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Sandy Springs considers fining dealers for false alarms

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The new Sandy Springs, Ga. alarm ordinance, which is set to be voted on July 18, is alarming many in the security industry as it looks to force alarm dealers to pay their subscriber's false alarm fees and fines.

“This makes as much sense as a car rental company being responsible for paying your speeding tickets if you get caught speeding in their car,” Dan Gordon, president of the Georgia Electronic Life Safety and Security Association (GELSSA), and owner of Ga.-based Gordon Security, told Security System News.

Gordon, as well as many security companies working in Georgia, including LOUD Security and Ackerman Security, are rallying others in the industry to pay attention to what is going on in Sandy Springs.

“If Sandy Springs passes this, which city goes next?” John Loud, president of LOUD Security Systems, told SSN, noting that he does not think this ordinance will help Sandy Springs reduce false dispatches.

“They outsource the collections to a firm called CryWolf (Public Safety Corporation),” Loud explained. “Their service includes collecting the assessed fines. The cost to Sandy Springs is the same, whether the bill goes to the end users of the alarm system or the alarm company. But the alarm company’s costs will increase. They will now have to bill their customers and establish a collection process, increasing the workload for their personnel.”

Loud and others in opposition to the ordinance believe this will actually cause an increase in the amount of false dispatches.

“Citizens will usually respond to citations from their local police or city municipality,” he explained. “If a vendor or service provider sends an assessment, they could very easily change monitoring companies and get additional false alarms through new providers. They can choose to never pay and continually change companies.”

He noted that this would result in more false dispatches as the end user would never be forced to change their behavior.

Loud also pointed out that the court systems of Sandy Springs will have a lot more cases. ”Either the alarm companies will be filing suit to collect monies from customers refusing to pay or the city will be pursuing alarm companies for nonpayment of fines they do not have the money to pay.”

He continued, “You will likely see many alarm companies choosing to not do business with residents/businesses that must comply with this ordinance. In Sandy Springs, most alarm companies charge only $25 per month. While false alarm fees can cost hundreds of dollars, the accounts receivable process will likely make it financially impossible for fire/alarm companies to take on such risk.”

He said that Sandy Springs could achieve greater reduction in the false dispatches if they would enforce all of their current ordinance provisions, such as:

- Follow the Enhanced Call Verification Georgia State law that went into effect in 2013. “The 911 operator could very easily ask for the two phone numbers the alarm company called prior to dispatch request,” said Loud.

- Do not allow dispatch on the subscribers that have not paid for previous fines—put them on a do not dispatch list.

- Do not allow dispatch for subscribers that have had 10 false alarms in a permit year.

- Activate the false alarm school the ordinance allows for, which will provide the training and prevention of future false alarms.

“Another step Sandy Springs could pursue is a higher fee structure for excessive false alarms,” said Loud. “This would force subscribers to either fix their system, teach others to use it properly or they could choose to stop arming their system. All three of the options result in reduced dispatches.”

He continued, “While I certainly see there are many ways to help unite with the City of Sandy Springs and help them achieve their ultimate goal of reducing false dispatches and wasting government recourses, I do not believe requiring the alarm companies to pay the fees is the answer.”

The GELSSA, along with strong industry voices like Loud's, are urging those in the industry to reach out to the mayor of Sandy Springs to voice their concerns, and for security dealers in the Sandy Springs area to attend the planned vote on July 18.

GELSSA helps kill low-voltage contractor bill

Legislation that would have dramatically expanded the number of contractors eligible to install security and life safety systems has been dropped
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04/15/2014

ATLANTA—The governor’s office in Georgia put the brakes on a bill that would have made more than 9,000 additional contractors eligible to perform low-voltage installations. The bill, which passed the state Senate in February, was blocked before reaching the Georgia House for a vote.

Low-voltage contractor bill passes Georgia Senate

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I reported last week on a bill in Georgia that would expand the number of Georgia contractors licensed to perform low-voltage installations. Yesterday, that piece of legislation (S.B. 294) passed the Georgia Senate by a vote of 53-0. Three senators were not on the floor during the vote.

John Loud, immediate past president of the Georgia Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association, and an opponent of the bill, admitted the outcome in the Senate was disconcerting. But he believes the legislative battle is far from over; he and GELSSA members are now developing a strategy to put the brakes on the bill in the House. “There are seven steps through the House for us to put various stops or blocks to this,” Loud said. “We knew it had been fast-tracked through the Senate, so my original plan was to skip the Senate and get ready for the battle in the House.”

If passed, the bill would permit those licensed as an Electrical Contractor Class II—a high-voltage installation certification—to perform low-voltage contracting, which encompasses fire and security systems, without obtaining the statewide low-voltage license that’s currently required.

Loud says the bill could bring an influx of new contractors into the life safety systems space, and could undo much of the progress GELSSA has made over the past year in promoting legislation that reduces false dispatches. He anticipates that the bill will now be parsed by the Regulated Industries Subcommittee in the Georgia House.

There are two possible compromises that GELSSA would find agreeable, Loud said. One would be to give the additional contractors who would be eligible to install life safety systems a Low-Voltage General (LVG) license rather than a Low-Voltage Unrestricted (LVU). A general license would allow contractors to pull wires but not install, for example, access control or fire safety systems.

The other outcome would be implementing a CEU program and background check that would ensure contractors are qualified to install low-voltage life safety systems.

Loud believes the bill could have implications that extend beyond the borders of Georgia. “It’s vital to get all the folks in Georgia to listen up and understand the impact of this,” he said. “As we all know, what happens in Georgia or Michigan or Pennsylvania can easily be replicated in other states.”

Enhanced call verification now law in Georgia

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

“It’s a good day in Georgia.”

That was the reaction from John Loud, president of the Georgia Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association, after Gov. Nathan Deal signed enhanced call verification into law on May 6. GELSSA, with an assist from the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, had been pushing for ECV for years and finally saw it brought to fruition with House Bill 59.

It wasn’t an easy process. As HB 687, the initiative made it through the Georgia House last year and through state Senate committees, but the legislative session ended before the bill could be brought to a vote on the Senate floor, Loud said. Then, HB 59 had to overcome resistance from those questioning the need for ECV.

“Some of the legislators were asking us, ‘Well, if it’s so great, why don’t you guys do it on your own? Why do you have to make it a law?” Loud said.

The explanation comes down to competition, with some alarm companies in pockets of Georgia using ECV—or lack thereof—to their advantage while ignoring the problem of false dispatches.

“They tell customers, ‘We only have to make one call [for police dispatch],’ so people would go against alarm companies that are doing ECV—‘You don’t want to monitor with them, they have to make two calls,’” Loud said. “And now this kind of equalizes it across the board. It’s right for the industry, it’s right for municipalities and it’s certainly right from the taxpayers’ standpoint.”

Law enforcement worked closely with GELSSA on the initiative, with the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police endorsing ECV. Loud said there were a few initial concerns from the state Fire Marshal’s Office, “but once they understood that this is not about fire, they came on board and supported us right away.” ECV will not be required in the case of a fire alarm, panic alarm or robbery-in-progress alarm, according to the statute.

Loud said success also hinged on “getting the right folks to adopt and carry the bill forward for us.” The legislation was sponsored by state Republican Reps. Tom Taylor, Kevin Cooke and Lynne Riley.

SIAC Director Ron Walters said Georgia is the fifth state to legislate ECV, joining Delaware, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida. The law goes into effect on July 1.
 

AT&T to enter Atlanta security market

The telecom is not yet revealing details of its products and services, but it will reportedly open its own monitoring station
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12/07/2011

KENNESAW, Ga.—The news that AT&T is creating a new Atlanta-based division to offer customers home security and home automation—and that it reportedly will open its own monitoring station—carries some positive implications for local alarm companies, said John Loud, owner of Loud Security Systems, which is based here.

Changes underway at GELSSA

The Georgia security association has new director, new initiatives
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06/21/2011

KENNESAW, Ga.—The Georgia Electronic Life Safety and Security Association (GELSSA) saw its membership decline by 60 percent in the last five years, according to John Loud, the group’s president since January.