Industry Efforts Cause Elk Grove Village (Ill.) to Pull Fire Alarm Ordinance

By Ashley Willis

ELK GROVE, Ill. — The Elk Grove Village board has pulled a proposed fire alarm ordinance thanks to strong efforts by the Illinois Electronic Security Association (IESA) and community leaders here.

The ordinance would have required all new businesses and multifamily condo/apartment complexes, as well as existing businesses and multifamily complexes, to install fire alarm systems to connect to the Northwest Central Dispatch (NWCD), the Daily Herald reports.

Under the language of the proposed law, ADT would provide the wireless service in conjunction with NWCD. Individual businesses would pay $81 per month fee, which includes equipment, installation, maintenance and repairs.

“The IESA and its member companies that had customers in Elk Grove Village simply informed our customers of what the village had in mind,” IESA Executive Director Kevin Lehan tells SSI. “Originally, Elk Grove Village officials planned to charge $90 a month, and then they changed it to $81. Knowing what they currently pay, those customers were upset by it.”

During the board’s Jan. 24 meeting, IESA representatives voiced concerns about the ordinance, including Elk Grove Village showing preference to ADT Security Services. To counteract, the board suggested changing the language of the ordinance to clarify that switching to an alarm system would not be mandatory, and was only encouraged.

However, IESA reps requested that the town not adopt the ordinance, even with the updated language, citing that it could still discourage competition.

Elk Grove Village officials said the town has between 700 to 800 false alarms a year and half of those are due to faulty alarm systems. Because of the fallibility of telephone landline-based systems, officials were hoping to upgrade to a wireless system to reduce false alarms.

“The village was rightfully trying to get away from direct-connect copper lines,” Lehan says. “I believe they just chose the wrong method to get the rest of the town off direct-connect copper. What we believe — and we’ve said this in every community where we fought this — that the free market should be allowed to play out. We do not support a controlled market in any instance, and that’s what Elk Grove Village would have been.”

After Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson and the board listened to the concerns of the security industry and business owners, the decision was made not to vote on the ordinance. Although this is a big victory for IESA, Lehan says there are more areas that are considering similar ordinances.

“There are about a dozen communities that have their dispatching done by NWCD,” Lehan says. “So, IESA member companies are informing customers in Arlington Heights and Schaumberg about this alarm ordinance that these communities are considering. We expect the same reaction from the business community that we received in Elk Grove Village. They don’t want to have the government interfering with their businesses.”

One community slipped through the cracks, however. A week prior to the Elk Grove Village meeting, the Mt. Prospect Board of Trustees approved a plan that allows NWCD to monitor all new commercial fire alarm systems. Still, IESA intends to educate the town on how it can affect their businesses.

These recent ordinances serve as a wakeup call for the industry to reach out to fire services, Lehan says.

“Our industry is so focused on the security burglar alarm side that we may have neglected fire,” he explains. “We need to have a better dialogue with fire services groups to explain what is available from the private industry. We’re learning that people who have been educating these groups are selling them on a specific, self-serving set of facts. So, that’s a failure by the industry that we’re not educating the people we serve, and we do serve the wants and wishes of the fire and police chiefs.”

Lehan credits Chief Luther Fincher, fire liaison for the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), for bridging the gap between fire services by sharing SIAC’s model fire ordinances to fire chiefs nationwide. However, he stresses that the industry as a whole needs to make more of an effort.

“It’s just a matter of us having good dialogue, educating fire services and learning from them what they need from us,” Lehan says. “Once we started doing that better, I think this problem is going to go away.”

Ashley Willis is associate editor for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. She can be reached at (310) 533-2419.

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