Making all the Right Moves

Building Up To The Next Level of Security...An On-Going Series

A Liability Issue
Recent landmark lawsuits are bringing the subject of line-cut into broad public awareness. Now, those people who made terms such as "errors and omissions" and "slip and fall" so popular threaten to usher in the era of "line-cut fever." No doubt, the telephone line which connects the premises alarm to the central station is recognized as perhaps the Achilles heel of alarm systems. It's an issue not everyone wants to bring up.
It is easy to understand the dilemma. There is no "feel-good" answer when it comes to line cut vulnerability. Broaching the subject inevitably means a higher cost to the customer. Discussing it may also jeopardize the sale and the client's confidence in you. Therefore, many dealers avoid the topic or do not present the facts to their clients objectively or clearly.
In the well publicized lawsuits, the alarm system users convince juries that the alarm dealer had not adequately advised them of the potential for their phone lines to be cut, nor what the consequences could be. In these cases the courts judge against the alarm dealers, and award large sums to the victims. So, if you are the kind of dealer who doesn't mention the issue of line cut to your potential clients because you want to get a fast closing, and do not want to confuse your customer, you had better rethink your philosophy.
If you're a dealer who does bring up the subject to a customer, perhaps you should start indemnifying yourself in writing. The best option is to present the alternatives to each of your prospects as well as existing accounts and document that they understand the consequences in writing.
Here are some interesting facts obtained from a survey conducted by Skyview, commissioned by the Wireless Interest Group of The Security Industry Association (SIA):

  • In Minneapolis, a central station's incoming phone cables were attacked before a jewelry heist.
  • The same thing happened repeatedly in New York City.
  • Over the past few years, the main telephone lines into a well known alarm company have been cut several times, causing alarm service disruptions for thousands of customers in New York and Connecticut.
  • 39.9% of line-cut offenses happened to residences.
  • Violence occurred in 57% of the residential events, and 4% of the nonresidence events.
  • Although the number of crimes reported is "down," crime is more targeted, and criminals are more dangerous. o Commercial line-cut burglaries average over $31K per event.

The report concludes: "Failure to offer secure signaling becomes a liability when there is a threat to life. The minimalist approach is no longer good advice. A changed paradigm now holds in the public sphere. Advertising for cellular phones emphasizes the security aspects of wireless communications because the public expects reliability. Going forward, it is time for dealers to notify old and new clients about the possibility of losing their signal path. Circumstances have changed in the criminal world and in the legal arena. The point is not whether customers will choose to buy based on this information. The point is that there is sufficient evidence available to the general public, proving that dealers should know and tell about the threat of line-cut. To not tell customers about this risk invites depreciation of the industry and of dealer equity."

Tim O'Leary is an independent security consultant, with a background in the design, sale, manufacture and installation of access control and other equipment