Subscribe to


Another Five-Diamond central station

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I like to give props where props are due. I got a release from Niscayah recently, and it appears the company's Woburn, Mass.-based central station underwent the vetting and attained Five-Diamond certification from the Central Station Alarm Association.

Good for them! I underwent the training that operators need to go through in order for their organization to get the certification. I have my certificate on my wall and my patch ready to be ironed/sewn on, should this journalism gig not work out and I need to look for gainful employ at a Five Diamond central. ;-)

According to the CSAA, there are about 2,700 central stations in the U.S. and only about 100 of them have gone through the vetting necessary to be certified. It's an elite group.

Niscayah in Woburn, Mass. shows off its Five Diamond plaque.

From the release:

"The Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) has announced that Niscayah, Inc-Woburn, MA has received the prestigious CSAA Five Diamond Certification.

"This Certification testifies that 100% of their central station operators have achieved proficiency and certification by passing the CSAA Central Station On-Line Operator Training Course. These courses cover virtually all phases of central station communications with customers, law enforcement, fire and emergency services communications centers. This critical area of communications is the life-saving link between the residential or business properties and the law enforcement, fire and emergency services in local areas."

Kevin Keohane, director of retail services for Niscayah said in the release that undergoing the Five Diamond process spoke to Niscayah's committment. “Acquiring Five Diamond Certification demonstrates Niscayah’s ongoing commitment to quality service and continuous improvement.  Through investments in technology and our most important resource, our people, Niscayah constantly strives to provide service excellence in taking responsibility for the trust and confidence of our client’s life and safety concerns."

Niscayah offers complete security solutions for customers with high security demands within market segments, such as banking, industry, defense, healthcare and retail.

I'm trying to build up the nerve now to undergo Level II training from CSAA. I actually started it last year, but ran out of gas before I took the final test. Maybe this year after the holidays.

A full list of Five Diamond central stations can be found at CSAA's web site.


McGinn, already charged with fraud, now in contempt of court

Thursday, December 2, 2010

There was an interesting new development this week regarding Timothy McGinn, one of two security alarm industry investors charged in April by the SEC with bilking investors in a Ponzi scheme.

I wrote recently about Security Alarm Credit, a new investment venture started this summer by McGinn and David L. Smith.

Smith has quit the new venture, but this week a U.S. magistrate judge in New York found McGinn–who served as CEO of IASG from 2003-2006–in contempt of court for his involvement in SAC. A July 2010 court order prohibited the pair from conducting further securities investment offerings without court approval.

Longtime partners Smith and McGinn were the principals of McGinn, Smith & Co., an Albany-based investment firm that conducted investment dealings in the alarm industry. The company is now in receivership after the SEC in April seized Smith’s and McGinn’s business and personal assets and accused the pair and their company of defrauding investors of at least $80 million. Places the money went included the pair’s own pockets and to pay for exotic dancers on McGinn’s You Only Live Once cruise ship business, the SEC said. The court case is pending.

Smith and McGinn this summer then formed SAC, their new investment company, and were trying to raise more than $500,000 to loan a small Georgia-based alarm company $425,000 at an annual interest rate of 19.62 percent.

Smith's and McGinn's former administrative assistant was listed as SAC's owner and the business was run out of her home in Rensselaer, N.Y. Smith and McGinn were designated as her employees--and executive vice presidents.

The new venture came under the SEC's radar and this fall it filed a motion to hold Smith and McGinn in contempt for violating a preliminary injunction prohibiting them from making further securities offerings.

In a Dec. 1 decision on the motion, made by Judge David Homer in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of New York, the judge denied the motion regarding Smith because he had resigned from the SAC.

But Homer noted that thaowner/administrative assistant said her "only function was to type documents" and that "McGinn was responsible for everything."

Homer found McGinn in contempt, saying SAC's offering to investors contained "material misrepresentations and omissions" and also noted that "the SAC offering is remarkably similar to those prior offerings" that landed McGinn and Smith in court in the first place


Stay tuned for more on this story.



What the heck is PSIM anyway?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The security industry loves its acronyms and one of the most talked about acronyms in recent years has been PSIM, Physical Security Information Management system (or software). I think Steve Hunt was given credit a few years ago, by SSN anyway, for coming up with that particular acronym.

Today, IMS Research released a report about PSIM software, in which they define the acronym and, further,  forecast that "the world market for PSIM software will be worth around $200 million" by 2014.

IMS analyst Gary Wong said that the lack of an agreed-upon definition of PSIM has affected the growth of the PSIM market thus far. "The low awareness of what PSIM software is and its capabilities is a key limiting factor in the initial growth of the market," he's quoted as saying.

IMS Research staff contacted major vendors to help them define PSIM,  and they came up with seven criteria that they believe a software platform must meet in order to be considered a true PSIM.

Complete with some wacky British English spelling, here's the list from their press release:

1) Connectivity and Integration: A PSIM software platform must connect and manage multiple disparate security systems, examples include (but are not limited to) video surveillance, access control, intrusion, fire and life safety, perimeter protection, mass notification and building automation. The PSIM platform should be capable of integration with other business systems within a corporate IT-infrastructure such as ERP systems, data warehouses, provisioning systems, etc. The PSIM platform should be open, therefore hardware and vendor agnostic, and capable of connecting to any input sensors and external applications.

2) Real Time Policy / Configuration Management: A PSIM software platform must be able to define and change policies and parameters related to various connected devices in the underlying subsystems (such as access control, video, etc.).

3) Correlation and Verification: A PSIM software platform must be able to automatically connect and cross-reference multiple events from multiple disparate security systems in real-time and give the ability to flexibly set rules.

4) Visualisation: A PSIM software platform must be able to visualise the actual situation independently from active events. In case of an event, the PSIM platform must be able to graphically display situational information in a manner that provides responders with a picture of the nature of the event, the location and the scope of the threat it presents. It must be able to integrate real world information as a geo-spatial representation.

5) A Rules-based Workflow for Response: A PSIM software platform must be able to immediately offer a step-by-step action plan, based on pre-determined rules and policies, to respond, manage/counter the threat and control response operations. The rules based workflow should be sufficiently complex as to adapt to escalating situations.

6) Availability / Resilience: A PSIM software platform must have capability for redundant functionality (e.g. servers, communication gateways and databases) to support continuity of business and disaster recovery. This includes the ability to integrate backup systems to automate transfer of control room capabilities. It must be able to watch and monitor the functionality and integrity of the underlying subsystems and detect possible threats on the network.

7) Post-Event Reporting and Analysis: A PSIM software platform must provide an audit log that allows for post-event forensic review detailing the event situation and the action taken. It must be capable of developing customised reports that allow for analysis of multiple events in order to optimise policies and response.

IMS's Wong notes that products such as VMS and ACS software, which meet some, but not all, of the criteria above, are not considered to be PSIM for the purposes of the report. So, while IMS projects the PSIM market will be worth $200 million by 2014, "the combined global market for VMS and ACS will exceed $1 billion by 2014 ... It is important to note that IMS Research has measured the market in terms of PSIM software license revenue; if services, maintenance, design and consulting revenues were added, it is conceivable that the market for PSIM software would exceed $1 billiion by 2014."

IMS Research said: "The foundation of the [PSIM] definition should be credited to Steven Titch and Sharon J. Watson of SecuritySquared magazine."

Here's a link to the press release.

Industry loses longtime training advocate

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I just learned that one of the leading advocates of education in the security industry has passed away.

Paul Baran, 58—who was actively involved with the Electronic Security Association’s Education Committee for 16 years and was the committee’s longtime co-chairman—died suddenly Nov. 23 at his home, according to a posting today on ESA’s web site.

ESA announced Baran’s loss with “profound sadness.”

Charles “Dom” D'Ascoli, president of ESA, said in a statement, “Paul’s work on the Education Committee impacted the association and industry on many levels. Under Paul’s chairmanship, ESA adopted new National Training School (NTS) guidelines and expanded course offerings to include topics like CCTV, residential integration and business skills courses.”

On a personal note, D’Ascoli continued, “He was also a great guy that cared about his work, his friends and his family. Personally, Paul exemplified one of the many reasons why I am a member of ESA – he was always willing to help fellow members on technical issues and give guidance to those of us who, at some time in our careers, needed it.  He will be greatly missed by me and his many ESA friends.”

Baran, a security consultant who was married with three sons and was a lifelong resident of Bensalem, Pa., also was chairman of the education committees of both the Pennsylvania Burglar & Fire Alarm Association and the New Jersey Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, the ESA site said.

In 2006, the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, as ESA was then known, presented Baran with a Sara E. Jackson Award.

D’Ascoli said Baran won the award “because of his outstanding contributions as a committee chairperson.”

Baran began teaching in 1987 and since then was actively involved in many ESA committees, and held various subcommittee chair seats on the fire section and membership committees.

In 2009, Baran did an interview with SSN TV News at the Electronic Security Expo (ESX) in Baltimore, explaining what NTS is and the training options it offers.

The industry has lost a passionate education advocate.













Are you ready for some football? Creative dealer incentives and tailgating--with pics.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I wrote a story recently about a neat initiative in the mid-Atlantic that aimed to help dealers improve their business, network, and have a little fun besides.

Dealers organized and competed against each other in areas such as adding on services, increasing RMR, and broadening industry knowledge through continuing education. Winners of the competition were feted at a pretty massive and awesome sounding tailgate at Baltimore's Baltimore M&T Bank Stadium for the Baltimore/Miami game on Nov. 7. They even got a visit from the Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders. Kinda makes me wish I was an AlarmWATCH dealer down in Baltimore rather than a journalist up in Maine (Though I understand the Newspaper Guild is considering brining on a cheer squad...) Oh well.

The Protect-A-Thon was the brainchild of AlarmWATCH's Guy Kline and was brought to fruition by event partners Interlogix and AlarMarx.

It sounded like everyone really had a good time.

In follow up to that story, AlarmWATCH forwarded on some pics and a link to some video of the tailgate and game the winners got to go to.

Below, please check out pics and video of the First Annual Protect-A-Thon. Dealers interested in checking out AlarmWATCH and maybe getting in on the second annual event can visit AlarmWATCH's dealer page.

Incidenteally, Baltimore defeated Miami 26-10.

Here's a pic of Protect-A-Thon engineer Guy and AlarMax's Steve Heier.AlarmWATCH's Guy Kline and AlarMax's Steve Heier

And this is a pretty intense pic of Interlogix's Jim Porter.Interlogix's Jim Porter

This is a picture of the overall winners of the Protect-A-Thon.

Protect-A-Thon winners

Here's a pic of the gameday action between the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Miami Dolphins

More news from Mace

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'll have a more detailed report later, but here are some highlights of the news, which has been plentiful, coming out of Horsham, Pa., home of Mace Security International.

First, Mace has settled its legal disputes with former CEO Louis Paolino. Here's the filing on that. It's agreed to pay him $4.6 million, $2.3 million of which was paid on Nov. 1. The remaining $2.3 million will be paid Dec. 31, 2010. The filing says that to ensure the second payment, Mace gave Paulino "collateral ... in the form of a first mortgage lein on one of the Company's Texas car washes and a security interest in the Company's [Mace] personal defense spray business.

It also released its Q3 financial results, where it realized a 9 percent growth in revenues ($373,000) in Q3, which ended Sept. 30, compared to Q2. Gross profits increased by about 16 percent ($200,000) for the same period.

Also, Mace continues to shed its non-security businesses, with the Nov. 11 agreement to sell its Linkstar subsidiary, a business which Andrew Shapiro of Lawndale Capital, called back in September, an "absolutely horrible and overpaid for acquisition. If you have been following Mace for long, you may recall that Linkstar was acquired against our wishes right in the middle of our proxy fight to remove Paolino directors. The acquisition of Linkstar was a Paolino deal and rubber stamped by his board, not the current team. It has been a horrible distraction for the new management team."




Thanksgiving time for sharing--and safety

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

With the holiday approaching, I thought I’d share a couple of industry-related Thanksgiving news items that crossed my desk.

One is about the generosity of California-based Bay Alarm. Thanks to the efforts of company employees, more than 500 low-income families will be guaranteed a Thanksgiving feast.

The company said its employees have held fundraisers ranging from car washes to auctions this year “to continue their time-honored tradition of serving turkeys to families facing financial hardship.” The initiative was started by Bay Alarm’s Oakland branch office in 1998, and corporate headquarters matches the proceeds, the company said.

The money will enable employees this week to distribute over 500 turkeys and dozens of hams to families through a variety of nonprofit organizations that feed needy families and the homeless throughout the year.

On another note, the National Fire Protection Association has some safety advice as we cook our holiday turkeys and all the trimmings.

According to the NFPA’s education division, “Thanksgiving is the leading day of the year for home fires involving kitchen equipment.”

The NFPA urges families to keep kids out of the kitchen and away from the stove, hot liquids and foods. Also, check on your turkey and food on the stovetop frequently during cooking, and test your smoke alarms to make sure they’re working by pushing the test button.

Have a generous and safe holiday!


What's happening at the associations?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Got my recent issue of CSAA's Signals, and boy was it chuck-full of news I could use. First, I see CSAA's brought on a replacement for Celia Besore by hiring Monique Silverio as the new director of marketing and communications. Avid readers of my blog (you know who you are, proud millions) will remember Celia left the CSAA in August and moved to a different industry. You'll also recall Celia was the first industry person I spoke with on the recommendation of my predecessor, Leischen Stelter.

Monique comes from a writing/editorial background (in trade papers, no less), so she's all right in my book. She also worked in the security equipment industry, serving as the director of communications for SIA from 1993-1994.

CSAA EVP Steve Doyle praised Monique in her hiring notice. "With her broad background in marketing and communications, non-profit and technical experience, Monique is a very welcome addition to the CSAA staff and family," Doyle said in Signals. "Communicating our message and marketing our programs is key for any association, and Monique's background is a great fit for CSAA."

I left a message for Monique (the first of MANY to come, I'm sure) to see how she was settling in. I'm certain I'll come to rely on Monique just as I relied on Celia for leads, info, connections and knowledge.

I actually just heard back from Monique. I like someone who returns calls promptly. This bodes well. She said she was settling in nicely and that the holidays were the right time to come aboard.

"It's only been a couple weeks now. We're working on some new webinars and we're wrapping up things for the year. It's a good time of the year to come on board because It's pretty quiet," Monique told me. "We're just ending a fantastic Fall Operations Management Seminar that had record attendance, so that's exciting. I just want to keep going and try and build on that success for next year get my feet wet and get to know the players."

Welcome, Monique!

Also from the current signals: ESX is all set for Charlotte, N.C. (I did not vote for Charlotte, but what're you going to do? I have it on authority from some native Charlotte-ians that there are plenty of really good restaurants there, so that's nice...) I've submitted my name for moderating a panel at this year's event, so keep your eyes open for more info on that.

For more information about ESX 2011, visit For more information on ESX exhibiting and sponsorship opportunities, contact Shannon Murphy at 508-618-4224 or

Signals also reported that this past year's CSAA Fall Operations Seminar in Anaheim, Calif. (hosted by Mace CSSS) had the largest attendance yet. I attended the Fall Ops Seminar in 2009 in Peabody, Mass., just a couple months after I started here at SSN. Signals has a nice contributed piece by State Farm Insurance superintendent of Central Station Monitoring Services Joe Miskulin. I've covered Joe's activities with CSAA before.

I found the sense of camaraderie at the 2009 seminar was palpable. Great news that attendance was up. Here's a place for those in the monitoring biz to learn from their peers and get in some valuable networking time.

Finally, CSAA's recent edition of Signals reports that the next Annual Meeting will be held in Venice, Italy at the Molino Stucky Hilton... This past year's meeting was in Marana, Ariz., reportedly at the behest of CSAA members who felt the usual exotic locales (1999=Maui, Hawaii; 2000=Monte Carlo; 2002=Cancun, Mexico; 2003=Lana’i, Hawaii, etc., etc...) were too opulent during a down economy... I guess things are looking up! Maybe I'll finally be able to go to this one... We'll see.

Service vans deliver community service

Friday, November 19, 2010

I’ve learned in my time writing about the industry that many security companies help the public in ways that range from teaching kids what to do if there’s a fire to raising funds for earthquake victims in Haiti.

Here’s another example of company helping out, with a bit of a different twist: Vector Security is using its service vans as roving billboards to provide a community service.

The Pittsburgh-based company made a commitment in July to sponsor Project Home Again, which aims to help return missing and kidnapped children to their parents through a public awareness effort. The campaign involves displaying posters of the children on service vehicles used by participating companies. Vector put the posters on its fleet of nearly 300 service vans and uniformed guard and patrol vehicles in the Mid-Atlantic States, and Ohio, Florida and California, the company said.

Now, just four months later, the company announced this week, six children whose posters were displayed on Vector Security vans have been recovered. 

During the first week of November, two Ohio children pictured on Vector vehicles were returned home safely, the company said.

Next, a Florida girl and Pennsylvania girl and two California siblings whose photos had been on company vans were recovered, according to the company.

Pamela Petrow, president and CEO of Vector, said the news illustrates the value of the project, which was championed by John Murphy, the company’s former leader, who passed away in October. “John stressed that Vector’s support of Project Home Again tied directly into his core corporate values,” Petrow said in a statement. She added, “John would be overjoyed by the news that one of his favorite public advocacy programs has worked so well to help preserve the lives and hopefully the futures of these children.”

Jennifer Holloway, president of the Dallas-based Holloway Security Consulting, summed up Vector’s program nicely in a recent Twitter comment: “Awesome use of service trucks,” she wrote. “We should all be thankful for companies who look for ways to help their communities.”

Get happy with National Electrical Code app

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Installers, picture this: You’re on the job and the fire marshal or building inspector says the system must do such and such because the National Electrical Code says so. You disagree. No one has a copy of the code on hand, but you have your trusty smartphone.

You whip it out and use the new smartphone app, NEC Changes, which highlights the changes between the 2008 NEC and the recently released 2011 NEC. You find the answer—and the argument ends.

That’s the sort of situation in which the NEC app, whose launching the National Fire Protection Association just announced today, could be very useful, according to Peter Ebersold, director of marketing, Notifier by Honeywell. The app contains more than 500 updates and modifications, all provided free of charge, according to the NFPA.

Ebersold said having the app on a smartphone on the job can save a trip to the office and changes in installation. Any problem, he said in an email communication, can be settled in “real time and the system is signed off sooner. Everyone is happy.”

Want to get happy? The NFPA says you can download the NEC Changes app free of charge, by visiting from your smartphone.