SAN ANTONIO — Recognizing their contributions in reducing false alarms, the False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA) named two winners for its 2011 W. Rex Bell Associate Member of the Year award. The recipients are Kristina Walker, a false alarm reduction permit compliance coordinator for Vector Security; and Stuart Forchheimer, president of Baltimore-based Homesafe Security.
The award presentation took place during FARA’s annual symposium on April 4-7 in San Antonio. The W. Rex Bell Associate Member award honors those who significantly contribute to their company, community and FARA in reducing false alarms.
Walker, who joined Vector in 2005, manages the company’s false alarm reduction and permit compliance program for its national accounts division. For her part, Walker fully understands the importance of false alarm reduction, as her husband is a police officer.
“I got into the false alarm reduction industry because of my husband,” she tells SSI. “I’ve heard a lot of complaints about police having to run to alarms, so it has become a passion for me. I’m so honored to carry [former Vector Security President] John Murphy’s torch.”
And Walker’s passion has paid off well for Vector, as the company has seen a 52-percent false alarm reduction in its national accounts division. So, how was Walker able to do this? By teaming up with the local police departments and educating staff and clients, she has been able to express the importance of curbing false alarms.
[IMAGE]386[/IMAGE]“I contact our sites that have either two, three or four false alarms,” she says. “Then the education begins. I have to make sure clients understand the use of the system; they have to understand what the points in their system are and where they are located.”
Additionally, Walker has local authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) provide training for installers and service representatives in the national accounts division. “We all have to be proactive in reducing false alarms,” Walker explains. “I often act as a mediator between AHJs, our staff and clients. After building the relationship between the AHJ and the client, you will absolutely see a reduction in false alarms. The client sees how much false alarms drain the economy in their jurisdictions, and the see how it puts police officers’ lives in jeopardy.”
Forchheimer, who also serves as treasurer for the Maryland Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (MBFAA), agrees that education is important to reducing false alarms. Part of that education requires businesses joining their local security associations, he tells SSI.
“There are so many companies right now that don’t do their part,” he says. “They don’t get involved, which makes this such a lopsided effort. We have about 600 companies in Maryland that are licensed, but less than 5 percent attend the meetings.”
[IMAGE]387[/IMAGE]Meetings are important to Forchheimer because it gives alarm companies the opportunity to hear how other businesses reduce false alarms firsthand. Additionally, attending association gatherings allow security industry professionals to network with public safety officials, which is beneficial, says Forchheimer.
“You see the same public representatives at the meeting, which is helpful for me,” he says. “If I ever have a concern, I like being able to make a phone call to someone who knows who I am and that I’m involved in trying to reduce false alarms.”
Of course, Forchheimer realizes that attending meetings alone will not stop false alarms. Thus, Homesafe Security, which has a 75-percent residential and 25-percent commercial client base, has launched several initiatives to inform its customers about false alarms. In an effort to go “green,” the company sends a handful of short E-mails to new customers with the first two weeks of installing their security system, explaining how to prevent false alarms.
“For most people, when they get longwinded E-mails, they stop reading it,” says Forchheimer. “If an E-mail has a couple of sentences in it, people will read it. It’s been very successful for us.”
Additionally, Homesafe Security is working on a direct-to-mail campaign. Part of that includes mailing out a false alarm reduction handout. The company also plans to mail postcards to clients who have had more than one dispatch in a six-month period. The postcard, which lists different ways to combat false alarms, directs customers to Homesafe Security’s Web site, which also gives facts about false alarms and allows customers to enter a raffle.
Although both companies are making progress in reducing false alarms, Vector Security Vice President of Marketing Dave Merrick points out the next issue to tackle is false fire alarms.
“People don’t really understand the financial ramifications,” he tells SSI. “We just spoke to someone in Canada who said a residential false fire alarm cost $1,500. Can you imagine how much that’s going to affect the alarm industry? Fortunately, FARA is now involved in that, but if the mean is $150 for a false security alarm in certain areas of the country; it’s going to get crazy.”
Ashley Willis is associate editor for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. She can be reached at (310) 533-2419.