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Wasabi makes for one hot fire alarm

 - 
Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Recently, there’s been announcement after announcement about who has won a Nobel Prize. But each year those awards are being given out, a science humor magazine called the Annals of Improbable Research runs its own “Ig Nobel” prize contest for scientific achievements that “first make people laugh, then make them think.” And this year, a wasabi fire alarm earned the top spot among 10 honorees.

It made me laugh and think, so I thought I’d share the news with you. And Popular Mechanics was so intrigued by the Ig Nobel-winning wasabi fire alarm, it wrote about it. Here’s more from the magazine’s Oct. 5 article:
 

As anyone who’s ever put too much of the pungent green paste on a sushi roll knows, wasabi is hard to ignore. A taste of the stinging stuff sets off alarm bells on your tongue. And a Japanese team has now taken advantage of that fact for their real but really crazy-sounding invention: the wasabi fire alarm.
The research team was trying to come up with a solution to the fact that most people who are killed in building fires are asleep or elderly—either way, they don’t hear the alarm. But it’s hard to ignore the eye-watering burn of wasabi, so the researchers tried to use that to their advantage. First, they isolated the compound in wasabi responsible for the characteristic stinging sensation, allyl isothiocyanate. This chemical isn’t an odor, it’s a "somatosensation." The nervous system perceives it as a painful, stinging feeling. "In contrast to olfactory processing, somatosensory processing persists during sleep," team member Makoto Imai tells PM. "That’s why subjects can wake up after inhalation of air-diluted wasabi." Their invention is now registered under a patent called "Odor Generation Alarm and Method for Informing Unusual Situation."
For their tests, Imai and colleagues filled canisters of the compound, waited until their test subjects were deeply asleep, and then filled the room with wasabi gas. Of the 14 test subjects—including four who were deaf—13 woke within 2 minutes. (It turned out that the fourteenth person had a blocked nose). The team actually tested about 100 odors, including rotten eggs. Wasabi stood alone as the premier waker-upper.
Last week, their innovation earned them an Ig Nobel prize, an award handed out by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, which every year spoofs the Nobel Prizes awarded a week later. "At first, we wondered what happened," Imai says of the odd honor. "But then, we were very delighted with this prize."
Seems, Inc., a Tokyo-based company, used the team’s research to develop the alarm, which has been available since April 2009 for about $600. The company is working to create a less expensive model.

 

C.O.P.S.' Malice honored again

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Friday, October 7, 2011

C.O.P.S.' vice president special projects Maria Malice recently won the 2011 Arizona Alarm Company Person of the Year honor for an unprecedented fourth straight year. I've spoken with Maria before when she won the honor in 2009 and spotlighted her seemingly bottomless well of energy when it comes to working for the industry in her home state of Arizona.

First of all, congrats to you Maria--again.

I had a chance to chat with Maria via email about her fourth year being honored. Maria found out about the win on Wednesday, September 28th at the AzAA (for those of you who read my last blog post, that's Arizona Alarm Association) Annual Convention, Law Enforcement Appreciation Dinner. I corresponded with her just a few days later

Please find that interview below.
 

Maria, what do you think won you the honor this year?
I think it is because of all the work I do with the cities when they are looking at their ordinances and considering making a change or starting a new ordinance. We try to find a happy medium that works for all involved. The police department, the end user, and the alarm industry. I work with the departments through the writing process if possible and then toward the end before the send it to council in checking it over. Also when they go to city council I come to the meetings and speak on behalf of the AzAA as to our thoughts on the new ordinance.
 
In starting to work with a city it is important to know their goal in writing or changing an ordinance. Then when I read through an ordinance I keep their goal in mind, then I look for everything from typos, to conflicts within the ordinance, to what's fair and reasonable to all and make the appropriate suggestions to the city. The ordinance has to be good for all three parties involved, the end user, the PD, and the industry. I work very hard to keep an open mind and consider all the parties involved.
 
Also, when they have issues that come up, I work as a resource to assist them in finding a resolution.

Well it certainly sounds like it keeps you busy. Where have you been busy lately?
This past year, Mesa, Tucson, Avondale, Glendale, and now Peoria. Tucson and Avondale being the highest profile Cities.

What is there still to do (in other words, where are you focusing your energy right now)?
Right now Tucson is struggling with reworking their ordinance and there are some conflicts between the different companies in Tucson. Everything from licensing requirements, to permit fees is creating the dissention between the companies. So working with the companies and the police dept in their efforts to find a solution that all can live with before going back to City Council.
 
In Avondale I am working with them on the ordinance they passed to fine the alarm company for all false alarms. We are making progress in effecting a change in that ordinance.
 
I'm also gearing up for once again submitting a bill for statewide alarm licensing.

Do you think a fifth year as Arizona's top security person is in the cards?
Anything is possible, but I am really hoping that others within the Association will step up and take a more active role in working with the Cities. Too many times people are complacent and let others do the work that everyone benefits from. It is important that we all understand that we have to work together toward the betterment of our communications with the police departments we work with daily, and the betterment of our industry and the communities we live and work in.  
 
I would love to see someone else win because that means they get it and will have taken an active role in their industry and community. When that happens we all win!!

 

Vector: National accounts in play; we want them

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Vector Security says national accounts customers are “in play” due to acquisitions and corporate break-ups. And, Michael Grady, Vector Security’s EVP told me, in an email interview that Vector is poised to expand its national account business for a number of reasons: Vector is still privately owned and it has money in the bank (something Vector president Pam Petrow talked to me about recently when Vector got a new $225m credit facility.)  Also in Vector’s favor, he said, is its move, announced Tuesday to a new National Service Center in Gainsville, Va.
The new facility is about 10 miles away from its former facility in Manassas, Va.
Grady said that there’s a “hyper consolidation” in the loss prevention industry similar to what happened in 2001. Further, he said, “companies that have long established histories of serving national customers are today literally ‘in play’ again, due to factors such acquisitions and corporate break ups. That always creates doubt in customers, but this time, they only need to look back ten years.  So those who are really concerned and indeed recognizing a trend here ... and that bodes well for Vector Security because of our high level of corporate independence and stellar financial stature.”
Last year, I interviewed Vector’s VP/GM for national accounts Joe English, who told me that Vector expected to take retail national accounts market share from ADT. He said ADT had about 50-55 percent of the market, and uses the same AM EAS technology that ADT uses.  He said his goal is to “make [Vector] the predominant number three player in the EAS industry.” He further said that Vector expected to do about $75 million in national accounts business in 2010.
Grady declined to give me revenue figures for 2011 or gains in marketshare figures, but he did say that “As far as our sales figures last and this year, we experienced strong growth in 2010 and the trend is continuing in 2011.”
Vector’s new National Service Center is 27,000 square feet, has 130 employees who are involved with “Project Design and Coordination – Field Installation - our National Service Center – National Compliance Management – Billing – Engineering – TSP Recruitment and Management – Product Testing and Evaluation – our CRM department and Equipment repair.”
The center has a Virtual Loss Prevention Services Lab, which Grady described thus: “As our national account customers look towards newer and innovative technologies to resolve loss prevention, emergency communications, systems performance and ROI measurement, disaster preparedness, RFID applications, LP case management, managed EAS, IP video and analytics, and Network Management, we wanted to construct an environment whereby we can bench test the equipment itself, define new applications and compile ROI data. This facility allows us the technological platforms, space and environment to do so.”
The new facility is set up to enable Vector to service video, access, and EAS equipment onsite. Previously, “like most LP services providers, we sent malfunctioning equipment back to manufacturers and arranged for it to be repaired and sent back to us. But as we took on large-scale deployments of video and EAS equipment, we found that model to be unacceptable to our CRM commitments,” Grady said.
Testing new equipment will help the company stay on top of new LP protocols—both best practices and government regulations, Grady said. “It could mean New protocols such as SOPs, new product applications,  adherence to national compliance, and reliance upon exceptions based instantaneous information are required to be managed and even anticipated from our national customers based upon changes in the nature of crime, employee theft, shoplifting and even litigation such as slip and fall and insufficient security suits.”

And Vector is not solely interested in retail national accounts. "While most earlier national account models were built upon the vast expansion of retail, our key defining element for likened customers is 'multi-site' with a need to control security, loss prevention and employee safety on a national basis," Grady said. "Today, all types of services; that were performed previously by local purveyors, and being targeted by national suppliers.  The “Doc in a Box” in and out treatment center was just one area of the new entries in the market. There are many more to come."
Vector has national accounts customers in 44,000 locations. The company says it receives 26,000 service calls per month, all of which are qualified, and result in about 4,000 qualified service visits. Those service calls are resolved in an average of 2.6 days. All of Vector’s national accounts are monitored at Vector’s central station in Pittsburgh.
 

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

President


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 www.siacinc.org.


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.

 

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