The Viability of Verification

High-profile conflicts between the alarm industry and police about alarm response are forcing everyone to rethink verification. Knowing the pros and cons of employing guard patrol and/or two-call verification will help you proactively make the best decision for your business before law enforcement makes it for you.

The rejection of verified response in Los Angeles is allowing alarm dealers nationwide to breathe a little easier. Although police will still be responding to security alarm activations without prior verification by a third party, the issue is far from over.

Many alarm companies are facing the realization that some level of verification beyond the traditional single call is necessary to maintain good relations between the industry and local police departments. Security guards can be used in a variety of capacities even in areas where police still respond.

Once the decision has been made to incorporate guard use into a security alarm business, dealers can create an in-house guard service or contract out to an existing guard response company. Regardless of which approach is taken, important considerations must be kept in mind if a company wants to add this service and still remain profitable.

Alarm dealers want professional, safe guards who will represent their company in a positive light and do not detract from the business’ profitability. One way to control guards is to make them direct employees of the company. Employing in-house guards can create better company loyalty, give greater authority over a guard’s appearance and create one more opportunity for contact with the customer.

When Going With Guards, Should You Use Staffers or Subcontractors?
After mulling over guard patrols for more than 10 years, Jerry Howe, president and CEO of Peak Alarm Co. and Peak Alarm Guard and Patrol in Salt Lake City, decided to offer customers guard response in 1996, four years before it became required in the city.

Howe says he didn’t begin using guards because of the impending lack of police response, but because it is a good customer service technique. “Guards are there to be the customer’s eyes and ears. It’s just one more person watching over the business or residence,” he says.

Of the 125 guards Peak Alarm employs, about 15 are used to patrol the 9,000 security systems clustered in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas. Those not patrolling are used as standing guards at locations such as golf courses, businesses and housing complexes.

The advantages to using in-house guards are that uniforms and vehicles can be selected and maintained to your liking; problems with guards and customers can be addressed quickly; and charts can be kept on response times and other statistics.

To operate an in-house guard response team efficiently, the location and number of customers must be considered. The goal of using the least amount of guards possible while still providing timely service is best accomplished when customers are in close proximity. Also, patrol vehicles should be able to travel through the coverage area quickly.

Small companies can find this a difficult and costly option. Salt Lake City-based Anchor Alarm would like to oversee its own guards, but with 500 accounts throughout the city, it is not feasible, says owner Edward Bruerton.

Currently using his third guard company in three years, Bruerton has had difficulty retaining a dependable guard provider and attributes this to rising costs and fewer companies offering the service.

A city’s size and density should be considered when determining how to best implement guard service. For small businesses and those found in large, sprawling cities, contracting a guard company may provide better service for a lower price.

Los Angeles-based Security Design Systems, known as SDS Alarms, offers customers the option of augmenting their existing service with guard response to avoid fines for false alarms. Joe Petrillo, president and founder, says contracting guards is a must because of the area that is covered and the frequently congested traffic.

“We subcontract out to a few different companies,” Petrillo says. “I don’t believe any one company can cover the entire 450 square miles. It physically can’t be done.” He says that he is optimistic about developing relationships with contract guard companies because as demand increases, the competition is getting better and standards are being raised.

As Petrillo looks for companies to partner with, he says he wants a professional guard service that can comply with the policies set forth by his company.

Make Sure You Do Your Research When Outsourcing Guards
Alarm dealers and guard response companies alike recommend doing some research before selecting a company to work with. Identifying qualities of guard response that will enhance your business is a good first step toward finding a company that will fulfill your needs.

Some companies may place the greatest emphasis on response time or the vehicles used, while others may insist on armed guards or a high level of experience in the field. A company’s needs depend on the client base and the area served.

Dave Foglio, president of First Response Inc. in Portland, Ore., and Seattle, suggests looking at the experience of the guards as the first priority. Properly trained guards with experience will be better prepared than beginners for any situation they may encounter.

Foglio further recommends verifying the guard response company has the correct licenses for operation and has adequate insurance. Liability insurance is always necessary, but the need increases tremendously if the officers are armed.

No matter what name is on the patrol car, a contracted guard is associated with the alarm company and should stand for the same values as any other employee. “Watch how guards present themselves and make sure that is how you want to be represented,” Foglio says.

Many Dealers Believe the Duty of Response Remains With Police
Some dealers have no intention of using guards until it is required by their local jurisdiction. Many say they have not had the need expressed by customers and do not believe their service area would be able to support guard response in a timely manner.

Alarm Detection Systems Inc. of Chicago does not use guard response, but does have runners to meet the police where an alarm has been activated. Company President Bob Bonifas says his company’s primary responsibilities are to act on behalf of the customer and restore security to a building where an alarm has been activated. Despite this, he also believes police are still needed to combat the problem of false alarms.

A security dealer cannot match the leverage that the police are able to put on customers who are careless with their security systems, he says. “It would be helpful to have a partnership with the police.”

Bonifas adds, “I believe the alarm industry is being responsive enough and responsible enough that we are going to fix this problem without requiring guards to verify first. [If verified response was required] it would not be our happiest day, trust me.”

Verification and Police Response Are Far From Being Resolved
Even as talk of police nonresponse increases, it is still too early to predict a policy that will be accepted on a more national scale, predicts Gene Voegtlin, legislative counsel for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).

“The police community has been looking at the question of false alarms and it’s clear that there is not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem,” Voegtlin says. “Verified response is not necessarily going to be the only solution and to hold it up as a model for everywhere is premature.”

Voegtlin goes on
to say that the size of the police department, the size of communities being served and the wide v

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