Sitting in the industry affairs committee meeting of the Electronic Security Association yesterday, this question was raised: Why are our members not paying more attention to real government legislation issues? The information certainly is out there. ESA does a great job spreading it via its own lists and trade publications like this one let you know as well. So in the end it’s up to you to realize that the information coming out of ESA’s government affairs efforts impact your business, that these are things that can affect your licensing, your ability to sell monitored accounts – basically, they affect the future of your business. So with that in mind, here’s what our industry is facing according to John Chwat, the government relations manager for ESA.
1. Auto-contract renewal. There were over a dozen bills in 2011 state legislative sessions that would put caps on automatic renewal of contracts. The most common format is that it would require a 30-day notice period, and that your customers would actually have consent to a renewal – basically it means you have to tell your customers their contract is ending (not a big deal there, I suppose), but it would mean that they couldn’t just let their contract continue. They’d actually have to fill out the contract again or affirm it online or by phone or whatever means proscribed to continue your service. That matters because our industry today relies on our customers being able to just count on the fact that they have alarm monitoring service, and that helps you keep your customers. The other challenge is that if someone ignores the paperwork and doesn’t renew, you would be forced to turn off their service, and that may surprise them in an unfortunate time when they absolutely need your monitored security service.
2. New licensing in states. Not all states have specific licensing requirements for our industry professionals. There have been major efforts in states like Vermont, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Arizona to implement licensing where there has not been licensing in the past.
3. Electricians’ licensing. There are efforts from electrical contractors, electrical unions and electricians to automatically grant electricians licenses to install and service security systems. The problem is the automatic nature of this proposal. Electricians probably know everything there is to know about 200-amp service drops, 12-2 Romex and high voltage, but it’s unfair and dangerous to assume that they know security. The industry is fighting to keep electrical licensing separate from security licensing so that only real, trained security pros are the ones recommending and installing security and life safety systems.
4. Recognition of certification. The ESA has the National Training School, and it’s good to know that many states recognize NTS training for their licensing. But more states could recognize that as well, and that’s been an effort for the ESA.
5. Mandated suppression. There are moves afoot to mandate fire sprinkler style suppression in homes and facilities where it was previously not required. The National Fire Sprinkler Association is campaigning for this, but it’s being fought notably by home building industry groups like the NHBA.
6. Tax credits for suppression but not detection. There’s a move afoot at states and at federal levels to get tax credits for installing sprinklers in buildings and homes, but the ESA wants the legislators to understand that “suppression + detection = fire protection.” The tax credits need to be available for both fire detection installations and the fire sprinkler installs.
7. Disaster area access. If there’s been a disaster or terrorist incident and you need to get your staff into the area for whatever reason (monitoring, work on commercial security systems, etc.), there’s no formal process for getting security industry pros allowed into those areas. ESA is on the Department of Homeland Security Emergency Services Sector Coordinating Council to establish credentials for security industry professionals so your employees can have access to the emergency areas. Some headway has been made in Mississippi and Louisiana, but the effort is needed nationally and probably has to be endorsed at a state level.