Back in October of last year, in this same Friday column, I wrote about the advancement of what I referred to as "municipal monitoring". What I was referring to was not the practice of a city monitoring its own camera system or fire alarms at city buildings, but something more serious to our industry. The monitoring proposal from cities was that they would require all fire alarm signals come into the city directly for monitoring, and that fire alarm system owners would have to convert or add technology to their systems to support this. In addition, they would have to pay the city to monitor their systems (often at a higher rate than industry practice). In that column, I proposed that there were six key reasons that municipal fire alarm monitoring didn't make sense. I'll restate them here:
- Commercial fire system owners would lose choice of who they do business with
- Commercial fire system owners would lose choice of technology
- Some fire systems owners would have to buy equipment to become compatible with the proposed system
- The town is making a concerted effort to take revenues away from private industry
- Commercial fire monitoring and fire alarm system service are typically offered together, but the city only wants to take care of the monitoring business
- It's likely that system owners would be looking at an increase in price, when comparing city monitoring vs. currently available commercial monitoring rates
Now, it seems that one of the cities that was interested in municipal fire alarm monitoring is backing away from the idea. The town of Elk Grove Village, Ill., was very close to adopting an ordinance requiring such a practice, but public outcry led the city to drop the ordinance. But this is an issue that will be determined city-by-city, so the suppression (to borrow some fire terminology) of this kind of ordinance in one city doesn't indicate that the concept is losing steam around the state or the nation. The industry needs to stay vigilant. Read your local weekly newspaper reports about council discussion topics to make sure your own city isn't prepared to move in a direction that would negatively impact your business.