Diebold's entry to fire business

For over 150 years, Diebold has been in business of security, starting with Carl Diebold, a locksmith and safe builder. Over the years, the company diversified beyond safes, and in their modern incarnation, the company is best known in our industry for providing ATMs, bank security services and security monitoring. But despite the fact that many of Diebold's security competitors over the years had expanded into fire alarm systems, service and monitoring, Diebold remained focused on its security business. That changed this summer as Diebold announced its foray into the fire services and monitoring business.

According to Mike Dowling, the director of Diebold's Fire Detection Solutions & Services unit, the ability to provide fire detection systems was "sorely lacking" from their offerings, and something that Diebold's end users often asked for. To some extent, said Dowling, the senior executives had avoided jumping into fire detection because of liability issues. But with requests coming in from their end users and a new CEO at the helm who was on board with an expansion of services, the company made a switch.

The firm purchased Virginia-based fire services firm NCI and also made a purchase of fire services firm Delta Systems. With those acquisitions, Diebold worked to do a test of rolling out fire services to their offices around the nation. In 2008, they started with a pilot project in the Pittsburgh area.

The key was to train their existing technicians on fire systems. According to Dowling, the challenge was not the technology, but understanding the regulations that come with providing fire detection services. One of the things that Dowling and Diebold's Director of Security Solutions Larry Black said that the company had to face was increasing the level of documentation that their technicians provided on installs. They also had to conduct intensive NFPA standards training with their team members, and worked with the Automatic Fire Alarm Association to develop training modules.

Having successfully demonstrated that Diebold could do fire detection in the Pittsburgh area, they rolled out the training and expertise to all branch offices. The implementation was a team approach, linking Dowling's fire operations with Black's security operations. The two said they saw the approach as needing to be complementary as they trained their branches.

Today the firm, which officially announced its commitment to fire detection earlier this summer, has already landed a strong list of clients, primarily in the retail and banking market sectors. Banks like Fulton Bank (a top 50 bank based in Pennsylvania), Metro Bank (also in Pennsylvania), and Main Street Bank (West Virginia) have already tapped Diebold for fire detection solutions.

While much of the business for Diebold was to add on fire detection projects from existing security services customers, Black said that the expansion into fire did prove to be complementary, and that providing fire detection services has actually helped the security group land new accounts.

According to Black, the fire detection growth for Diebold has typically come from providing system services and inspection, and then adding on fire alarm monitoring provided by Diebold's CSAA Five Diamond-certified monitoring centers. By training all Diebold branches, the firm has been able to offer the services nationally, even ini New York's boroughs, which are historically a location that many fire detection firms avoid due to laborious regulations.