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San Francisco company to upgrade fire system at landmark

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12/21/2012

SAN FRANCISCO—The Marin County Civic Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a marvel of modern architecture with an old and outdated fire alarm system. Now, however, U.S. Electric Technologies, based here, has been awarded a contract of up to $2 million to upgrade the system.

Schools need to be armed … with mass notification!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shock. Grief. Outrage. Those are some of the feelings we’ve all experienced in the aftermath of the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Now I’d like to add “frustration” to the list.

That’s an emotion expressed by some fire installers who say they’re frustrated that school officials don’t realize how valuable an emergency communications system/mass notification system can be in situation like the one at Sandy Hook, where a young man gained entrance to the school and shot the students and staff. Adding a mass notification component to a fire system, particularly if the system already has speakers, typically is a pretty simple job. Yet many school officials are unaware such an important option exists, fire installers say.

Among those expressing frustration is Carter Rierson, president of Best Defense Security & Fire Protection, based in Waunakee, Wis. Here’s his very articulate summary of the situation:
 

Over the summer we installed several school fire alarm systems along with dozens of card readers and cameras for schools.  No schools, however, installed an emergency communications system here in Wisconsin.

Emergency Communications Systems … are the best tool to minimize the impact of what we saw last week.  Rather than luckily having heroically push an intercom to alert the building, ECS systems are designed to do EXACTLY that.  The industry as a whole is just beginning to learn about these systems. Unfortunately, the school administrators, and the engineers who design fire alarm systems for them, have no idea what these systems are, how they work, and how they should be implemented in buildings such as this.

Much has been written about the “first responders”, the police officers, EMT’s, etc. In reality they were NOT the first responders. The first responders were the heroic teachers and staff members who ALWAYS respond first in a case like this. Unlike the other “first responders” who are fully equipped, very little has been done to equip the true first responders for a situation like this. ECS is the first step as it decreases the amount of time required to notify the staff and students, compartmentalizes the buildings, and automates the dispatch of the “first responders”.

The word needs to get out.

 

I’ll be talking more to Carter and other fire companies about what the industry can do to make sure the word does get out about ECS/MNS! Stay posted.

 

Stepping up school security after Newtown

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The outrage and debate in the wake of the Newtown massacre will inevitably bring change. It might not involve the federal action that many have demanded—a ban on assault weapons tops the list—but it is certain to include local initiatives that strengthen school security: improved access control, additional guard services, expanded video surveillance or a combination of the three.

Unfortunately, school shootings are a problem that security alone can’t address, involving complex issues that go well beyond simply installing metal detectors or better entry controls. A determined, well-armed assailant will still be able to kill despite the best intentions of public officials—that was proven in Newtown. Progress can be made to limit the scope of such tragedies, but to think we can eliminate them is naïve.

That being said, and with the horror of the Connecticut shootings still painfully fresh, it might come as a surprise to learn that the number of school homicides in the United States has dropped since the early 1990s. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were two years during that decade—1992 and 1997—when the school homicide toll among students ages 5-18 rose to 34. By 2010, that number had fallen to 17. The decline hasn’t been constant and one slain student is one too many, but it’s a decline nonetheless.

For many schools, the tipping point for action was the Columbine High massacre in 1999, which led to the widespread adoption of lockdown procedures and other safety protocols. That sense of urgency has faded, however, according to school security consultant Kenneth Trump, who told The Washington Post this week that “the conversation and the training that we have today [are] not at the same level of consistency and intensity.”

Physical security assets at the nation’s schools also have lagged. Michael Dorn, executive director of the nonprofit group Safe Havens International, told the Post that fewer than 10 percent of U.S. schools have strong access control with locked entryways, buzzers, protective glass and camera or intercom systems. That’s likely to change after Newtown, he said, as school districts feel pressure to upgrade security.

“There’s a shift from concern to panic, if you will, and you have parents doing something to improve safety,” Dorn said.

That presents an opportunity for security companies not only to benefit financially—the unspoken result whenever such tragedies occur—but also to strengthen the protection of children across the nation. Regardless of what happens at the federal level, local school districts are sure to come knocking.

A life saved—thanks to a monitored fire alarm

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It can be hard for fire installers to convince homeowners they need a monitored fire alarm instead of the inexpensive DIY smoke and fire detectors sold at hardware stores. But those detectors won’t be heard by a person away from home at work or on vacation—or if they’re in situations they never imagined. A Missouri woman got in such a situation recently—and a monitored fire alarm at her home saved her life, according to a story from the West Newsmagazine Network.

According to that publication’s Nov. 29 story, an 82-year-old Cottleville, Mo. woman who uses a wheelchair fell out of the chair while she was cooking and lay helpless on the floor, unable to get back up or reach her phone.

“The stove was on high and eventually burned what was in the pan. Smoke filled the home and activated the monitored alarm system. The alarm company alerted 911, who in turn called the fire department,” the story said.

“Without having the alarm system, we would have likely been dealing with a fatal fire,” said Capt. Scott Bumeter [of the Cottleville Fire Protection District], the story said.

The story added: “Fire departments do not actively promote monitored alarm systems in residential dwellings. However this incident serves as an example of the importance of a secondary means of communication and/or alerting for disabled residents, officials said.”

Maybe it’s time for fire departments to rethink their policy.

New voices join alliance for video-verified alarms

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response has added four new voices to its campaign to increase arrests and reduce property losses through the use of video-verified alarms.

Joining the PPVAR’s board of directors are Jacqueline Grimm, vice president of security solutions for Diebold Inc.; Douglas Curtiss, president of Sonitrol New England; Jon Bolen, chief technology officer for Interface Security Systems; and Robert Baxter, president of Radius Security.

The new directors from the security industry will work with representatives from the National Sheriffs Association and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, an alliance of groups that would have seemed unlikely a few years ago.  

“We’re pleased to join PPVAR to promote priority response to video alarms that are verified by a certified central station,” Grimm said in a prepared statement from the partnership. “[Diebold has] offered alarm verification services for many years, and our focus on priority response, apprehension and risk reduction provides comprehensive threat protection. Also, by assisting law enforcement with a second-by-second situation analysis, we can help improve officer and customer safety while increasing criminal apprehension rates.”

Bolen, who was the chief product officer for Westec before it was recently acquired by Interface, is a 15-year veteran of video verification. He cited its benefits by breaking down the numbers.

“We have reduced and maintained our dispatch rate to less than 3 percent of events handled by our operators, meaning that over 97 percent of the alarms we receive are resolved without the costly, and often needless, intervention of authorities,” he said in the PPVAR statement. “We are pleased to join an organization promoting this kind of value.”

Curtiss of Sonitrol, which has a history working with police to make arrests through audio verification, echoed Bolen’s sentiments.

“Whether it is audio or video, the operator is a witness to a crime in progress,” he said. “From my perspective, the ‘V’ in PPVAR is ‘verification.’ We support his organization and its work to reduce false alarms and make more arrests.”

Canada gets a nod in the PPVAR with the addition of Baxter. He is president of Radius Security, a Greater Vancouver video monitoring central station.

“Alarm response in many cities in Canada has been degrading as budgets and police resources decline,” he said. “Video-verified alarms help us provide greater security for our customers and reduce false alarms for our law enforcement partners.”

Innovations make Time & Alarm stand out

Integrator succeeds with marketing strategies ‘other companies don’t think about’
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12/10/2012

MIRA LOMA, Calif.—Time & Alarm Systems is one of Gamewell-FCI’s top distributors, and company CEO and President Keith Senn points to some innovative marketing initiatives as an important factor in the company’s success.

Pivot3 expands services to integrators

Following profitable year, storage provider restructures sales, offers IT consultations
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12/07/2012

AUSTIN, Texas—As it moves into its 10th year in business, serverless storage provider Pivot3 has restructured its sales force and added new services for integrators.

Fidelity Alarm upgrades fire system at major transit facility

Silent Knight system chosen for large maintenance complex owned by transportation authority in Pennsylvania
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12/07/2012

PHILADELPHIA—Ease of use was one reason why a new Silent Knight by Honeywell fire alarm system was chosen to upgrade a huge facility owned by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), one of the nation’s largest transportation hubs, according to the company that handled the project.

Vivint rapidly automating Canadian homes

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Vivint signaled it was one of the nation’s home automation market leaders nearly two years ago when it changed its name from APX Alarm to Vivint, rebranding to reflect its expansion beyond home security into home automation services. The company has done so well that it has entered into a deal to be sold to the Blackstone group for more than $2 billion.

Now the Provo, Utah-based summer model company seems to be turning its focus to Canada. A recent press release from the company says that country “ranks among Vivint’s fastest growing markets.”

Here’s more from the news release:

"More than two out of three (68 percent) of Vivint’s Canadian customers in 2012 adopted one or more home automation features after purchasing a Vivint home security system. That was up from 57.6 percent compared to the previous year. Vivint’s home automation features include live video feeds of a home from a smartphone or computer, app-controlled door locks, thermostats, lighting features, alarms, motion detectors, and a variety of sensors."

It appears that Canadians are really eager for home automation services.

 

Are you getting all you can out of your dispatchers?

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Picture the perfect world for a monitoring manager: Every dispatcher takes every call efficiently and professionally, with no need for motivation beyond a paycheck and the satisfaction of a job well done. There are no prizes, awards, back-patting or cajoling, saving you time, money and maybe even a bit of your hairline.

If your central station has a work force that rises to that level, congratulations. Chances are, though, that no matter how many self-motivators you have, you also have employees who are content to just do their time—punch in, punch out, repeat. Maybe the work they’re doing can be considered satisfactory, but that’s not going to cut it in an industry that is getting more competitive by the day.

So how do you get those staffers to take it up a notch to help themselves and your company? To answer that question, the CSAA has recruited Amy Becht and Michelle Lindus, central station managers for Vivint, to share their expertise in a Dec. 12 webinar titled “Measuring Performance for Excellence.”

The session will focus on what the CSAA calls “the nuanced art and science” of measuring and improving staff performance. That includes assessing objective and subjective customer call metrics, promoting professionalism among dispatchers, and implementing incentives. Becht and Lindus will highlight some of the best practices employed by Vivint, which was named 2012 Central Station of the Year by the CSAA.

Becht, honored as the CSAA’s Manager of the Year, oversees monitoring at Vivint’s central station in St. Paul, Minn. She talked about home security in SSN’s “How I Use My System” feature in the September 2012 issue. Lindus is manager of Vivint’s central station in Provo, Utah.

The webinar will run from 1 to 2 p.m. EST and is free for CSAA members. Click here to register or go to www.csaaintl.org.

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