Court Prohibits Illinois Fire District From Monitoring Alarms

CHICAGO — Following a years-long legal battle, a federal court issued a modified permanent injunction against the Lisle-Woodridge Fire Protection District, which orders the district to cease all fire alarm monitoring activities.

In 2009, the district passed on ordinance that positioned itself as the lone fire monitoring entity in the area, requiring all commercial alarm system owners to exclusively use the AES/Keltron wireless radio system to transmit signals directly to the district. In turn, these commercial accounts were to terminate their monitoring contracts with their existing alarm companies.

The decree did not sit well with five alarm monitoring companies, including ADT. The following year, the licensed alarm contractors filed a lawsuit against the district initially seeking an injunction, charging infringements of state laws and federal antitrust regulations.

The latest ruling bars the district “from prohibiting the transmission of fire alarm systems … to a NFPA-compliant subsidiary station, such as a UL-Listed central station.” The district must also shut down its alarm board by Oct. 4.

For Illinois Electronic Security Association (IESA) Executive Director Kevin Lehan, who also contributes to SSI’s Monitoring Matters column, the latest ruling will allow alarm companies to grow their businesses.

“As far as the industry, it opens up markets that have been closed to us,” he tells SSI. “That was the biggest beef about the Lisle-Woodridge and other communities that have chosen to get into municipal monitoring — they created monopolies.”

Furthermore, end users often expressed their displeasure with the policy to IESA member companies, stating that the government took away their right to make purchasing decisions.

“These are business people who have gone out on their own to offer their services and products to the community,” Lehan says. “They chose their alarm contractors based on what was important to them. For the government to come along and take that away, they weren’t happy. Further, the government was charging quite a bit more than the going rate than the private sector offered for the exact same services and technologies.”

During the August 7 ruling, U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur urged both private and public domains to work together to minimize dispatch times. While IESA as an entity won’t actively participate in building that partnership, the organization’s member companies have the know-how and technology to make it work, Lehan explains.

“There are several technologies available to make that happen, one being ASAP2PSAP,” he says. “Judge Shadur also mentioned other re-transmission technologies in the injunction, as well as technologies that allow the computer-aided dispatch [CAD] system to be auto-populated with street addresses and those sorts of things. Individual companies have the opportunity to create a market for various services.”

Initially, Judge Shadur entered a permanent injunction against the district last summer. The district appealed to 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld part of the injunction and overturned some of it.

The fire district has until has until Sept. 6 to appeal the decision. Lehan notes that although the district has appealed every ruling involved in this case, he hopes that the lawsuit will end soon.

“It’s about time that this issue is put to bed,” he says. “A lot of time, effort and money have gone into this lawsuit on both sides. Let’s focus that effort into increasing safety for the public. That would be best for the end user, the electronic security industry, as well as fire services.”

During its Sept. 13 meeting, IESA’s legal counsel will hold an hour-long session to clarify the decision and its potential impact on the industry. The association encourages both members and non-members to attend.


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