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More on licensing / unlicensed competition
August 26,  2023
More on licensing
          Bart Didden wrote: “They say hope springs eternal, maybe someone will write to agree with me. Bart A. Didden, President, U.S.A. Central Station Alarm Corp”
          Yes Bart I am "someone" who agrees! Your comment was 100% right and well said. We (you and I) go back many many years (I opened my first account with ADEMCO in 1968) and we were involved with the initiation of the Alarm License Law 6D.
          It is a "State" license law that allows our industry to operate everywhere within New York State without additional license fees or "other" restrictions. That was the main purpose back in the late '80's when the alarm associations (MBFAA & NYBFAA & LIAA & others) banded together and lobbied (and spent THOUSANDS $$$) for the license law.
   Well Said!
Alan Glasser, Executive Director
(718) 894-6712
Dearest Bart 
          I do appreciate your comments and I do appreciate all the work you’ve put into getting the licensing law passed in New Yuck State However 6D may have verbiage to take care of people that are illegally installing fire alarms however the state has no balls when it comes to prosecution as a matter of fact the word prosecution as a joke here in the State. Going back years ago someone was found without a proper license and they were smacked on the hand nothing was done about it. I could be wrong but as of today the same exact situation exist with the same exact company. New York sucks no two ways about it
More comments on what you can do about unlicensed competitors from article on August 5, 2023
          I was a bit surprised that you printed the comment from the anonymous reader who claimed that the Board Members of the Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association “worked for central stations and did not want for the state to go after unlicensed companies.”   My experience has been just the opposite, but, what do I know, I’ve only been a member of that Board for over 20 years.  This topic comes up at every Board meeting.  We discuss it when the investigators come to speak to us at our state convention.  The Department of Public Safety works very hard to go after unlicensed activity.  The number of enforcement cases, and their dispositions, is public record, and the TBFAA Board monitors it.
          Here is a story that provides more insight into what is really happening.  I have a Texas Burglar Alarm Company Representative License and I keep it active by maintaining the State’s smallest licensed company (my home, my office, and a warehouse).  One day an alarm salesman came to my house and told my, then 12 year old son that he was “… from my alarm company and was there to do my upgrade.”  My son called me at the office and I asked him to get a card from the salesman.  I looked the guy up on the State database and the company licensed had been suspended, and his personal registration had been Summary Denied (which typically means a background check issue).  My city has sworn police officers called Neighborhood Protection Officers who are assigned to crime prevention.  I called my NPO who just happened to be around the corner.  He picked the guy up and I gave him the section of the State Law that required alarm salespeople to be registered.  (An aside, the State repealed this law four years ago under heavy opposition from the TBFAA Board).  He took the salesman to jail and his company bailed him out the next morning.  I went to see the detective a few weeks later and noticed that there was a book titled "Texas Criminal Code” on the shelf of his cubicle.  Someone had written “Things that the DA won’t prosecute” on the spine.  The detective told me that the DA wasn’t going to prosecute the case. 
          The DA (who was very well known to be tough on crime) belonged to my Rotary Club so I asked her why the case wouldn’t get prosecuted.  She called me back a few days later and said (imagine a thick Texas drawl) “Mitch… I’ve got 200 prosecutors in my office, I need 200 more.  We have 30,000 felonies… rapists, wife beaters, robbers, murderers… waiting to get prosecuted.  The people of Tarrant County didn’t elect me to throw alarm salesmen in prison.  A jury isn’t going to vote to convict him, and, if they did, they would just fine him.  He got bailed out and went back to Utah.  He’s not coming back, and besides, he has a warrant out for his arrest in Arizona for something a lot more serious.”
          I am active in over 20 state and local alarm associations.  Every one of them is working hard to stop unlicensed activity.  For anyone to think that TBFAA board members, or any other board members, would support unlicensed activity is pure supposition, but, then again some people watch the huddle in a football game and think that the offense is conspiring against the defense. 
Mitch Reitman 
817 698 9999 XT 101
Another comment
          I do not know if this would be helpful to frustrated alarm dealers who run up against unlicensed alarm companies, but I thought I would run it by you.  Sometimes "there is more than one way to skin a cat" by being a bit creative.  Instead of becoming frustrated dealing with incompetent and
disinterested bureaucrats, one could advise the clients that using an unlicensed alarm company could expose them to liability issues that would not be covered by insurance and might even expose them to prosecution.  
          Say for example a client had an unlicensed alarm company install fire alarm protection in a building and there was a fire that destroyed property or worse resulted in death or injury.  Not only would the unlicensed company be potentially liable, so too would the client who knowingly used an unlicensed contractor.  Or what would happen if a police officer were injured responding to a false alarm caused by the installation of an alarm system by an unlicensed contractor? Neither the contractor nor the client would have any defense against a lawsuit. 
          In many situations all that a licensed alarm company would need to do to curtail unlicensed contractors from encroaching on their potential clients would be to advise both the unlicensed dealer and its clients in writing of their legal and liability exposure with a copy sent to the State Attorney General. 
          In addition, it could be mentioned that the entire contract presented by an unlicensed contractor would be null and void; therefore a licensed contractor would be unrestricted from taking over the account and the client could cancel at any time without penalty. That also should give many clients and unlicensed contractors alike second thoughts.
          One strongly worded letter could end a lot of these problems.  And perhaps you could write up a sample to include with your other excellent offerings. This is a quick and effective solution with no frustration.  Caveat emptor!
          Just some thoughts,
Richard H. Cantor, CEO
Amerigard Alarm & Security Corp
Another comment
          I loved the story from Cynthia in Oregon. All we want is a level playing field. It takes efforts like hers to keep government and cronyism at bay. A special thanks to her, and others that appear in your column, for their work.  
Zeke with Comtec in Oklahoma
Another comment
          I agree with Garret Cook’s policy requiring a licensed HVAC contractor to hook up a thermostat that is a part of the security system he installs and connects to There is a little more to think about when installing add-on’s.
          Besides Stan’s art collection, there is one thing to really admire about DGA Security Systems. The use of the word “probabilistic’ in their contract. In context, it refers to the reliability of alarm communication methods - network, cellular, etc.
          Given the nature of DGA’s business, the value of assets they help protect and the fact that there are more bad actors gunning for their subscribers than any other company in the industry, it makes good sense that they point out the fallibility of alarm communication paths. In fact, it’s the only bold, underlined clause on the form.
          When you employ redundant servers, networks, receivers and IP providers, probabilistic should equate to something in the 99.9xxx% range. Pretty reliable and certainly something to sell to the general public in good faith.
          Z-wave, zigbee and other home automation standards are also probabilistic, but not in a good way. These offerings include, among others, lighting control, thermostats, locks and water shut-off. In a perfect world, all of the components on a Z-Wave system might be completely reliable about 80% of the time.
          I have six installations involving Z-wave devices. Two of my own residences, my in-law’s residence and three longtime friend’s residences. All of the end-users were carefully cautioned that the equipment was not to be relied upon as a primary means of control, was simply a convenience that would work most of the time, and sometimes would not.
          Why the problems? Poor network design, not enough nodes, too much interference from virtually anything wireless, the gateway locking up, the remote point locking up, user accidentally unplugs or removes something critical, to name a few. The fix is generally as simple as re-booting or toggling a circuit breaker but what’s the real cost? I don’t mean the cost of your interrupted leisure time, sleep or technician’s overtime/double time pay. I mean the cost to your customer’s good will, to your reputation.
          There’s a great book, a very short read written in the late 1990’s by Al Ries called Focus. If you want to sharpen your instincts, go to Amazon and get a copy now. Ries points out examples of disaster that ensued when businesses lost focus of their core strengths. For instance, IBM bought Rolm, a major telephony provider in 1984, selling it in 1989. In 1982, Coca Cola bought Columbia pictures, selling it in 1989. Metropolitan Life bought Century 21 Real Estate in 1985, selling in 1995.
          You don’t have to make an acquisition to make a mistake. AT&T and Sears got into the computer, facsimile and telephone business. Pitney Bowes computers, facsimiles and copiers. Radio Shack got into computers and cellular phones. These were strong companies with, for the most part, quality products, great leaders and big market caps. The takeaway? Take pause when expanding into new fields.
          In the 1970’s, residential intercom systems were all the rage. Alarm companies started selling them. Then came central vacuum systems and telephone systems. Satellite dishes, data cabling, home automation, plasma televisions and home theater followed.
Today, some alarm companies have decided to enter the network firewall business. Among them, ADT, which also offers solar panels). We’ll refer to these services as “add-on’s”
          I have bought, sold, run businesses that dabbled in each of these add-on’s. Maybe you’ve heard the expression about boat ownership — the best two days of your life are the day you buy the boat and the day you sell the boat. The best day of my life was getting out of add-on work.
          Which is a higher priority for your on-call tech? A commercial fire alarm with a trouble condition or the business owner’s home where they can’t watch the finale of their favorite series? Whichever you choose can have damning consequences. Top rated restaurant Daniel would never share a kitchen with Burger King. Both are very successful outposts, but completely incompatible.
          In addition to intrusion alarms, my security business provides fire alarms, access control, video surveillance, private investigation and locksmith services. The company serves specific clientele in carefully chosen geographic markets. We have a dozen networking partners that offer add-on’s - and don’t offer any of our core services. Over the years, we have exchanged more business than any sales team could ever generate internally.
          There are exceptions. A company that is part of a dealer program may need add-on’s to help with cash flow. There are a handful of security companies that successfully offer add-on’s. But for new entrants, it’s critical to consider whether add-on’s will cross-pollinate your other product offerings or if they will simply distract you from focusing on your core business. Moreover make sure you sell things that aren’t overly probabilistic. If you do, make sure their fallibility is clearly explained. Your reputation depends on it.
          In my consulting practice, I’ve worked with hundreds of businesses of all sizes, helping them achieve and maintain focus. Many millions of dollars saved. As always, an hour of my time is free to all of Ken’s readers. Why not see if I can help you improve your business?
Peter Goldring, SET, CFE, CAT-1

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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301