Monitoring Matters: Beware State Licensing Laws

All central station alarm monitors should be trained comprehensively and subject to background checks that include a run of fingerprints through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The issue at hand is that our industry bogs down with redundant costs when central stations must cut through multiple layers of bureaucracy in their home state, as well as others in which they do business.

For example, drafted legislation in New York titled “Article 6-E Business of Alarm Monitoring”  creates redundancies that limit the market for service providers.

This legislation — touted as a potential model ordinance — was developed with good intentions by the New York Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NYBFAA) and Long Island Alarm Association (LIAA). While it reflects many of the necessary broad strokes on paper, nevertheless it needs some work.

Following are three provisions included in the legislation, along with explanations as to why each is objectionable.

All alarm monitors will be fingerprinted and undergo a background check using a New York vendor.

If a company already fingerprints all its employees and runs NCIC background checks at regular intervals in their home state, this is a needless redundant cost. Fingerprints don’t change and the NCIC gathers information from all 50 states, in addition to international law enforcement. This verbiage should be changed to, “If the central station does not fingerprint its employees and does not submit for background checks through NCIC then … ”

Each central station must designate a manager to sit for a state examination.

This type of provision is typically used to keep competition out of the market. UL, FM Global and the free market should be the determining factor. Here’s why: Alarm dealers vote with their dollars. If a central station is not providing acceptable service, dealers move their subscribers. So the verbiage should be changed to, “If the central station is not audited by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) then … ”

All operators shall be required to take within 30 days a monitoring station operator course offered by the Security Industry Association [SIA], Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials Int’l [APCO], or a central station training course offered or approved by the Central Station Alarm Association [CSAA], or a similar course approved by the Secretary of State.

First off, SIA no longer provides monitor training and CSAA training is a minimum cost of $216 per staff member for the two courses. Generally, CSAA (and APCO) training is good, but for companies that have been operating for decades with an extensive internally developed curriculum, the costs are redundant. They could be considered punitive as well.

Setting Goals, Getting Involved

In its current form, the New York legislation does more for state and association revenue generation than public safety.

That’s why the alarm industry needs a national standard, which will take several years to develop and implement. Nevertheless, we need to identify the essential building blocks. These should include:

  • Require NCIC background checks and fingerprinting at regular intervals, but only in one state per employee
  • NRTL-audited companies must receive relief. There are too many redundant processes and costs for companies that have proven to meet the highest standards
  • Create safeguards to protect intellectual property rights of companies that submit their training for certification.

Without a common standard, there are too many duplicate costs for NRTL-audited central stations. This eliminates potential competitors that could apply market pressure to raise the standards of service while keeping prices in check. Without a free and open market, there is less incentive to strive for progress, leaving our industry in a stagnant state.

Everyone associated with the industry must become involved in the various associations to develop a national standard that safeguards the well being of end users; encourages technological advancement; and does not place redundant financial burden on NRTL-audited companies.

Regardless of the size of your organization or in which states it is based, alarm dealers must become active in the public safety process — both legislative and association matters — and exercise control over our industry.

Kevin Lehan is manager of public relations for Des Plaines, Ill.-based Emergency 24 Inc.

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