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9-11 first responder: Mass notification 'might have made a difference that day'

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Friday, May 4, 2012

I just got back from an emergency management seminar in Burlington, Mass. sponsored by Notifier by Honeywell. The May 3 event opened with remarks from Thomas Von Essen, who was New York City’s fire commissioner at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, about the importance of mass notification/emergency communication systems.

Von Essen spoke for only about 10 minutes, but hearing from someone so involved in the experiences of that terrible day about how mass notification/ECS might have changed the outcome in some way really made his message hit home for me.

Von Essen said that after the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993—when a truck bomb exploded below the North Tower—the emergency plan “was to keep everyone in one building if something happened to the other one.”

On Sept. 11, 2001, that plan proved fatal for some occupants of the South Tower, which was hit after the North Tower. Von Essen said that because of the plan—and the erroneous belief the South Tower was the safer place to be, even though it ended up collapsing first—when occupants of that tower reached the lobby, emergency responders sent them back up.

“Many people followed instructions. Those people were lost that day,” he said.

After 9-11, Von Essen said, “I saw a presentation on mass notification and emergency communication systems [which allow for a variety of real-time response plans based on a range of different emergency events], and I thought, ‘Wow, this is what might have made a difference that day.’”

The seminar was sixth of a series of eight such seminars being offered around the country, Peter Ebersold, Notifier’s director of marketing, told me. “It’s really an opportunity to get out and educate,” he said. The remaining two seminars are later this month, one in Walnut Creek, Calif. and one in Redmond, Wash.

The seminars, which are being taught by Jack Poole, a fire protection engineer and member of the NFPA 72 Technical Committee and which offer CPD credits, are drawing everyone from fire dealers to engineers to end users.

I got the chance to speak to some fire dealers attending.

Among those I met was Ara Beurekjian, president, Fire Command Systems of Peabody, Mass., which started in 2010 and has four employees.

One interesting project that his company is currently working on is a new Residence Inn by Marriott at Fenway Park in Boston, home of the Red Sox. He said that project involves the installation of a new Notifier smoke/CO detector with a sounder. The fact that the new product was available “was one of the factors that allowed us to provide a solution for them,” Beurekjian told me.

He said the advantages include the fact that it’s a single device, it’s fully intelligent and involves less wiring, so is easier to install and less costly for the end user.

I also spoke to Jim Yantosca Sr., founder of Northeast Integrated Systems of Malden, Mass., and his son, Jim Yantosca Jr. The company will have been in business 30 years this August and has between 15 to 22 employees.
Among the company’s clients are high rises and higher education campuses in Boston and the surrounding area.

They said mass notification is becoming an increasingly robust market in the area, and that a mass notification system can readily be added to an existing fire alarm system, even if it’s two decades old or so. Northeast made such upgrades at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass. and at Northeastern University in Boston, Jim Yantosca Jr. told me. “We had them up to a situation where they could use mass notification within days.”

I also talked to Jack Welch of Wel-Design Alarm Systems of Wilbraham, Mass., a company founded by his father in 1978 that now has about 18 employees. The company, whose biggest verticals are education, prisons and hospitals, also opened an office in Rhode Island last year, he said.

He said one trend he’s noticed in fire right now is that a lot of public projects that were put on hold during the recession now suddenly have the green light. “The public sector in the fire world” is where there’s a lot of business right now, Welch said.

Habitec cuts police dispatches 20 percent with ECV

Ohio-based company says customers embracing two-call verification
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05/04/2012

TOLEDO, Ohio—One month after implementing two-call verification for incoming alarms, Habitec Security reported a 20 percent decrease in false police dispatches and is on track to cut the rate even further, according to company President John Smythe.

Security Networks ups credit facility by $100 million

Super-regional looking at 38 percent CAGR, again
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05/02/2012

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—Security Networks, a super-regional based here, announced April 30 that it has extended its credit facility by $100 million, bringing the total to $250 million.

Guard/security installation company acquires guard-tracking technology

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Yesterday Universal Protection, a $500 million guard company that also does security installation, acquired Heritage Security Services of San Diego. It also acquired a guard-tracking technology its CEO says is "game changing."

The deal brings 1,200 guards, but more interesting, it also brings with it a “proprietary and patented guard-tracking technology.” This is what really drew Universal into the deal, Steve Jones, co-CEO and COO of Universal Services of America, the parent company of Universal Protection, told me today.

He said that Heritage spent $6 million over the past five years developing this technology. Jones said Universal plans to introduce this technology in all of its locations

“Basically each officer carries a device and we can … put a geofence around the account. So we can tell where the guards are. [We know] if they go outside the fence, if they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, if they haven’t completed a task they’re supposed to do,” Jones explained. “We can take a customer account and show the customer point-by-point, minute-by-minute, where an officer was,” he said.

“And we get an alert if the officer fails to do something.”
 Jones said Universal will use the technology across its footprint “as a differentiator” initially, but there has been discussion of possibly “licensing it to guard companies who are in markets we are not in.”

The acquisition of Heritage makes Universal the dominant player in San Diego, LA and Orange County, he said. “From a Southern California standpoint, Universal has a commanding marketshare.”

In March, I wrote a story about Universal Protection in which Jones told me that Universal wants to have security installation capabilities (which are currently concentrated in California and the Carolinas) in every market where it has guards.

The company acquired SFI, and integration business last fall.   Jones said the company plans to complete another acquisition, which may include a security integration component, by the end of the summer.

“Stay tuned,” he said.

New partnership links alarm industry, police, insurers

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What may have seemed like a pipe dream to many a few years ago—getting the alarm industry, the law enforcement community and the insurance industry on the same page—is now reality with the Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response.

The new public/private partnership brings together all of the stakeholders in property crime to reduce losses and increase arrests through the use of video intrusion alarms. Among the participants are the National Sheriffs Association and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, with Don Young of Protection 1 and Steve Walker of Stanley Convergent Security Solutions representing the alarm industry on the PPVAR board.

"We are beginning to have credible data with encouraging results of arrest rates hundreds of times what is found with traditional alarms," said Keith Jentoft, coordinator for the partnership and president of RSI Video Technologies. "We have been working with many alarm companies, law enforcement and PSAPs, as well as insurers who ultimately pay the bill for property crime. This partnership will help gather real-world examples of what is working best for all the stakeholders."

Jentoft said large third-party monitoring companies have also gotten on board, including CMS, UCC and Rapid Response. On the law enforcement side, the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department—the second-largest police organization in the country—has joined and has designated a representative.

"If you ask people, nobody has ever heard of an organization that has brought together all of the stakeholders, so we're pretty excited about it," Jentoft said.

I'll have more soon on the partnership in the online and print editions of SSN.

Fatal fire shows need for sprinklers in new homes

NFPA challenges claim by building industry that smoke alarms are enough
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05/02/2012

AUBURN, N.Y.—A fatal fire in a new home here tragically underscores the falsity of a claim by home fire sprinkler opponents that the devices are not needed in new construction, according to Maria Figueroa, regional director of the NFPA’s Fire Prevention Field Office.

Georgia integrator helps IP and cellular fire alarm communicator get OK for government building use

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05/02/2012

SUWANEE, Ga.—Brian Sheely, president of Innovative Life Safety Solutions, a Georgia-based integrator, was instrumental in getting Honeywell’s IP and cellular fire alarm communicator evaluated and found compliant with Government Services Administration security policies.

New combined fire/CO detector is ‘what the industry needs’

A N.Y. fire company predicts the cost-effective solution will appeal to building owners in light of new CO laws
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05/02/2012

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— A new combined fire/carbon monoxide detector recently introduced by Gamewell-FCI has already netted Syracuse Time & Alarm several jobs because the product saves money and has high functionality, according to Mark Simpson, sales manager of the systems integrator, which is based here and whose business is about 60 percent fire.

Hile named CEO of IFSS

Hile aims to quadruple independent integration firm, expand managed services, PSIM capabilities.
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05/02/2012

FORT MYERS, Fla.— Robert Hile, an industry veteran who most recently led the security division of Siemens Building Technology group, has been named CEO of Integrated Fire and Security Solutions, an independent integrator based here.

Court decision favors ADT—and other alarm companies

Industry attorney: It's 'a good decision for the alarm industry’
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05/02/2012

PASADENA, Calif.—ADT came out a winner in a recent court decision here, and the finding also is good news for others in the alarm industry, according to industry attorney Ken Kirschenbaum.

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