CHICAGO — Three electronic security industry associations contend proposed legislation in Illinois could force private monitoring companies to compete for business with public entities such as fire protection districts.
Currently, fire protection districts cannot charge for any service, such as monitoring alarm signal transmissions. However, the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), the Electronic Security Association (ESA) and the Illinois Electronic Security Association (IESA) believe that if adopted the proposed legislation would allow fire protection districts to operate their own central monitoring stations.
“Without seeing the actual language of the bill because this is a supposition, we anticipate that the language will give fire protection districts the ability to create a profit center,” IESA Director Kevin Lehan tells SSI. “[Right now], they do not have the right to charge for a service, but we believe that they are looking to amend that. That would give them the ability to use taxpayer dollars to buy the equipment to effectively compete against the private industry.”
All three associations worry the legislation, which is backed by the Illinois Association for Fire Protection Districts, would provide an incentive for municipalities to mandate all fire alarms be directly connected to the fire protection district in order to boost their budgets.
Some cities in Illinois have already adopted ordinances similar to the proposed legislation, according to Lehan. He adds that some cities have implemented a business model where fire districts purchase alarm monitoring receivers and then mandate that all homes and businesses connect to a municipality-owned receiver. The reason for this, Lehan says, is that fire district officials argued that central stations can take up to 15 minutes to dispatch a fire alarm, citing a public safety issue.
“That is absolutely a false statement,” says Lehan. “NFPA 72 says that you have 90 seconds from receiving the signal to re-transmission to the 911 center. What they are doing is taking a piece of the code that says a digital dialer has to attempt to dial once a minute, 15 times before it can call a dispatch center. They completely misrepresented that to city councils.”
Lehan also notes that IESA has obtained meeting minutes from an Illinois town’s board of directors meeting where a police chief stated that losing central stations would result in an increase in false alarms and false alarm dispatches.
“The central stations filter out a tremendous amount of false alarms,” Lehan says. “If you run a fire truck every time there is a test signal there is definitely going to be a decline in public safety, so this isn’t a public safety issue. It’s definitely a cash grab.”
To help combat this trend, the associations are asking for assistance. For its part, the IESA has created a Web site (www.illinoiesa.org), asking licensed alarm dealers in the state of Illinois to complete a data collection form with business and home address information so the association can compile a comprehensive list of elected state officials who must be contacted in the coming weeks.
“What we are doing in Illinois is creating the grassroots campaign,” explains Lehan. “We’re also going to be holding membership meetings throughout the state. We’re trying to get the dealers to come out to these informational meetings and then at that point go to their elected officials and say, ‘This is an industry-changing measure, and I want you to know how this will impact my business here in your constituency area.’”
Additionally, alarm dealers are urged to share any correspondence with elected officials with Lehan at [email protected]; the ESA Director of Government Relations at [email protected]; and CSSA Executive Vice President Steve Doyle at [email protected]. Alarm dealers who do not live in Illinois are also encouraged to report any similar actions by municipalities in their state.