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TLA anxiety redux (or, Wow, the security industry sure does like (or hate?) acronyms, part 2)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I read through Ken Kirschenbaum's security industry newsletter dated 10/4 with interest the other day. As most of you know, I've written about the worlds of central station monitoring, PERS, and false alarm reduction and ordinances for a while. It's easy for me to forget that not everyone--even people in the indusry--is familiar with some of the acronyms and terminology commonly used in the security industry. I'm no stranger to the confusion that can come from not knowing the references others are using. On my first day here at SSN in 2008, I realized I was going to be in trouble with all the three-letter acronomyms (and four-letter, and five-letter, and etc.) so I asked for help and got it from Celia Besore, who forwarded on to me a listing of Security Industry Acronyms pulled from CSAA's membership directory (page 65 of the 2008-2009 directory). All I had to do was ask. It's there as a resource. I just checked that list and it's interesting to note that ECV isn't on there... language is a growing, living thing and as intelligent animals we're blessed with the ability to ask questions.

It struck me as a little funny that there were some commenting in Ken's newsletter that they didn't know what "ECV" (used in an earlier posting in the newsletter from SIAC (oops, I did it myself... used an acronym without explaining what it means... SIAC is the Security Industry Alarm Coalition) director Ron Walters) meant, and further seemed to lack any sort of idea as to how to find out.

From the newsletter:

Hi Ken, I had to chuckle about Mr. Barlow's posting below. The reason for the chuckle is simple: I have no idea what "ECV" is either. So, I "Googled it" and low and behold it is a medical term acronym for turning a breach baby around. Wow, not sure how that applies in our business so I tried harder and added "security" to the Google search and came up with "Enhanced Call Verification". Now that made more sense.
I agree with Mr. Barlow; spell out the thought and ensure what we write is clear, especially in emails! I have heard that those that use acronyms are attempting to show they are smarter than others!
Thank you for your continued value to the industry!

Mark Ingram


Visonic, Inc

I've written about some of Mark's ventures before, and he's on the right track here, I think. If I don't understand something, I look. I ask a question of someone I think might have the answer. I don't necessarily assume someone who uses an acronym is trying to look smarter than others... I think that maybe it's a sign of someone striving for economy in language... Either way, the Internet's a pretty great resource and the security industry's associaions are there to help you learn and grow.

Again, from the newsletter:

Dear Ken:
 I know that you are committed to keep this forum fresh and relevant. I truly appreciate the time and space you have already dedicated to this issue and I ask that you post this one last reply.
 My apologies to both Tony Barlow and Lee Jones for not being more specific. ECV is Enhanced Call Verification and is a process that requires that at least two calls to two different phone numbers be made in an attempt to verify intrusion signals. ECV does not apply to any manually activated signal such as a hold up or panic, nor does it apply to fire. It is an approved American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standard. ANSI has no connection to our industry. They are an independent standards approval body. To have an ANSI Standard there must be an approved standards body that frets out the entire process under ANSI's supervision. In the case of ECV that was the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA). CSAA wrote the standard, opened it for public comment and were required to address all comments prior to submitting to ANSI for final approval. In this case the final document is ANSI/ CSAA-CS-V-01-xxxx. You can download the document for free by following [this] link ...  An important note is that you do not have to even be associated with the industry to comment on a pending standard that is open for comment and all comments must be addressed and replies sent as to the support or dismissal of all comments.


When law enforcement, under the International Association of Chief's of Police Private Sector Liaison Committee (IACP, PSLC), tasked the industry to find a solution(s) to the high incidence of user initiated false dispatches a series of tests were performed. First several central stations would take all unverified alarms during a random period of time and, prior to dispatching, call the premise phone number a second time. In 25% of the cases the second call was answered and no dispatch was required.

Next we sought to find out why the first call was not answered and the overwhelming cause was the call waiting feature on the premise line, the same line being used for the alarm to communicate on. The alarm goes off, the monitoring station receives the signal and attempts to verify. When the operator calls the premise they hear the phone ringing but in actuality the panel still has line seizure so anyone on site hears nothing and leaves. This can be addressed when programing the alarm panel.

When programming the receiver line first use the call waiting disabling prefix, usually *70. Now when the operator attempts to verify and the line is still seized the hear a busy signal and attempt to call again prior to dispatch. If you do this then you must also program the second receiver number into the panel without using the *70 prefix in the case that the call waiting feature is ever canceled.  If you are not comfortable with this then you MUST use ECV and the second call should be to a cellular number.

After proving the concept of ECV as being viable there needed to be a larger test. In Boulder Colorado the City had repealed their unenforced alarm ordinance in preparation to going to a non response policy. The Chief graciously allowed a period of time to test the process and in just 45 days dispatches were down over 30%. In the next 18 months with no other action being taken those reductions rose to over 60%. All that was needed to reach this level was that the Chief issued a policy and when an attempt was made to dispatch the caller was asked if at least two calls were made and to what numbers?

It is important to note that the second call to a second number is not an attempt to ask the alarm user to guess what is happening at the alarm site. In all cases where there results in no dispatch you will be reaching someone who is either still at the alarm site, has just left the alarm site or who knows exactly why the alarm is going off. If there is any doubt then a dispatch should be made.  This addresses Mr Jones in his statement that it can not be enforced. Enforcement is really simple and only requires a few months of asking if two calls were made.Once the monitoring stations know that a jurisdiction requires ECV they comply.

Even today with all of the acquisitions and mergers somewhere close to half of all monitored alarms are in the hands of small local company's. Unfortunately only 10% of these belong to an industry association. If this weren't dad enough, most don't read industry publications every month so a large percentage is in the dark as to what is happening legislatively in the industry. I would be remiss if I didn't encourage you join your state association and at least one of the national associations. These the Electronic Security Association (ESA) the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), the Security Industry Association (SIA) and the Canadian Security Association (CANASA). Links to all of these are available at

I would welcome anyone wanting more information on this and other related legislative initiatives to contact me at ronw@siacinc.or or call me at 954-347-4883.

Thank you all for your interest.

Ron Walters, Director

Security Industry Alarm Coalition

I've spoken with Ron at length in the past. He's a dedicated guy who obviously wants to help people understand and learn and grow.

I also like this following bit of commentary from Mark Matlock over at UCC. I've also spoken with Mark before and have followed his organization closely.

regarding Lee's comments

Neither Ron Walters or SIAC or any other industry source to my knowledge have touted Enhanced Call Verification (“ECV”) as “the ultimate false alarm solution” .  Rather, we in the alarm industry realize that ECV is a very important piece of the overall puzzle in addressing the important issue of false alarm dispatch reduction.  I will add that it is a very effective piece.  Our wholesale alarm monitoring company, United Central Control, adopted ECV across the board and we have reduced police dispatches for burglar alarms by close to 35%.  I would say that this is a significant accomplishment by anyone’s definition.

Is ECV the “end all, be all” solution to false alarms?  Of course not, but it does show diligence on behalf of the alarm industry to assist the police departments nationwide in reducing calls for service related to burglar alarms.  I applaud SIAC and many other Alarm Associations who are resolute in addressing this issue.  I don’t know the source of your pessimism, but your words tend to mitigate the hard work and significant accomplishments of the alarm industry and its affiliated Associations for the last ten plus years.  We have made huge strides in working with the police departments and reducing calls for service related to false alarms.  The statistics in major markets nationwide bear out that calls for service from burglar alarms have been significantly reduced while alarm installations continue to rise.

Good job alarm industry.

Mark Matlock

United Central Control, Inc.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with ECV, one must admit that the resources to succesfully translate a three-letter acronym are out there for anyone who's genuinely intersted in finding out, as I would assume someone involved in the industry would be.

Murder victim’s family settles with ADT

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

ADT recently settled a lawsuit regarding a Minnesota woman murdered in her bed in 2006 after her security alarm failed to go off, and the case carries implications for the security alarm industry, according to a newspaper account of the case.

Here’s more from a Minneapolis Star Tribune story earlier this week:

Four children who survived a middle-of-the-night double murder in Washington County five years ago will receive a financial settlement that will provide for them for life after a bruising lawsuit over a failed home intrusion alarm.
The case involving the estate of Teri Lee, shot dead in her bed in West Lakeland Township in 2006, could hold implications for homeowners trusting intrusion alarms to protect them and for alarm companies relying on contract language to insulate them from liability.
Just how much money ADT Security Services Inc. will pay the family to care for Lee's four children remains sealed in federal court under the confidential agreement reached Friday. But [an attorney for the family], Bill Harper of Woodbury, said the amount was "substantial" and will provide for the children for the rest of their lives.
Inquiries to ADT seeking comment Saturday were unreturned. The large national company, which has headquarters in Florida, never admitted in court filings any responsibility for the shooting deaths of Lee, 38, and her boyfriend, Timothy Hawkinson, 47.
The two were killed in a second-floor bedroom on Sept. 22, 2006, just weeks after Lee spent $2,405 on an intrusion alarm system to protect herself against the man who would murder them both.
But when Steven Van Keuren, a jealous and disturbed former boyfriend who had violated several court orders that prohibited him from contacting Lee, cut the phone lines outside her house in the early morning darkness, nothing happened. When he shattered a glass patio door with a crowbar, a sensor failed to sound.
Van Keuren crept up the stairs to Lee's bedroom with a handgun, but two new motion detectors didn't respond. The screeching alarm finally activated when Lee's two daughters opened the front door to escape -- after their mother and Hawkinson were dead.
Hawkinson's family reached an undisclosed settlement with ADT years ago, Harper said.
ADT initiated legal action soon after Lee's death to argue that a clause in the contract she had signed declared the company's maximum liability at $500. That led to a volley of legal briefs that Harper said filled 10 filing cabinets.
In the broader picture, Harper said, the case creates a legal precedent in Minnesota in that an alarm company's attempt to limit liability in fine print isn't absolute. Such a warning wouldn't cover a "known peril" such as Van Keuren when a homeowner installs alarms to protect against a specific threat, he said.”

I contacted ADT, which declined to comment. I’m trying to find out more about the legal implications of this case for the industry. Stay tuned.

Video verification in the news

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I was going through my inbox the other day and I came across an email from RSI president Keith Jentoft. I've written beforeabout Keith's always-on-task, tireless promotion of video verification. He forwarded on a link to me of the security industry being spotlighted in a local news broadcast.

It's nice to see the security industry get some positive coverage in the mainstream media. I've also written before about the black eye the industry often receivessince news only seems to cover security when there's a loss.

Anyway, the spot paints the industry in a positive, helpful light. It gives plenty of facetime to Videofied's MotionViewer (though, MotionViewer Man is conspicuously missing...) and I don't think they could have squeezed one more shot of the Acadian logo in there.

Nice work guys!

NYMP still up for sale and Pro 1 proactive

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Here are a couple items of interest:

One is a short update on something I wrote about earlier this month: The proposed sale of the New York Merchants Protective Co. The sale is still awaiting a federal judge’s decision.

The financially embattled New York-based alarm company—owned by the same family for about 100 years—has been in the news because Bank of America in January sued NYMP and owner Wayne Wahrsager for more than $19.2 million for allegedly defaulting on a loan.

Then, in August, a court-appointed receiver overseeing the company posted newspaper ads putting it up for sale. The notice said the company would be sold to Professional Security Technologies LLC unless the receiver got a better offer.

A judge was slated to hold a hearing on Sept. 16 on whether a sale should go forward. Then the hearing got moved to Sept. 20 and then to Sept. 26.

I’ve been checking court records and there’s been no decision yet. I checked in with Wahrsager, who is no longer a part of the company, but has characterized the pending transaction as a “fire sale.” He claims the receiver, who fired him this summer, is mismanaging NYMP.

Wahrsager told me in an email: “I would simply say that the court adjourned the matter and has not approved the buyer.  The court is evaluating the statute to determine whether the receiver complied with what he was supposed to.”

Another item that just came across my desk almost made me think it was still summer, instead of fall.

Protection 1, the Romeoville, Ill.-based home security giant, put out a release saying it has received reports that door-to-door salespeople in the Boston area are falsely claiming they work for Pro 1. “These individuals are persistent and have been reported to harass customers until they agree to sign a new contract for a fraudulent system upgrade,” Pro 1 said. Sounds like the kind of complaints made quite frequently during the warmer months when the summer sales model companies are active.

Pro 1 is being proactive about the issue, sending out a release with tips for customers to protect themselves and urging them to call Pro 1 to verify a salesperson’s employment status.

More cuts in Clovis

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pelco by Schneider announced yesterday that it’s laying off 50 people. In an official statement, the company said the cuts are  “part of an overall global Schneider Electric
workforce reduction that impacted several regions around the world and multiple locations within the US.”

The company said the layoffs are necessary because of “continued softness in construction, escalating raw material costs, and fragile global markets.” It called layoffs the “last resort,” having first, raised prices, instituted a hiring and travel freeze, and eliminating discretionary spending.

“To help minimize the impact, local company officials have reallocated talent and resources to better serve and support customers, and have reassigned employees to other positions wherever possible. Schneider Electric is making every effort to help those impacted by providing severance packages as well as outplacement.”

Potter Electric: When it comes to distributors, less is more

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I wrote this spring about Potter Electric Signal making a big change that was signaled by the release of its first line of addressable fire panels that Potter designed itself. The panels, released at ISC West in April, were aimed at the middle market and the independent manufacturer described them as “an alternative to the marketplace from someone other than the big guys.”

Now the St. Louis-based Potter has announced what it calls a company “paradigm shift”: Potter “has reorganized its direct distribution channels for fire products by reducing the number of distributors who will have access to Potter’s growing line of analog addressable fire panels.”

I’m continuing to report on this story, but here’s from the press release Potter sent this week:

This change comes from a move on the company’s part to become more customer-centered. This allows Potter’s Sales and Customer Service Teams to focus on Potter’s established industry relationships that they have built throughout the years. This move also allows Potter to keep prices at competitive levels, while preventing market inundation.

Dave Kosciuk, Executive Vice President of the Fire & Security Division for Potter Electric Signal Company, said, “This is a paradigm shift for Potter and the market, but in the long run it is the best thing we can do to give a more personalized and focused attention to our long-standing dedicated distributors. We have been fortunate to have made great relationships within the industry, and we are seeking to grow those relationships by providing value added products and services that can increase profits and reduce costs to distributor, installer and the end user.”

Potter has made no changes in the distribution of its Sprinkler or Security products.”  



Is AlarmCap/Microtec an appetizer acquisition for Stanley?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Stanley CSS announced on Day Two of ASIS, that they’d finalized the acquisition of First National AlarmCap, which operated under the name of Microtec Security Systems—and was, according to Stanley, Canada’s fourth largest alarm company.

I’ll be talking to Tony Byerly in the next day or two about Stanley’s plans to integrate this business. Stanley wasn’t talking back in August when we reported the deal and spoke to Fred Fong, former CEO of the company.

It’s a big buy. They paid $61 million and got 79,000 accounts, a bunch of dealers and two U.L Canada listed central stations. Here’s the story we wrote in August. It’s also on page 18 of our September printed publication. 

So, I’m eager to learn more about this deal, but I’m also wondering if this just an appetizer acquisition before Stanley buys the big entrée—ADT?

As I’m sure you know, Tyco announced Monday morning that it’s splitting into three independently traded companies, so ADT will be up for grabs around ASIS time next year. (Those former Brink's/Broadview/ADT dealers might get a chance to rebrand again.)

Stanley’s certainly interested in big residential companies. It made a play for European alarm company Securitas Direct earlier this year, but lost out to Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman, who paid like  $3.4 billion.

Next September, will we be reporting two big deals: "Schneider acquires Tyco Fire & Security" and "Stanley Black & Decker acquires ADT"?

ON a separate, but related note, UTC, which was rumored to be looking at Tyco last week, did, in fact buy Goodrich.


McGinn, Smith investors left in the lurch?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I’ve written here before about Timothy McGinn and David L. Smith, principals of McGinn, Smith & Co., an Albany, N.Y.-based investment firm that conducted investment dealings in the alarm industry.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges against them last year, contending that from 2003 to 2009 the high-living pair ran a Ponzi scheme, diverting millions of dollars into financially troubled entities and also into their own pockets.

But we haven’t heard much about the people they allegedly swindled—until the Albany Times Union newspaper published a story this week detailing the plight of the approximately 900 victims, saying it’s doubtful they’ll ever get their money back.

Here’s more from the Sept. 20 story:


ALBANY -- Lesley Levy was a Wall Street adviser. Through her years of hard work, she said, she hoped to spend her retirement comfortably nestled in her San Diego home.

Now, faced with the loss of up to $2 million in investments she said she steered to an Albany brokerage, McGinn, Smith & Co., Levy, 61, fears she has lost everything. Levy said she's living off a credit card, shops at Dollar Tree and is unable to afford even routine medical visits. She has taken in boarders to try to cover her mortgage payments.

"You don't know what it's like to have strangers in your house," she said, recounting a tenant who would boil fish in her kitchen late at night. "It's horrible."

Levy is among an estimated 900 individuals and organizations that placed investments with McGinn, Smith & Co., which was accused of fraud 17 months ago in a complaint filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

For several decades the firm's founders, Timothy M. McGinn and David L. Smith, were part of a country-club elite, rubbing elbows with the area's wealthiest residents while playing golf in exclusive destinations like Ireland and Palm Beach, Fla. They cultivated clients at the highest levels of society and built their brokerage into a lucrative firm that was once so connected their payroll included former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno.

But according to the SEC's civil complaint, McGinn, Smith and its various entities orchestrated what eventually became a Ponzi-type scheme that left hundreds of people financially devastated. The "house of cards" the SEC has accused the brokerage of building began to collapse three years ago. Even then, the SEC said, the brokerage's leaders began trying to hide their assets while raiding funds and luring money from more alleged victims.

Now, more than a year after the SEC stepped in, and as a federal criminal investigation remains pending, it's unclear whether investors who lost money will ever be repaid.

The SEC estimates the alleged fraud unfolded over at least a six-year period and involved up to $136 million. The firm's largest investment account, called the Four Funds, has less than $500,000 in cash despite owing investors at least $84 million.



ASIS 2011 meetings hint at tipping point for managed services

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

So I got back from ASIS International 2011 late last night and have been playing catch up at my desk all day. I'm just now getting around to going through my notes and putting together a little something to let all of you know how it went.

While I was there, I had the chance to sit down with a number of people and ask them how the show and their year was going as we approached the beginning of the fourth quarter.

It seemed like everyone was talking about the age of managed services. Integrators are no longer simply accepting them, but are beginning to expect them as well. According to some I with, the advent, proliferation and advancement of wireless technology has pushed the industry to a tipping point.

OzVision global director marketing Matt Riccoboni said smart phones had trained end users to expect more.

"Smartphones have changed the way we interact with data. It's no longer sufficient to say, 'I'll look it up later.' Smartphones have created an immediate need, an immediate thirst for data. So what we're doing is making services like video available that way," Matt told me. "And it can be for a lot of different things: an audit trail, for liability issues in the healthcare vertical … The channel partners, the integrators are really thinking of where this can be effective…. for example, with quick serve restaurants, integrators can offer access to video that shows a manager if people are consistently leaving because of long wait times. That's business intelligence that tells the manager they might want to bring on more staff to better server their customers."

I've talked with Matt before about the company's partnership with Sonitrol as well other issues.

It's all about choice and not getting stuck in the past, according to Telular vice president of marketing and business development Shawn Welsh.

"Our focus has been raising RMR. Cellular is now a trusted pathway, so now how do you leverage it to make more money?" Shawn asked. "One way is through offering interactive services, which we developed with the TG-1 express that work with older panels as well as new panels. You can offer an iPhone app to a panel from the '80s."

talked with Shawn last month about the new manufacturer-agnostic two-way voice capability Telular was touting at ASIS.

Diebold director of security solutions Jacky Grimm pointed out that managed services allowed integrators a way to offer a lower price point and a lower learning curve for getting in on the value managed services can offer.

"Technology is changing so fast. It's difficult for end users to have the money there to update, so what we're doing is packaging it in to leverage payment over time," to include things like training, oversight and hardware and software updates. "So you pay a flat fee up front, but the technology keeps pace with the world."

I've also spoken with Jacky recently about a number if things Diebold had going on, including their insight on managed access control, their move to pick up UL 2050 certification, and their addition of exta, managed services like targeted weather alerts.

I also met with Bruce Mungiguerra who is vice president sales and dealer development at Monitronics International. He told me their training program was performing nicely for them.

"We've enhanced MoniX a great deal," Bruce told me at the Monitronics booth. "It's like boot camp. It gives dealers a stronger relationahip with us ... We compared growth for new dealers and the average growth from month three to month 15 was 160 percent."

Bruce talked with me last year when Moni picked up a large dealer, Power Home Technologies, as an authorized dealer.

I also had a chance to sit down with Rob Tockarshewsky, Pete Tallman and Ken Modeste from UL. We talked about standards development, different UL listings, webinars, and UL's work with vetting hardware and software for Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-1 and FIPS 140-2 compaliace.

"FIPS 140 is a standard that's based around encryption and encryption technology in the federal space. It's been a requirement since 1995 ... Any kind of encryption has to go through this vetting process ... Any product, whether it's a USB stick, an alarm panel, a network router or printer--if it has any kind of encryption technology is required to go through this program for testing and evaluation," Ken told me.

"As more and more of these companies become more involved with the federal government, the need for FIPS testing becomes very important," Rob added.

I've spoken with Rob and Pete over at UL before on matters ranging from the competing NRTLs and UL 2050 listing and what it can mean for an alarm company.

I also had a chance to chat with former SDN editor Rhianna Daniels--now the principal at Compass PR--who dropped by SSN's booth with some of her clients from Next Level Security Systems who were due to sit down with SDN managing editor Whit Richardson for an on-camera interview. I interviewed Rhianna and NLSS' Amelia Hew earlier this year at ISC West in regards to their work with the Women's Security Council.

Over all, it was a fruitful trip to Orlando.

Will UTC Fire & Security make a play for a Tyco now?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Big news yesterday out of Tyco. The conglomerate that Koslowski spent years building, is slowly being sold off and consolidated by Ed Breen. It's a smart move, according to company executives I surveyed yesterday.  One company executive said it'll be much easier to grow ADT resi and small business and ADT commercial and fire as two separate traded companies. And, flow control doesn't really fit in anyway.

Yesterday's announcement that Tyco would split into three independent, publicly traded companies, had people wondering--again--if UTC Fire and Security might make a play for one of the peices. After all, last Friday, Rueters reported that its parent company United Technologies Corp, " was lining up financing in the double-digit billions of dollars to support a major acquisition in the U.S., according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter."

Tyco's stock rose for a while on Friday on rumors that UTC was eyeing Tyco, until someone determined that the amount of cash UTC was raising wasn't enough to purchase the whole of Tyco. So, tongues were wagging yesterday. With Tyco splitting up, UTC could buy just a part of Tyco. They could make a resi play or beef up their commercial fire and security business. Then again, if Ed Breen and company were really teeing the fire and security business up for sale to UTC, why'd they roll the security products business into the mix? That would be a lot more integration of product, something UTC Fire & Security seems to be pretty busy with these days.

Word is that UTC is actually interested in Goodrich (aerospace not tires) and that they're in talks to acquire the company for like $15b. Here's a story on the Goodrich deal, which the reporters say could be announced later this week.

I'll be meeting with ADT executives today, so will have more information on the split later.  I'm talking to Schneider tomorrow. Remember the Schneider rumors this summer? Maybe they'll be interested in the Commerical fire and security business now that it'll be flying solo?