. And as is the case with any natural disaster, preparation holds the key to the extent of the difficulties ahead.

The lesson—one that’s often learned the hard way—is that it pays to do your homework and have a backup plan in place. The monitoring industry prides itself on that, of course, a fact that was validated by a quick SSN survey of central stations in the Northeast after the storm. It showed that while Sandy packed a tremendous punch, the industry was ready to handle it.

Long Island, N.Y., was one of the areas hit hardest by the storm, with thousands of homes damaged and nearly 1 million customers left without power Monday night. Andy Lowitt, vice president of dealer relations for Hicksville-based Metrodial, said via email Tuesday that despite the horrific damage in the area, the central station weathered the storm.

“Lots of downed trees and power lines … 912,000 [on Long Island] without power today versus 934,000 this morning, so tons of customers with beeping keypads, smokes and carbons,” Lowitt wrote. “Our natural-gas generator powered our central from 3 p.m. yesterday until power was restored today around 2 p.m. We had some valiant efforts of operators making it in during the day yesterday. Most PDs and some FDs stopped responding during the overnight hours and at one point we had over 3,000 signals in queue.”

New Jersey was also pounded by Sandy, but COPS Monitoring in Williamstown was prepared and took it all in stride, according to Executive Vice President Don Maden.

“In short, we proactively re-routed a percentage of alarm traffic away from N.J. to other sites, and significantly increased staffing at our other four central station locations,” he wrote in an email Tuesday. “We had 100 percent uptime in N.J. with services, did not lose power, and handled nearly double the normal alarm traffic across our network of central stations yesterday. Today, as expected, was heavy with alarm activity as well. [Generators] kicked on due to a few power flickers, but the grid stayed up.”

Don Piston, vice president of sales and marketing for Dynamark Monitoring in Hagerstown, Md., also reported heavy alarm volume but said “we knew that was coming.”

“We did great. We got battered with AC power loss and low battery signals because of all the power outages, so the traffic was just huge,” he told SSN on Wednesday morning. “But we sailed right through. We had the staffing in place. It’s almost no news because we did everything we were supposed to do.”

Despite Sandy’s mammoth strength and reach, it didn’t cause a lot of damage in Syracuse, N.Y.—just 250 miles from New York City and the home of Rapid Response Monitoring. Morgan Hertel, vice president of operations, said Wednesday that at the height of the storm, “we were getting pizzas delivered by the local pizza place. [Sandy] really wasn’t a big deal. It was like business as usual.”

That might have been the case meteorologically, but it wasn’t the case when it came to alarm traffic. At the peak, “we were seeing well over 100 signals a second coming in,” Hertel said, adding that Rapid is well versed in storm preparation and had extra staffing in place.

“We’re back to normal shifts today,” he said. “The technology did what it was supposed to do, the people did what they were supposed to do, and quite honestly we couldn’t be happier with the result. We even saved a few lives along the way.”

Illinois fines Pinnacle $1m for alleged deceptive sales practices

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I just learned today that summer-sales-model company Pinnacle Security has agreed to pay a $1 million fine in a long-term settlement to the state of Illinois for such alleged violations as “slamming” customers and even hiring felons as sales reps.

In reaching the agreement, Pinnacle neither admitted nor denied the allegations. And the company sent me the following statement:

Pinnacle Security is pleased that it has come to a settlement with the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation of the State of Illinois to the parties' mutual satisfaction. Pinnacle Security has worked closely to address the generally historical issues related to licensing requirements of our sales representatives that allegedly took place as early as 2006.

Since 2010, Pinnacle has implemented industry-leading compliance initiatives to help ensure that Pinnacle's sales representatives meet all city, county and state licensing requirements.  We are confident that through this agreement, Pinnacle will continue to provide its thousands of customers in the state of Illinois superior support and customer service.

Here’s what the state said in its Oct. 31 news release:

State regulators announced today they have reached a long-term settlement agreement with Pinnacle Security, LLC, headquartered in Orem, Utah and licensed to sell home and business security systems in Illinois.  The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) alleged in its order that Pinnacle had sold its services using unfair and deceptive trade practices, knowingly hired unlicensed sales personnel, and allowed employees with criminal histories to sell their products door-to-door to Illinois consumers.  The company also ‘slammed’ consumers by changing their alarm service using fraudulent and deceptive means.

“When homeowners purchase security systems to protect their families from crimes, they should at least be assured that the company with which they do business is following Illinois laws,” said Jay Stewart, Director, Division of Professional Regulation, IDFPR.  “With this settlement agreement, families doing business with Pinnacle Security, LLC will know that Illinois’ consumer protection agency is making sure they meet their obligations.”

The investigation conducted by IDPFR included issuing subpoenas for all employees working in Illinois and found that 700 of the 1,100 were not licensed by the state.  Further, several of the employees listed on the employee roster had been charged with or convicted of felonies, including larceny, robbery, theft, conspiracy to commit burglary, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, assault, domestic battery, and possession of controlled substances, any of which would have been cause to deny a license, had an application been filed.

The case was referred to IDFPR by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, after her office settled a lawsuit to protect prospective customers.   Today’s settlement includes payment of a one million dollar fine, of which $250,000 has already been paid, a two-year ban on new sales to Illinois consumers, supervision of Pinnacle’s ongoing business of overseeing already installed security systems and five years of supervised probation by the Illinois.

Pinnacle has settled similar complaints made by other states, although the amount of this fine stands out.

Pinnacle has told Security Systems News that the company had some issues in past years with “rogue” door-knocking sales staff.  However, in 2010, Pinnacle made a company cultural shift to emphasize a code of ethics for employees and the implementation of new ways to monitor their behavior and enforce the code.


ADT holds strategic talks with investment firm; shares up

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The ADT Corp. has been making headlines ever since it split off from Tyco International on Sept. 28. Here’s the latest from Reuters news service today:

ADT Corp ... said on Thursday that it had held constructive discussion with Corvex Management LP, an investment firm that has taken a 5.02 percent stake.

Founded by Keith Meister, one of activist investor Carl Icahn's longtime associates, Corvex said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it believed ADT shares were undervalued and had met with management to discuss strategy. It may buy additional shares.

The purchases began on September 17, when ADT began trading on a when-issued basis, and continued once the stock began trading on the open market on October 1.

George Soros' Soros Fund Management owns a 0.25 percent stake in ADT, the filing showed.

Corvex said it wanted ADT to consider "strategic alternatives including ... improving capital structure and capital allocation," according to the regulatory filing.

Neither ADT nor Corvex had any additional comment.

ADT shares were up 7 percent at $40.99 in morning trading. Earlier in the day, they had risen as much as 11 percent to $42.42, the highest level in the stock's six-week existence.


2G sun starting to set in Arizona

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Looking for signs of the 2G sunset? Don’t blink.

That was the message today from Telguard’s Shawn Welsh, who notified CSAA members via the group’s ACCENT email service that AT&T has begun to pull the shade on Arizona’s Pinal and Gila counties.

“For those of you with cellular customers in Arizona, AT&T has announced that there will be no roaming network available to 2G GSM/GPRS-only cellular devices using [the company’s] 410 SIMs—they are often yellow in color—in Pinal and Gila counties starting on Nov. 1, 2012,” Welsh wrote.

If you struggle to keep pace with the calendar—and I am among you—that means next Thursday.

Welsh said he and his counterparts at other cellular equipment companies made a promise at the CSAA’s annual meeting, held Oct. 12-17 in Hawaii, to keep the industry informed about pockets of lost 2G coverage “as soon as we were notified by our carrier partners.”

“Having just returned this week, this one is beating the official CSAA process,” he wrote.

Welsh advised anyone with customers in the two counties to contact their cellular manufacturer for official confirmation from AT&T and a coverage map to determine if their units are affected.

“Only your cellular device manufacturer (or waiting until next Thursday—not recommended) can advise you of your potential loss of service,” he said.

Welsh said Telguard customers should not notice a change “as we do not use 410 SIMs in our [legacy] 2G or 3G devices.” For those affected by the AT&T announcement, “you’ll need to roll trucks next week and replace the units with a device operating on a 3G/4G network,” he said.

PSA Security integrators talk time management

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I caught the last two days of the PSA Security Convention which took place on Florida's panhandle in Destin, Fla., this week.

About 30 of North America’s top security integrators attended this annual event. On Monday morning PSA sponsored an educational session about time management.

I know, it sounds dry, but it wasn’t.

The moderator, Paul Boucherle, asked attendees if they knew the dollar amount for hour’s time for the following positions: a tech on the road; a salesperson; service guys?

The answer, of course, was yes, yes and yes. But when he asked “What’s an hour of your time [company owner/executive management] worth?” The answers were more tentative.

“You have all the metrics in the world, except this one,” Boucherle said.

Boucherle did offer a formula to determine an owner’s hourly value [net profit or equity contributions, divided by the number of equity owners, divided by 160] but his point was that your time is worth a lot, and you need to ensure that you’re spending it as wisely as you would any other business expenditure.

It’s important to determine high-value time investment versus low-value time investment and allocate your time accordingly, he said.

Time doing someone else’s work or getting involved in minutiae is low-value time, he pointed out, so delegate.

It’ll give you more time for high-value work, build your team’s competency, build your team’s confidence and ability to work together, he said.

He discussed the challenge and necessity of letting go of control for business owners, saying you’ve got to keep your ego in check. And while you should expect accountability, you need to allow your team to make and learn from mistakes.

Of paramount importance in all this is a business owner’s ability to communicate. He advised taking time to understand your personal communication style and the style of your employees and then setting up "structured time" for communicating, going through problems, etc. Kind of like professors’ office hours in college … lots of seemingly basic stuff that it seemed like many in the room hadn’t spent time thinking about in a while.

The talk stimulated some interesting discussion at PSA Convention—and, unlike many business meetings I attend--it wrapped up before the scheduled time.


ADT sues Flo Rida

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This recent news item from the Toronto Sun newspaper recently caught my eye, even though I’ve never heard of this rapper and singer songwriter, whose real name is Tramar Dillard, but is known as Flo Rida. It sounds like Flo Rida has a bit of a legal problem over security at his home in Florida.

Here’s what the news report said:

Flo Rida has been sued by bosses of a security company who claim the rapper failed to settle a bill for an alarm system at his Florida home.

Executives at ADT allege their operatives installed a state-of-the-art security system at the star's Miami mansion in 2009 and received the full deposit of $19,366 US but Flo Rida failed to hand over the remaining balance of $38,733.

They have filed a lawsuit demanding payment plus interest amounting to $47,134.

However, the rapper claims he never authorized the deal and the contract was signed by a man called Lee Prince, who reportedly worked as the star's manager, according to

A judge has yet to rule on the case.


ADT's new hire to create 'a culture of innovation'

Monday, October 22, 2012

The new ADT has just created a new position—that of chief innovation officer—and today announced that Arthur Orduña has been appointed as the new CIO. He’ll report directly to ADT CEO Naren Gursahaney, the company said.

Here’s more from a news release from The ADT Corp., which is based in Boca Raton, Fla. and is newly independent after splitting off from Tyco International:

Mr. Orduña will be responsible for technology vision and strategy across the entire company. He will create a strategic roadmap for the full lifecycle of new and existing solutions; help define future solution and product architecture and functionality; and strengthen ADT’s relationships with key technology companies to position the company as a partner of choice.

 “Arthur brings a fresh perspective and deep technology and product management expertise to ADT’s bench of senior talent. He will play an integral role in spearheading the long-term vision for our portfolio and creating a culture of innovation at ADT," [CEO Naren Gursahaney said in a prepared statement.]

Mr. Orduña, 47, recently served as a consultant to PayPal, a division of eBay Inc., in a business development role in their Emerging Opportunities group. Prior to this, Mr. Orduña spent several years as the chief product officer and chief technology officer at Canoe Ventures, an advertising technology company founded by the top six U.S. cable companies that provide software and services to national television programming networks. Mr. Orduña has also served as senior vice president of policy and product at Bright House Networks where he was responsible for all new video, broadband, voice, and wireless product development and deployment. He has previously held senior roles at Vivendi-Universal and Integrated Systems Inc. A former dramatist and journalist, Mr. Orduña received a B.A. degree from Cornell University.


Prism Skylabs raises $7.5 million

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Prism Skylabs has raised another $7.5 milliion in funding, the company announced today. Here's a link to the story. I've put a call into founder Steve Russell, (also founder of 3VR) and expect I'll get a chance to speak to him in the next few day. Prism Skylabs, which offers a cloud service that "leverages data from existing video surveillance cameras to unlock information on customer patterns, trends and behaviors",  was launched just before ASIS 2012. Here's an ssnTVnews video interview I did with Steve Russell at ASIS 2012, where he talks about the company, and its first investment round ($1.5 million from the SV Angel, Yuri Milner, Eric Schmidt, Aaron Patzer, Brad Garlinghouse, CrunchFund and others)


Head of fire chiefs' group casts vote for ASAP

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It’s the season of spin. But no matter how you slice it, the opening paragraph of last week’s commentary by Hank Clemmensen, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, isn’t a ringing endorsement of central stations.

“I always had supported remote station monitoring for my city’s fire alarms, both because I believed it would provide faster notification and because I believed central stations always take too long,” wrote Clemmensen, the fire chief in Inverness, Ill., on the website “Phone calls between the central station operators and our PSAP take way too much time, and the conversations are vulnerable to errors.”

It’s tough to argue with that. The garbling of names and addresses has long been an issue for police and fire departments, and when is an emergency call ever fast enough? But it turns out that Clemmensen doesn’t have an ax to grind with the alarm community, as he quickly makes clear in hailing a top industry initiative: the Automated Secure Alarm Protocol.

“The interface allows a central station operator who has to notify a PSAP of an alarm to transmit all the information directly to that PSAP’s CAD screen with only a few keystrokes,” he said. “… Think about an operator from the Deep South talking to a PSAP call taker from New Jersey or Boston. Both are speaking English, but the languages are different. The interface transfers data without a telephone conversation—eliminating the chance of the PSAP call taker misunderstanding the central station alarm operator.”

Clemmensen goes on to praise the Central Station Alarm Association and the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System for laying the necessary groundwork to secure the ASAP system. The computerized message broker for ASAP is at the Nlets facility in Phoenix.

“A core group of alarm companies financed the development and implementation of this system, and they are committed to getting jurisdictions with large numbers of alarms connected to ASAP,” he said.

Clemmensen’s take on the protocol has to be music to the CSAA’s ears. It also serves as a rallying point for other fire chiefs nationwide.

“Are you willing to reduce your response times by at least 1.5 to 3 minutes with quicker alarm notification and fewer errors? It sounds like a no-brainer,” he said. “The majority of fire alarms are not true emergencies, and if this new interface gets us the needed information sooner, responses could be modified. … This could just be one more tool to help reduce line-of-duty deaths and make sure everyone goes home.”