Lombard, Ill. may implement municipal monitoring program

According to documents obtained by the Illinois Electronic Security Association under the Freedom of Information Act, officials in the Village of Lombard, Ill. could soon be moving forward with plans to implement a new municipal monitoring program.

"It is my recommendation to move forward with our objectives as they relate to the installation and operation of the Lombard Radio Alarm Network as soon as possible," wrote Lombard Fire Marshal Chuck Riforgiate in a memo sent earlier this month to Jerry Howell, the village's assistant fire chief.

The memo also contained the results of a radio alarm network questionnaire conducted by the village that targeted members of the Lombard Chamber of Commerce. According to the survey, 80 percent of respondents were in favor of the fire department managing the monitoring of their fire alarm systems.

IESA Executive Director Kevin Lehan contends that such a policy would actually hurt end-users in the area. Despite the results of questionnaire, which also found that local business owners paid an average monthly monitoring fee of $105.80, Lehan said they could end up paying more under the village's monitoring plans.

"The impact on the business community is that we believe their prices are going to go up. That number is skewed upward because they're taking the old direct connect copper technology where you have to add in the AT&T phone line or the phone carrier's phone line, as well as the other communications and that's going to add up," Lehan explained. "Whereas the private alarm industry offers a wireless mesh radio network. There are several networks that cover the Lombard area right now for at least half, and in some cases a third of that $105 price."

Lehan noted, however, that he doesn't know what price point Lombard intends to use. In other municipalities where similar policies have been implemented, Lehan said he's seen monitoring rates as high as $125 per month.
In addition, Lehan said that under this policy, many alarm owners would have to replace their existing alarm technology to have their systems connected to DU-COMM, the local public safety answers point (PSAP), creating an additional expense for businesses. According to the aforementioned survey, 82 percent of respondents indicated that they own their fire alarm equipment.

"That means under this plan they're going to force 82 percent of those business owners to purchase overpriced, aged equipment," said Lehan, who indicated that the current proposal would require them to install alarm communication devices from Keltron.

Requiring all fire alarm signals to be sent to DU-COMM also creates potential redundancy issues, according to Lehan
"If they're going to have every single fire alarm system coming into a single radio antenna, then a single lighting strike disables the entire community as far as commercial fire accounts, whereas if a lightning strike takes out a private monitoring station, only a small percentage of people are impacted," he said. "They are putting all their eggs in one basket."

In a statement provided to SIW, Harvey M. Fox, founding director of Keltron, disputed Lehan's assertions that monitoring rates would go up in Lombard.

"The first statement advanced by the IESA is incomplete if not totally inaccurate. This is that the citizens of Lombard could end up paying a monthly fee in excess of the $105.80 currently being paid. This is probably for monitoring via direct connect telephone lines and that will absolutely be unnecessary when lower cost radio monitoring is introduced to completely replace it. Note also that the fees will go directly to Lombard and not to any third party," Fox wrote.

Additionally, Fox took issue with Lehan's statement about alarm owners having to replace their existing equipment to connect with the local PSAP.

"This is a patently false statement in that a major benefit of Keltron systems is universal compatibility. In fact, all 14 systems connected to DU-COMM are Keltron systems. The indication that the new Lombard system would involve 'overpriced, aged equipment' is so false as to border on slander. All Keltron systems are UL-listed for remote station service," Fox wrote.
Fox also explained that any redundancy concerns would be alleviated with the use of Keltron technology.

"Each Keltron RF receiving head end system in each town has two antennas and completely redundant RF receiving equipment so that a failure of any one piece of RF receiving equipment can be tolerated with no attendant loss of monitoring ability or service," he wrote. "Any subscriber radio hit by lightning and rendered inoperable will simply result in automatic rerouting of any neighboring subscriber radios to bypass the inoperable radio again resulting in no loss of protection. Connections to DU-COMM are such that, should DU-COMM be disabled, every system can be operated on its own in keeping with UL listing requirements."

Calls seeking comment on this story from Riforgiate and Lombard Village Manager David Hulseberg were not returned.