False alarms have long been the bane of the security industry, especially for companies that specialize in providing burglar and fire alarm monitoring services to residential and commercial customers; however, with the help of efforts by groups like the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), the industry is now working in partnership with many law enforcement agencies and other first responders across the country to put a significant dent into the problems cause by false calls.
In 2018, both the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and National Sheriff’s Association (NSA), passed resolutions supporting SIAC’s Model Ordinance for Alarm Management and False Alarm Reduction, which has resulted in dispatch reductions between 40-50% in jurisdictions where all of the model’s recommendations have been followed.
Despite this progress, many municipalities are still intent on taking punitive action against alarm owners – and even service providers – over false dispatches. An ordinance that went into effect last year in Sandy Springs, Ga., fines residential security integrators for false alarms caused by their customers. Though a lawsuit filed by SIAC and several other organizations against the city was thrown out by a federal judge in late 2018, the industry is still waiting on the outcome of an appeal in the case which could have wide-reaching ramifications on how cities craft future false alarm ordinances.
One person who will play a large role in this and other issues facing the industry over the next several years is Kirk MacDowell, who was recently named SIAC’s Chairman of the Board. SecurityInfoWatch.com (SIW) recently caught up with MacDowell, who is the founder and CEO of MacGuard Security Advisors and a nearly 40-year veteran of the industry, to discuss his vision for the organization and what its advocacy efforts will look like in 2020 and the years to come.
SIW: As Chairman of the Board for SIAC, what will your role be with the organization?
MacDowell: I think the chairman has three important goals: To continue the work of my predecessors to ensure that SIAC continues to operate efficiently and effectively on behalf of our industry; to help make sure that SIAC has the industry support it needs to fulfill its vital and unique mission; and to develop a leadership succession plan so that work can continue as we move to a new generation of leaders in our industry.
What is your vision for SIAC as the organization moves into the new decade?
My vision is for SIAC to continue to be the industry voice at the table as law enforcement and civic leaders adopt new technology and deal with important public safety issues involving electronic security. The industry is changing faster than it ever has during my 39 years in the business. It is vital that SIAC serves as a trusted partner and liaison with law enforcement and elected officials to make sure that our industry is not regulated out of business.
How will SIAC continue to advocate for the alarm industry when it comes to false alarm fines by local law enforcement and municipalities?
The Model Ordinance developed by SIAC and leaders in the major law enforcement organizations has proven decisively that fines for alarm owners are effective in significantly reducing dispatches to false alarms and are considered a best practice when regulating the industry. Most proposals to fine alarm companies are rejected when SIAC is able to get into the discussion early and promote the success of the Model Ordinance; however, without careful consistent monitoring by SIAC of alarm ordinance changes being proposed around the country, it is easy for the simplistic “fine the alarm company solution” to gain traction. Make no mistake about it, there are a few individuals with personal agendas who are pushing that idea.
What are the biggest challenges currently facing the industry when it comes to false alarm reduction efforts?
The biggest challenge is having the funding and manpower to monitor approximately 18,000 public safety agencies and proposed changes in alarm ordinances. As the industry changes and consolidates, we have to keep this issue on the front burner to obtain the necessary donations to fund SIAC’s work. In a way, the organization has been the victim of its own success.
What other issues does SIAC plan to take up for the industry in the future?
SIAC’s success is based on its clear focus on the issue of alarm management. The biggest changes in our industry involve the fast-changing technology and the many ways the industry is now able to deliver service to the public. SIAC must continue to be a key resource for law enforcement as they incorporate these technology changes into their alarm management programs.
What does SIAC need in terms of support to be able to accomplish this?
Anyone who has ever hired a lobbyist knows that SIAC is one of the most cost-effective lobbying and education programs you can imagine. If everyone in the industry contributes their fair share, the ROI in terms of not having to deal with multiple ordinances that damage our ability to serve and protect our customers and expensive time consuming litigation will make supporting SIAC a great investment in your business.
To learn more about SIAC and its lobbying efforts, and to contribute to the organization, visit www.siacinc.org.