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This Blog's on Fire (And Other Stuff)

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The Nov. 14 deadline passed almost two weeks ago for bars and nightclubs to install sprinkler systems, but according to this front page story in the Boston Globe only 22 Boston establishments have installed sprinklers. The Globe reports that a total of 283 bars and nightclubs needed to install sprinklers to comply with the 2004 Massachusetts Fire Safety Act, 22 have installed sprinklers, while 109 got waivers and 85 waited until the last minute to get extensions. The law was passed shortly after the 2003 Station Nightclub fire in Rhode Island.

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Monday, November 19, 2007
Speaking to a crowd of 800+ at the opening session of the Nov. 7-11 Honeywell First Alert Professionals conference in Scottdale, Ariz., Honeywell Security and Custom Electronics president Ron Rothman shows exceedingly good taste in his choice of newspapers. Rothman was talking about Yvonne Hao's first one-on-one-interview in her new role as head of ADI North America, which appeared on the cover of our November issue.

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Friday, November 16, 2007
Just back late last night from Underwriters Laboratories in Chicago where I got to don a blue hard hat and red protective glasses Wednesday for a tour of UL’s fire testing and research area, the facility is called “Building 11.” I was in Chicago for UL's Nov. 14-15 Smoke Characterization Seminar, (see the January issue of Security Systems News for more on the seminar) along with about 110 others—a handful of trade reporters, a bunch of fire service people, AHJs, engineers, manufacturers, academics and government types. The U.L. facility is cool. (It cost $15 m. to build in 1996.) It has four testing areas including a huge room--like the size of a high school gymnasium--where they do massive burn tests. The ceiling in this room weighs 200 tons and can be lowered to six feet high and raised up to 48 feet high. That makes it easier to clean up the mess from one test and set up the next. Tom Chapin, U.L.'s director of North American Fire and Security, said they can do major tests here every other day. They’ve torched 15,000 gallons of jet fuel and 3,000 pounds of toilet paper rolls. “You name it, we’ve probably burned it in the last 10 years,” Chapin said. Last year, they built a one-story house (with a $1m. U.S.F.A. grant) and burned it and rebuilt it 21 times. “We burned it down, then built in again and added sprinklers and burned it down again.” The burns are done for testing reasons and for research. Clients—like manufacturers or insurance companies—come here so that an independent third-party can determine how certain products and/or system designs will perform in a fire. The burn projects cost between $10K and $250K, depending on the scale and scope of the project. We got to see small-scale burn in one of the smaller testing areas, where they set up an enclosed room to look like an office, and started a fire in a trash can. A cross-section of the room was illuminated by a line of turquoise lights, and you could see the swirling smoke patterns-(reminded me of the psychodelic art at the Whitney Museum's "Summer of Love" exhibit in NYC last winter) which dissipated once ventilation was introduced.
by: Tess Nacelewicz - Monday, November 12, 2007
ASG has been busy, busy, busy. It followed up the Oct. 26 recap (search for "ASG recapitalizes" in www.securitysystemsnews for details) with today's announcement of the acquistion of Matrix Security. ASG CEO Joe Nuccio, who was on his way to Securing New Ground (in Manhattan, Nov. 14-15), said the deal“brings some very, very talented employees into the ASG family; we’re looking forward to growing and developing in those markets,” he said. Matrix has 33,000 accounts and $1 million in RMR, bringing ASG’s total to $3.8 million in RMR and to roughly 108,000 customers. This buy moves ASG into new contiguous geographic areas—the Carolinas and Northern New Jersey. Matrix has 12 branch offices, five in North Carolina, two in Virginia, two in New Jersey, and one office in the states of Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. “Our customers and employees have always been extremely important to us. I am really pleased that they are joining an elite company like ASG where there will be even greater opportunities for them in the future,”said Ira Riklis, CEO of Matrix Security Group, in a statement. Barnes Associates helped negotiate the deal. Financing was provided by Parthenon Capital.

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Monday, November 12, 2007
I’m back in Maine after attending Honeywell’s First Alert Professionals' conference, Nov. 8-11, which drew a crowd of 850 to the Westin Kierland Resort in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona--about 100 execs from Honeywell Security, and representatives from 170 First Alert companies. The mix of companies, from the tiny to the huge, included those who've been in business for a while—Mel Mahlerof ADS, John Bourque of HB Alarm, Guardian Protection’s Russ Cersosimo (and his enthusiastic group of at least 50), among many others—to newer companies. I had the chance to meet in person two of the younger security industry “movers and shakers” featured in our “20 under 40” special section this summer—Shandon Harbor, president of SDA Security of San Diego; and Brett Bean, president of FE Moran of Champaign, Ill. Both Bean and Harbor were recognized during the event for their company's respective marketing efforts. The theme of the event was a question: ‘Are you ready?’ OK, ready for what? (one company wore t-shirts that said they were ready to stop receiving emails and postcards asking if they were ready) Ready, explained Honeywell Security and Custom Electronics' president Ron Rothman during the Nov. 9 opening session, for the communications revolution that's going on. He was referring to the "perfect storm" underway: the demise of the POTS line; the AMPs sunset; the new generation of (Gen X and Y) consumers; the availability of new technology; and, new Internet-era entrants into the security business (the Icontrols and Ucontrols, for example, in the world--who may be underestimating the complexity of the security market, according to Honeywell execs, but who may provide a distraction in the meantime.) If you’re ready, opportunities abound, Rothman and others said, but if you’re not, and you’re still doing things the same old way, you may be out of business or losing money soon. "This (change in technology) will happen once in a lifetime" he said, where dealers have an opportunity to future-proof their accounts by "using multi-path, end-to-end solutions." One of the new products/services that Honeywell is offering its dealers is called Total Connect which allows a customer, business or residential, to control an alarm system via email, web browser or cell phone. During an educational session, called "Profitting From the Changing Landscape of Communications" Honeywell’s vice president of AlarmNet Gordon Hope packed the room as he explained how to position security systems to the next generation of buyers, those who are looking for a bells and whistles and who don't ever worry (unlike previous generations) how reliable a product is. "The challenge we have," Hope said, "is to embrace the fact that the world is changing and to learn the strategies to succeed ... the value of your business will be based on how well you navigate this landmine of communication challenges." John Jennings, chief executive officer of Safeguard Security had another standing-room-only conference room for his educational session called "100% GSM," where he talked about his rationale for installing GSM in all residential systems. Talking about the changing communications landscape, he asked the audience how many had an IT professsional on staff. "If you don't have one, start interviewing," he said.

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Friday, October 19, 2007
Underwriters Lab is holding a seminar Nov. 14-15 to talk about findings from its UL-Fire Protection Research Foundation Smoke Characterization Project. What's smoke characterization you ask? Well, UL along with some manufacturing partners--GE among them--conducted a research study on fire and smoke and "in particular, the particles and gases that make up smoke," according to UL's press release. In some ways, this seminar seems aimed at fire marshals, fire chiefs and other pubic officials, however, there looks to be plenty of interest for those of you who make and install fire systems. For example: UL's findings on the responsiveness of different kinds of smoke alarms; current issues related to smoke alarm operations; engineering trends in smoke alarm designs and fire detection technology and what's going on with codes related to this equipment. UL's got an impressive line-up of speakers from NIST, NFPA, Centers for Disease Control, the University of Maryland, and UL itself. The seminar ($199) will take place at the Westin Hotel ($169 per night for seminar attendees) in Lombard,Ill.(a half an hour from O'Hare). The program also includes a tour on Wednesday of UL and a fire and smoke demo.