Fleenor Security Systems to Build Central Station

Fleenor Security Systems is building a state-of-the-art alarm monitoring central station in West Knoxville to service its growing metropolitan area customer base.

The $500,000 investment was prompted in part by new Knoxville Fire Department regulations requiring privately operated monitoring stations that do business in the city and all new fire alarm systems installed in the city to be certified by Underwriters Laboratories as meeting national fire alarm standards.

"This is really going to improve things for the public," company President Mike Fleenor said of the city's stricter fire alarm regulations.

And the new regs will improve the bottom line at Fleenor Security, which figures to benefit from increased business generated by the new fire alarm requirements.

In addition to new alarm installations being required to meet the national alarm code, businesses and homeowners who upgrade existing alarm systems will have to meet the more stringent standards, too, said Knoxville Fire Marshal Roger Byrd.

"It's a win-win for the business owner with an alarm system and the Fire Department," Byrd said.

From the Fire Department's perspective, having UL-certified alarm systems should cut down on the number of false alarms firefighters get.

From the business owner's perspective, certification means better service from the security company because service providers must meet stringent employee training and alarm monitoring standards, Byrd said.

How much new business the stricter alarm standards will generate for Knoxville area security companies remains to be seen, but Fleenor is counting on the new monitoring station to give him a leg up on the competition.

Fleenor believes his company's new central station, which should be operational by the end of the year, will be one of the first UL-certified stations of its kind in East Tennessee.

At least one Knoxville security company expects the new regulations to have little effect on the local security industry.

"It's impacting our customers because it's costing them more money, but we're not really seeing much of a change," said Bryan Butler with Abstract Security Inc.

Abstract has no plans to build its own central monitoring station.

"Our monitoring service has always been UL certified, but we outsource," said Butler, vice president of operations.

"We've always had redundant coverage by multiple monitoring centers, so if one goes down, another center picks up the coverage," Butler said.

The Tennessee Burglary & Fire Alarm Association doesn't track the number of certified alarm monitoring stations in the state, but the security industry in general is growing statewide, said Penny Coleman, executive director of the Nashville-based association.

"Unfortunately, the trend is more people are having to buy alarm systems because they don't feel secure," Coleman said.

He could have hired a security company outside Tennessee to provide certified alarm monitoring for his customers, but Fleenor decided having a local certified monitoring station would pay off in the long run.

"People like to know they're talking to somebody local when they call the alarm company," Fleenor said.

The new monitoring station is being built behind Fleenor Security's headquarters on Cogdill Road near Pellissippi Parkway. Fleenor expects to hire about 10 employees to staff the center. The company now has 38 employees.

Business writer Roger Harris may be reached at 865-342-6342.