Making all the Right Moves

Nov. 1, 2000
Building Up To The Next Level of Security...An On-Going Series

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Do everything to protect customers

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It is not so easy to do all these business practices stated above all the time but reading this article might help you accomplish the goal. Of course, you want to protect your customers. Sometimes, however, obstacles get in the way. The client is perhaps your most challenging opponent toward this end. They may not want to spend the money or they don't want to be bothered testing and using the system, etc. There are cases where the end user cannot cope with a comprehensive security system and will keep creating false alarms until you've deactivated a substantial portion of the system.
Some customers want only that their belongings be protected, while others are more concerned about their personal safety. Add to this the fact that some of your potential customers think that the system should be free and, if you charge a dollar more than the other guy, you're ripping them off.

Then There's the Dealers' Side
Maybe, on the other hand, your customers realize the importance of a quality system and the value of back up reporting. Then, you've got to provide measures that work properly and still be able to make a profit and that's not always easy either.
Going back to the early years of electronic security: central station monitoring was reserved for high risk commercial and high-end residential systems. The basic package was a local audible alarm only. But that was back when a siren going off actually attracted attention. Leased lines were available on a limited basis, and the cost was astronomical.
In the evolutionary process of security alarm monitoring: dialers using the premises phone line became common next. Some dealers were able to offer radio as a backup to the phone line, "in case the call didn't get through." These were unsupervised devices and not available everywhere.
Then there came telco line monitors. If your phone line failed, it would...set off the alarm. That's exciting. Then what... Grab a pitchfork and take on the intruder?
Most of the line monitors caused false alarms because, although the phone lines are adequate for conversations, connections go through so many switches that they are electronically very unstable.
Supervised long range radio enters the scene and does offer a viable solution, but again, it was only available in relatively limited markets. Setting up a system could lead to many unexpected complications getting sufficient signal strengths.
Another reporting technology, derived channel, was introduced a few years ago, and although cellular technology is gaining popularity now, derived channel is available in many markets. In fact, announcements about enhancements to derived channel technology are forthcoming.
When cellular was first introduced into the alarm market, it was really a different world than it is today. The equipment used to interface the cellular with the alarm was complicated and costly, and cellular coverage was still extremely limited.
Today, cellular is cost-effective. Cellular networks now blanket the country and the service is priced so that the subscriber can justify the expense with the increased protection it provides. The dealer can justify the extra work involved with the additional fee he can collect from the subscriber. Cellular works and gets the job done.

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