More Katrina Reaction and Help From Alarm Industry


Moe Athmann is still in shock when it comes to the images
pouring onto his living-room television from New Orleans.
Athmann, owner and president of Baton Rouge, La., alarm-
monitoring company Command Central, grew up in the famous
French Quarter of the Big Easy, which was one of the areas
hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath that has
left thousands dead and displaced more than a million.

“It’s very difficult and it’s still difficult to believe,”
says Athmann. “You see places you grew up, or played, or
the restaurants you ate at as an adult. It’s surreal.”

Extensive preparations for disaster allowed Command
Central to weather the storm dozens of miles north, but the
grand city Athmann grew up in will never be the same.
Athmann’s family owns a hotel in the French Quarter, which
compared to much of New Orleans held up to the disaster.
His sister and brother-in-law evacuated before the
hurricane hit and are now making a temporary home in
Colorado. However, Athmann still hasn’t heard from his
brother since before the storm hit.

That said, he believes intently that it’s nothing more than
the lack of communications in the area and his brother is
fine. “I think he’s OK, but I’m a little concerned there,”
Athmann says. “He’s a survivor. He’ll be OK.”

Closer to the coast, Athmann has heard of other central
stations that haven’t been as fortunate as his. Shortly
after Katrina marched out, Command Central operators helped
another central station closer to New Orleans where 50
people were trapped with no lights and no food. The
operators helped direct rescue workers to save the stranded

Athmann has also heard of another central station in
downtown New Orleans that is practically underwater, and
another that is relocating after a wall collapsed. “Central
stations in the area took a big hit,” he said.

In the first hours after the eye of Katrina made landfall,
Athmann says Command Central received more than 12,000
calls. A logistical nightmare was averted, however, when
for the first time Athmann activated disaster automation
software he purchased from Bold Technologies, which
automatically logged the thousands of low-battery and other
low priority calls coming in so the station could
concentrate on the most urgent emergencies.

But software couldn’t take the place of sheer human
manpower when it came to keeping Command Central running
smoothly even while all hell was breaking loose outside.
All of the station’s manpower was on standby, and sleeping
quarters and a rest facility was utilized upstairs. For 36
hours, a group of 12-14 operators would work their 12-hour
shift, then rest upstairs while the other group took

“The operators are what kept us up. This went beyond what
any one would expect and they just kept it rolling,”
Athmann says. “I can’t say enough about what they did.”

More information is coming in about alarm industry figures
and companies that were in the affected area.

  • Manufacturer Home Automation Inc. (HAI), headquartered in East New Orleans, has temporarily suspended operations until the company can either find a temporary home or return to its building. In a statement on the at National Electronic Security Alliance’s (NESA) Katrina free Web user forum (, HAI President Jay McLellan says that while they haven’t been able to return to the Powel Street headquarters, HAI believes it wasn’t heavily damaged by the storm and ensuing flood, and the surrounding area is being pumped out of floodwaters.

    “HAI will survive,” McLellan says.

    McLellan adds many of HAI’s products and circuit boards are made outside of New Orleans and incoming shipments of the product are being rerouted for the establishment of a temporary final assembly and quality control operation.

    In the meantime, HAI has cancelled all upcoming training classes and is asking customers to call its sales managers listed on the Web site for technical support. Note that the site may be slow to load and HAI’s E-mail server remains down.

  • In an E-mail to SSI, PSA Security Network President and CEO Bill Bozeman checked in to say that he is out of harms way and all PSA members in the Gulf Coast are safe and accounted for.

    However, the longtime resident of the Big Easy says he has been devastated by what Katrina and the floods have done to New Orleans.

    “As a fourth-generation Orleanian, I am heartsick but I am also grateful the family is healthy and out of harms way,” says Bozeman, who adds that his family is relocating to Texas, Tennessee and Colorado. “It is sad to split up the family, but we have no choice. We will be back together as soon as possible.”

    Bozeman and his family were to move in on Sept. 7 to a new home right on the waterfront. When Sept. 7 arrived, the new Bozeman home was completely underwater.

    In the E-mail, Bozeman passed along his hope that people will pray for PSA members affected by Katrina and for others in New Orleans.

    “Please do whatever you can to help the poor people of New Orleans. The looters and snipers make up a tiny percentage of the community. Unfortunately, they get all the publicity,” Bozeman, a member of the SSI Hall of Fame, says.  “The vast majority of the poor people in New Orleans are good people who had no way to escape. They do not own a car and were stuck with a non-existing evacuation plan.”

  • Central station Alarm Monitoring Services, based just outside New Orleans in Metairie, La., stayed in operation by evacuating before the storm hit and moving operations temporarily to the DICE Corp. Disaster Center in Bay City, Mich.

    “The last time we evacuated, the hurricane didn’t hit as hard. People laughed at us and we even lost some accounts,” says company President Dera DeRoche-Jolet. “But after speaking with the Office of Disaster Management, I knew that New Orleans was vulnerable. It was just a matter of time.”

    Ironically, on the same day Katrina hit (Aug. 29), Alarm Monitoring Services completed the signing of a lease for a new facility that is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from New Orleans in Monroe, La.

    Alarm Monitoring Services will move into the Monroe center in mid-September and resume operations there.

    “Although many of our staff lost their homes, everyone is safe and well,” DeRoche-Jolet says.

While central stations and alarm owners in the Gulf Coast
just begin the process of picking up the pieces and begging
recovery efforts, the rest of the alarm industry continues
to volunteer help for those affected by the Katrina
catastrophe. Among those efforts:

  • Tri-Ed Distribution and COPS Monitoring is holding a joint fund-raiser and lunch at Tri-Ed’s Phoenix office on Sept. 9 to collect donations that will aid the Salvation Army’s hurricane recovery efforts. Lunch will be provided for those who come in and pass along donations that Tri-ed will pass on to the Salvation Army.

    In addition, COPS will have monitoring certificates for purchase with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Salvation Army.

    Tri-Ed’s office is located at 5225 S. 37th St. in Phoenix. For more information, call (800) 644-0874 or (877) 252

    Those out of state can also send monetary donations to the following address: Salvation Army, P.O. Box 52177, Phoenix, AZ, 85027.

  • After receiving several inquiries about the status of members in the areas affected by Katrina, the False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA) has been allowed to partner-up and use the a free Web user for

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