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Photos from ASG Grand Opening

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Here are some photos, from my iPhone, of the Sept. 16 grand opening of ASG Security's expanded corporate headquarters. For more details, see my Sept. 16 posting. It was a very nice event, with a fun band, and lots of food. Sorry, there's no photo of the actual ribbon cutting. It started to rain just as the ceremony was beginning. ASG CEO Joe Nuccio, Bob Ryan, Ralph Masino and others braved the rain to thank employees and partners and cut the ribbon. I stayed under the tent.

Below, ASG CEO Joe Nuccio,left, and Joe Sausa, president of Honeywell's First Alert Professional's Program


Below, from COPS Monitoring, Don Madden, left, Kat Tallman, (who runs a section of COPS that is dedicated to ASG's accounts across the country) and ASG's Glenn Seabury.


Below, ASG's Bill Rose, left, and Bob Ryan



Former Washington Redskins player and current NFL analyst Brian Mitchell, left, and ASG's Brian Seaburg.


Below, right, Eric Pritchard. head of the security practice at Kleinbard Bell & Brecker

Below, ASG's customers, employees and partners gathered under a big white tent to celebrate.




Below, ASG's Ralph Masino, left, and Johnathan Clark



Below, Tim Brooks of PSA Security



American Alarm gets state deal

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wells Sampson had some good news to announce this week: American Alarm & Communications, of which Wells is president, won a re-upping of its contract with the Commonweath of Massachusetts as an "approved provider of video surveillance, access control, intrusioin protection, alarm monitoring and related security systems."

This means that American Alarm can offer preferred pricing under the state's purchasing contract to any public entity in Massachusetts, including municipalities, schools, housing authorities and public colleges and some non-profit groups.

This designation is something American Alarm has had for a while, and the company counts a number of public sector entities among its customers, including: all branches of the Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles, the Mass. Medical Examiner's Office in Boston, the State FireFighting Academy in Stow, Western Mass. Hospital in Westfield, and public school districts around Greater Boston.

"Our track record of strong service was one of the reasons the Commonwealth expressed confidence in our company and approved our program for another three years," Sampson said in a statement.

Contract woes in the Sonitrol Security lawsuit

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I wrote a story back in late August about a lawsuit filed against Sonitrol Security by Core-Mark Midcontinent and it's insurers. The long and short of it was that Sonitrol lost and was judged to have been negligent. ADT, which owned Sonitrol Security back when the loss happened refused to comment since it "does not comment on ongoing litigation."

Here's some of what I wrote back then:

DENVER—Jurors here deliberated over the accumulated facts in an appeal case at the Colorado Court of Appeals and decided in favor of the co-plaintiffs in a nearly decade-long legal battle against Sonitrol Corp. The lawsuit stems from a 2001 fire in which a warehouse owned by co-plaintiff Core-Mark Midcontinent was broken into and burned. The original decision in the lawsuit was that Sonitrol Corp., because of the exculpatory clauses in its contract was only liable for $500 in damages. That decision was appealed, and the result of that appeal, announced on Aug. 18, is that the three co-plaintiffs—insurers Commonwealth Insurance and United States Fire Insurance, and the insured, food distributor Core-Mark Midcontinent—are now owed a total of $18.3 million. Pre-judgment interest of 8 percent per year in Colorado could add millions to that number, according to Cozen O'Connor, attorney for the insurance companies.

The real question now is who will be left footing that rather hefty bill?

Ken Kirschenbaum recently took a brief look at some of the language in the Sonitrol contracts and I thought it was interesting.

Here's some of what Ken had to say:

Where was the waiver of subrogation clause?  This is perhaps the most potent provision in the alarm contract because, as in this case, most cases against alarm companies are brought by insurance companies [incredibly some of the same insurance companies who write alarm errors and omission insurance].  A waiver of subrogation clause will put a stop to the case, but of course the defense attorneys need to raise the clause as a defense.  I could not imagine that the Sonitrol contract didn't have a waiver of subrogation.  Well guess what?  The contract is so poorly written that its hard to tell.  The contract has this provision:

    "Client hereby waives his right of recovery against Dealer for any loss covered by insurance on the premises or its contents to the extent permitted by any policy or by law."

    What the heck does that mean?  Does it sound like "Subscriber hereby waives any right of subrogation any insurance carrier may have against alarm company?"

    How hard was that to say?

Legalese is all Greek to me, but I thought it was interesting anyway. I assumed there must have been something wrong with the contracts that usually protect alarm companies from such cases as these.

By the way, Ken sells contracts for alarm companies... Check him out.

Fontana's ordinance violated due process. Municipality settles with industry. Trend-setting?

Monday, September 20, 2010

So the news isn't actually all that newsy... The judgment that the city of Fontana, Calif.'s 2008 ordinance was at least in part  unconstitutional was reached by the San Bernardino Superior Court in March 2010. Both sides in this ongoing battle (Fontana and the Inland Empire Alarm Association) appealed that ruling, initially.

However, a settlement has now been reached, according to published reports. (The San Bernardino Sun), and SSN wants to bring you the inside scoop on what this settlement means for the industry.

In a sign that the legal proceedings of the last two years may have taken their toll on everyone and convinced them that working together is much better than litigating at one another, the parties released a joint press release on Sept. 6.

Here's some of that release:

City of Fontana and Alarm Industry Reach Agreement on Alarm Management

Settlement Preserves Both Public Funds and Verified Police Response to Electronic Security Systems

FONTANA, Calif. – Sept. 6, 2010— The City of Fontana and the alarm industry, through the Inland Empire Alarm Association (IEAA), have reached an agreement to resolve their dispute over the City of Fontana’s 2008 alarm ordinance.  The agreement ends on-going litigation and allows both sides to move forward cooperatively to serve and protect the residents and business of Fontana.

The 2008 ordinance provided that the Fontana Police Department would not respond to burglar alarm notification calls from alarm companies unless there was some audio, video, or eyewitness verification that an actual break-in was about to or had occurred. If alarm companies inappropriately notified police of an alarm call without such verification, a fine was imposed on the alarm company. Some of the key provisions of the 2008 ordinance were found to be unconstitutional by the San Bernardino Superior Court in March 2010, while the Court affirmed the validity of other portions.  Both sides had appealed that ruling.

In the spirit of compromise, the parties mutually and amicably agreed to dismiss their appeals and instead agree on terms of a new alarm ordinance to replace the disputed 2008 ordinance.  The new alarm ordinance maintains verified response to burglar alarms while eliminating the provisions of the 2008 ordinance that the alarm industry contended were unlawful. It envisions a continuing cooperative relationship between the Police Department and the alarm companies to adjust the verification requirement for burglar alarms as alarm technology improves so alarm companies can continue to serve their customers and police can continue to improve their level of service to the people of Fontana.  IEAA has agreed that the terms of the settlement adequately satisfy Fontana’s obligations under the Superior Court’s March decision to forgo any refund of the fine money collected by the City of Fontana under the ordinance.

President of IEAA, Morgan Hertel says electronic security companies will also work with law enforcement on appropriate alarm response to reduce false alarms and to help conserve limited police resources.

So it sounds like both sides are giving a little and everyone's allowed to walk away with a little dignity. I actualy began writing a story about this turn of events last week, when I picked up the story in the San Bernardino Sun. That story should move on our wire soon, once our legal sources have a chance to look at the larger legal ramifications for the security industry.

Even though the two sides have come to an agreement and are working together, there have been compromises.

The new alarm ordinance maintains the verified response requirement, which the Fontana Police Department believes reduces incidents of false dispatch of police. It continues to provide for fines against alarm companies for requesting police dispatch without first verifying an actual emergency exists and will also impose fines on alarm companies for misrepresenting that verification took place.

I've been blogging a lot about verification lately. I think it's going to continue to be a pretty heavy topic going forward.

CAA past president and law enforcement liaison for SIAC Jon Sargent said other state alarm associations may begin combing through their ordinances. “It’s a pretty remarkable thing to have in writing that the ordinance here was unconstitutional and violated due process,” Sargent said. “I would think this is going to shake up everything.”

Sargent also said that the actual amount of money the city has spent on the legal battle with the Inland Empire Alarm Association is actually much more than this most recent settlement. “We’ve been through two lawsuits with them. We started back in August of 2007. That was after they put a very restrictive verified response police in place. So far they’ve had to pay more than $357,000 in lawyers’ fees to the association. That doesn’t include their own legal expenses. The first lawsuit in 2008, they paid over $184,000. And now there’s the $173,000,” Sargent said

Stay tuned to SSN for continuing coverage of this story, including interviews with representatives from SIAC, the IEAA and attorneys from Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, the law firm that's been working with the industry in this matter.

Party at ASG!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Just arrived in Beltsville, Md. for the grand opening of ASG’s new headquarters.

They’re in the same location they’ve been in for years, they’ve just expanded, a lot though…about two and a half times.

In the past several years ASG has acquired several companies in this area and they’ve decided to bring them all under one roof with the corporate operations. They acquired Accutech, Tenn Security and Netversant.

“All told that’s about 75-80 new employees,” Bob Ryan told me. “There are about 130 people working in this building now.”

Bringing disparate businesses together is difficult to “integrate well with core operations unless you’re under one roof,” he said.

Expanding this building and bringing everyone together, “lowered our costs, there’s better employee synergy and morale,” he said.

There’s a big tent outside. I’ve seen some guests from the industry, Joe Sausa and Tony Martin from Honeywell, Mark Melendes from PrivateBank, and I hear that there will be some sports notables from these parts…someone from the Orioles and someone from the Redskins.

I’m also looking forward to talking to one of ASG’s blue chip customers, NIH, who will be here today.

“It’s the first time since we’ve been in business that we’ve taken the time to recognize our own accomplishments and our employees,” Ryan said.

This a big milestone and we didn’t want it to pass without saying thank you, without looking in the mirror and saying ‘we’re doing pretty good.’”

Party’s starting now, more later

Bay Alarm pays $1.7m. cash for office

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Saw this story about Bay Alarm, the California super-regional which is owned by the Westphal family. Bay Alarm is helping out the real estate market in LA and expanding and upgrading its operations at the same time.

It’s from the Glendale News Press yesterday and it’s about Bay Alarm paying $1.72m cash for a new building in Glendale, which, according to a quote in the story from Graham Westphal, co-president of the Bay Area-based company, will be used as a “service, sales and installation hub for most of downtown L.A. and all of the valley.”

Here’s a photo of the front of the building (with a particular emphasis on the parking space in front) which appeared in the news report. It also appears that the building is currently protected by ADT–I think that’s an ADT sign out front–I’m guessing that will change.

TN gnp-0913-alarm-1.jpg

I haven’t called Matt Westphal, the other co-president of Bay Alarm yet, because it’s early in California and while Matt is always eager to talk to me about CAA business (California Alarm Association, of which he is president) he usually declines comment on his own business. He’ll confirm that I haven’t given up hope, though. I always call or email him in case he changes his mind.

In case Matt’s still mum, as I suspect he may be, here are some other highlights from the story:

The current regional center is located in Van Nuys and will be moved to this new spot. Bay Alarm liked the location of the building. From the story:

“Glendale is a business-friendly community with proximity to the freeway east, south, north and west,” Westphal said. “We like the neighborhood.”

About 40 employees will work out of the new office, which will also serve as regional training center.

The realtors involved say the deal was sealed shortly after the property was listed because it was a cash deal.

Bay Alarm has 100,000 customers in California, and they consider themselves “the largest independently owned burglar alarm company in the country.”

NFPA launches new fire show in December

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I saw today that the NFPA is launching a new fire show in December in Orlando. It appears that they’re looking at it as a good way to get folks together for training.

I’ve got a call into Kim Fontes at NFPA to find out if there’s a show floor, and who from the fire installation community they think would most benefit from the show.

From the release:

slated for December 13-17, 2010 in Orlando with three days of educational sessions and two days of post-conference seminars. During the three-day conference, there will be over 50 intensive educational sessions presented by NFPA staff experts and committee members on the latest fire and life safety code related topics in four tracks – Building and Life Safety, Detection and Alarm, Suppression, and Codes and Standards.

Post-conference seminars will be offered for Fire Protection Concepts and Analysis for Property Loss Prevention, Sprinkler Hydraulics, Code Requirements for Maintaining Fire and Life Safety Systems, and Explosion Prevention and Protection.

“This conference is a new and exciting concept for NFPA. It is a great way for us to combine some of the most sought after code topics in a single week,” said Kim Fontes, NFPA’s division director, product development. “It will provide participants an opportunity to hear directly from NFPA staff experts and committee members who work directly with the codes and standards.” Attendees will be able to receive CEUs toward their professional certifications.

Verified alarms discussion--A voice of caution

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

scratch I was going through my email this morning and came across my email newsletter from Ken Kirschenbaum. Today’s edition follows the theme of enhanced call verification and verification, in general. I found this edition particularly interesting because of a missive from Bart Didden over at U.S.A. Central Station Alarm Corp.

I’ve blogged about some of what Bart’s had to say in Ken’s forum before. Today Bart’s talking about verified alarms, in general and about Videofied, specifically. I’ve written a lot about both. The thrust of Bart’s address is that it’s perhaps self-defeating to market video (or audio, I assume) verified intrusion detection systems as eliciting a higher priority response from police than a normal intrusion detection system.

Here’s Bart’s entry on verified alarms:


I am happy as anyone else for the success of Videofied and yes we monitor that platform in our office. But I am concerned about the message that your e-mail distributes and the unintended consequence for the 30 million systems that have been installed and are in service in which the vast majority is doing what they were designed to do, detect the actions of an unknown person or persons.

My direct issue with the message and content is that I believe that Mr. Jentoft is saying that those 30 million systems are sub-standard or in Lee Jones (another way left of center self proclaimed industry professional who pontificates) words, frauds.

While I believe that we should embrace new technology, we can not place ourselves in such a position that we devalue the more traditional technology that was just installed. We should not allow a new class of customer to be created to receive a higher level of response service from municipal authorities as a sales tool when a properly designed and installed system without video is just if not more effective for the purpose at hand, detection.

Members of the industry and your list SHOULD NOT endorse or perpetuate this marketing scheme all at the detriment of the system they installed yesterday or last year that was not a Videofied system.

Bart’s letter is in response to an earlier posting from Keith:


This just came out in the magazine of the National Sheriffs Assn. I don’t think that law enforcement has ever endorsed an alarm product before, at least not officially.

I thought it might interest you,

In any case, I enjoy your morning reports.

Thank you for your support.

I see Bart’s point. And I see Keith’s point. The problem, though, is that the police generally ARE, in fact giving higher priority to an alarm that’s verified. Not just by Videofied, though. Most of the law enforcement officials to whom I’ve spoken on the topic admit that they’re in the business of apprehending criminals, so if an alarm signal comes in that assures there’s suspicious activity complete with a perp onsite, then the alarm is not just an alarm, it becomes a crime in progress, and police will respond with higher priority.

Bart is certainly not the only industry exec I’ve spoken with who questions the wisdom of marketing a verified system as better than a traditional system. When I was down in Dallas putting my recent market trends piece on verified alarms together, Mitch Clarke over at Monitronics, Ty Davis, formerly with Southwest Dispatch, and Stefan Rayner, Grant Graham and David Steinbrunner with NMC all expressed concern about devaluing the traditional intrusion system. I understand where they’re all coming from. I feel like this is a debate we’ve seen before and will see a lot of in the future.

The problem, though is that it’s not about Videofied or Sonitrol vs. traditional intrusion detection, it’s about a verified crime in progress vs. something may or may not be going on… If I can tell a police officer that I just saw someone break a window at the neighbor’s house and climb through, said officer is going to react more quickly and with higher priority than if a motion detector went off and we have no idea what set it off.

Mike Jagger over at Provident Security sends his security officers to every alarm he gets at his central station. That’s how Provident verifies its alarms.

I’ve also discussed police response to alarms before. The truth is that police are not required to respond to alarms. It’s a courtesy they pay to a private business. Their job is not to bring value to what a security company sells, it’s to uphold the law, apprehend bad guys and deter lawbreaking in the future.

I’m curious to hear what you, my readers, think? Is there a way to promote the benefits of a verified system without devaluing a non-verified, traditional system? Should all systems incorporate some kind of verification? Chime in and let me know your thoughts.

Will UTC go on fire and security company buying spree?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

AP reported last week that United Technologies Corp. CEO Louis Chenevert said, at an investment analysts conference, that UTC is interested in adding to its fire and security portfolio.

Earlier this year, of course, UTC completed the acquisition of GE Security, which it folded into its UTC Fire and Security division, and in 2008 it had a rocky courtship of Diebold.

At an investor analyst conference, Chenevert said he sees “room for a couple of plays” in United Technologies’ fire and security business. The business has been growing steadily, posting an operating profit of $168 million in the second quarter, triple the $55 million earned in the prior-year quarter.

United Technologies completed a $1.82 billion purchase of General Electric Co.’s fire detection and electronic security business in March.

In October 2008, United Technologies dropped its unsolicited $2.6 billion bid to buy ATM manufacturer Diebold Inc., which it intended to add to its fire and security business. Diebold thwarted UTC by refusing to discuss the offer and it delayed its financial information.

Wonder what company Chenevert’s thinking about?

UTC officials, not surprisingly, are not expounding on Chenevert’s comments. I called UTC spokesman John Moran, who told me “we don’t comment on prospective transactions.”

Telcos, GSM and POTS! Oh my!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What scary things will the future bring to security?

What scary things will the future bring to security?

It seems like all I’ve been blogging about lately are the scary goings-on in the worlds of the Telcos, GSM and POTS (hence my sort of out there titular reference to the scary things (”Lions, Tigers and Bears! Oh my!”) Dorothy (in my sorta wacky metaphor, that’s you, faithful security industry readers) may or may not encounter on her way down the yellow brick road to Oz (that’s the unknown immediate future on the way to the sunny, eventual happily-ever-after that we all somehow believe in (perhaps naively)).

I wrote most recently about a lengthy GSM sunset discussion going on over at the Alarm Monitoring Group at Linked in. Before that I was speculating about Verizon. Just today, I received a comment on my colleague Martha’s recent telco-centered story on the latest telco partnerships.

The email was an unabridged version of a comment from Reliance Alarm Co.’s Lou Arellano, III. Lou, not surprisingly had a beef with SSN’s 500 character limit on story comments. Firstly, thanks Lou for sticking it out and getting your comments through via email. We appreciate your readership and attention.

Here’s what Lou had to say:

Telcos have been drooling over alarm service RMR for all of my 30 years in the business.

In the late 1980s (The “Old”) AT&T marketed a wireless system that it subsequently abandoned in the early 90’s. AT&T handed off the remainder of the 11-year statutory required repair support to a California company and left the market place altogether.

Bell of PA/Bell Atlantic entered the market in the ’80’s with an alarm transport system called REACT, which was designed to be UL compliant using a polling terminal at the head end and a Subscriber Terminal Unit (”STU”) at the subscriber premises. The signal was superimposed on a POTS line in similar manner to the current DSL, although the polls and data were audible bursts. The supervision shifted to a subaudible tone when the subscriber’s phone was off-hook. Had REACT been sufficiently reliable it might well have succeeded, but it only served to demonstrate and bring into sunshine the fact that the PSTN, even back then, was hardly up 24/7 although IMO was a lot more reliable than it is today. Unfortunately REACT itself, apart from the normal PSTN, had its own unique set of problems resulting more frequent and annoying outages than the problematic and costly copper leased lines it was supposed to replace. It created a lot of service calls and constant worry for us. (Déjà vu). REACT was phased out after a relatively short life cycle, partly due to the advent of cellular solutions.

Fortunately, these entries were focused on the manufacturing and transport modes, leaving the difficult and labor-intensive system design, sales, installation, monitoring and repair service to us.

There is little reason to think they will forget these lessons unless they can fully automate the central station process and make the system so reliable and so easy to deploy that a dedicated army of technicians and support people won’t be necessary; or the profits justify an extensive infrastructure, as observed with cellular phone service.

They should also be concerned about their existing transport revenues being yanked out or lost through attrition by angry alarm companies shifting to suppliers and technology that are not their direct competitors. (For example, I refuse to buy fuel oil from a fuel company that now sells alarms.)

Perhaps someone from the central station business will share their perspective with us?

An interesting contribution to the discussion, Lou. The thing to remember, and I feel you address this well, is that just because they’ve tried and failed before does not mean they will fail again. Telcos have changed and grown vis-a-vis power, influence and financing. The next try at security may very well see a telco “make the system so reliable and so easy to deploy that a dedicated army of technicians and support people won’t be necessary.” One never knows.

So how about it, central station readers? Do any of you have a perspective on all this you’d care to share?