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  Metropolitan Burglar and Fire Alarm Association
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Industry News

  • April 14, 2005 10:53 PM | Alan Glasser (Administrator)


    James P. Colgate, RA, Esq.
    Executive Architect
    New York City Department of Buildings

    Dear James:
    Alan Glasser President of the MBFAA referred me to you for a correct
    answer to the following question.
    A question has come up in my Coop Apt. building where I reside and am on the
    Board Of Directors. Combination Carbon Monoxide/Smoke Detector self contained
    units have been installed in all apartments of this building, as per NYC requirement.
    My question is that a deaf women resides in this building, and it is unclear to us
    or our managing agent, what will we have to install to be in compliance with the
    law in this deaf women's apartment?
    I'm told that she presently has a smoke detector that flashes a strobe in a few locations
    in her Apt.
    Do you know of a self contained unit (s) that would be in compliance with the new law,
    for this deaf woman's Apt, can you give me the type, brand & model number?
    Would it be a single unit or multiple self contained units?
    Is it a combination C02/smoke detector unit?
    Also, all shareholder were billed for the installation of these detectors.
    Who must bear the cost of the unit (s) installation of the proper
    carbon monoxide detector whatever type it or they may be, for this women's apartment,
    I am a member a member of the MBFAA, in good standing for over 15 Years.
    I would appreciate very much any insight into this matter that you may have.
    Thank you very much in advance,
    %$#% &&*^%#
    President, !^$ ^%$##%^&Systems, Inc.

    Dear Mr. #$%^^$,
    NYC Building Code Reference Standard 17-12, section, requires a CO detector to cause the operation of a visible alarm signal with a minimum rating of 110 candela within 16 feet of the pillow in a sleeping room occupied by a hearing impaired person.  Additional CO alarms may be installed in other parts of the same apartment (i.e. non-bedrooms), and these additional alarms need only be 15 candelas (because they do not need to wake the person up from a sleep). 
    There are several models available.  I would recommend doing a or search with the terms "Carbon monoxide" and "strobe".  Most of the models I have seen are hardwired (AC 120V) or plug-in, and are in the range of $200+.
    As to who pays, that's HPD's area.  It is my understanding that in a tenant-landlord relationship, the maximum payment by the tenant is $25.  In a co-op, that would be the same unless there is something in the proprietary lease that says otherwise.  But this is not really my area, so if this is an issue about payments, please contact HPD on this matter.
    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
    James Colgate
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    James P. Colgate, RA, Esq.
    Executive Architect
    New York City Department of Buildings

  • February 05, 2005 9:52 PM | Alan Glasser (Administrator)

    Reprinted with permission from


    False Alarms: A New Law Where the Punishment Doesn't Meet the "Crime"

    Suffolk County, N.Y.'s proposed addition to its alarm ordinance could mean jail time for your customer's fifth false alarm ... isn't that a bit much?

    Geoff Kohl, editor

    Suffolk County, N.Y., will be the newest community to enact an alarm ordinance ... and this time it's no slap on the wrist for a nuisance alarm.
    After responding to 157,039 false alarms in 2003, which the department translates into 6,870 eight-hour tours or a cost of $2,597,000, the county is, like many in the United States, enacting a false alarm ordinance that will fine alarm owners for false alerts of their alarm system.
    The local law is expected to be confirmed in coming days, and thanks to a copy of the country resolution from Jan. 25 sent by New York's MBFAA, is able provide details of this coming law.
    The new law, which adjusts Section 213-3 of the Suffolk County Code, sets out a fee structure, like other counties and municipalities. However, in Suffolk County, the ordinance proposes a high increase in fines, much higher than industry norms where fines tend to spread from $50 to $500.
    While the first alarm call of a year is not fined, and is only recorded, the second false alarm is subject to a fine of $350. On a third false alarm, the fine more than doubles, to a levy of $750. Fourth and subsequent false alarm responses will require a fine of a staggering $1,000.
    Despite the high fines, Suffolk County is proposing even more dire consequences. Besides a $1,000 fine, the proposed law states that "any alarm owner who shall continue to operate an alarm system that has generated four false alarms in a twelve month period and having been fined in accordance with the schedule ... shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both. Each such violation shall be deemed a separate offense.
    Suffolk's proposal, which means that an alarm owner on their fifth false alarm could end up in jail for a year and with a $1,000 fine in addition -- if the law is enforced with its most heavily levied punishment -- strikes those of us at as a clear case where the "crime" (if indeed there is one) does not fit the punishment.
    The day that the public must choose between securing their homes and businesses or facing possible jail time is a dark day for our industry.
    Get Involved: Suffolk County will be holding its committee session at 11 a.m. (EST) on Tuesday, Feb. 15, and then following that, will hold a public hearing at 2:30 p.m. The law has the possibility of being passed this day, but will likely be voted on at a later date. The law has a provision that the changes would be enacted 120 days after it is approved and filed with the office of the Secretary of State. The Metropolitan Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (MBFAA) is involved with tracking of this legislation.

  • February 05, 2005 9:48 PM | Alan Glasser (Administrator)

    Suffolk County's Proposed Ordinance: What It Means to Dealers
    Attorney Ken Kirschenbaum examines some of the subtle points of the proposed alarm ordinance for Suffolk County, N.Y.
    Ken Kirschenbaum, Esq.

    [Editor's Note: Ken Kirschenbaum, an attorney with Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, a New York law firm that often deals with legal cases involving the security industry, shared his thoughts on the Suffolk County legislation. While this may seem to be a regional issue, the points Ken makes are valuable across the country for all alarm systems dealers.]
    Here is the definition of who is responsible for a false alarm (as spelled out in the ordinance): "An alarm owner may appeal the validity of a Notice of False Alarm and request a hearing. The appeal must be made in writing to Consumer Affairs within ten days of the alarm owner having received the Notice of False Alarm."
    As I read this definition it could include the alarm company who installed the alarm and leased it to the subscriber. Since I believe the intent of the legislation is to impose the burden on the end user the legislation should be clear in that regard; it's not as presently drafted.
    Of course the determination of a false alarm is arbitrary. Leaving that determination up to the department of consumer affairs takes the process out of the criminal justice system, with its checks and balances. The department of consumer affairs is not equipped to handle judicial criminal matters, and this legislation includes the penalty of misdemeanor, which is a crime. The employees at consumer affairs are going to make that determination?
    The fine is against the "alarm owner who shall continue to operate an alarm system...." Does that mean the alarm company who owns and leases the system? The term "alarm owner" is not clear enough to exclude the alarm company. This should be corrected to read "alarm end user."
    False alarm fines of course are a source of friction between the alarm company and the subscriber. Since the legislation, or some form of it, is revenue raising motivated, you have to believe that it or something like it is going to pass. How should you deal with it?
    Your contracts have to be clear that false alarm fines must be paid by the subscriber.
    You need to be more careful in your installation and service so that false alarm are not your fault. If you think that a manufacturer is to blame then stop using its product. The subscriber is going to depend on you to install and service the system properly, and will have every right to complain if you don't do the right job and the subscriber gets fined, no matter what the contract says about who pays the fine.
    But this is a great opportunity for you to sell alarm verification as a way to reduce false alarms. I'd push CCTV with Internet and central station monitoring.
    So let's hope the legislation gets cleaned up. Let's hope that it is handled by the criminal courts and not consumer affairs, that you make sure you have contract protection, that you improve your installation and service and train subscribers better in use of system, and that you sell more verification systems, such as CCTV.
    About the author: Kenneth Kirschenbaum, Esq., is an attorney at law with Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, PC, out of Garden City, N.Y. He can be reached via his website,

  • December 28, 2004 9:45 PM | Alan Glasser (Administrator)

    The VoIP Challenge for Alarm Systems Dealers

    Reprinted with permission from

     A look at what dealers, monitoring companies and manufacturers are doing
    to face the issue of VoIP and alarm system incompatibility

     By Geoff Kohl, editor,

     As an alarm dealer and central station monitoring provider, you've got lots to think about already. As if customer retention, finding new prospects, maintaining your RMRs, assessing the new product lines and staying up-to-date on what your competitors are doing to steal your edge isn't enough, there's another issue you'll soon be facing if you haven't already. 

    Sound the trumpets and raise the drawbridge. The new consumer technology that's here in some metropolitan locations and on the horizon in smaller towns is a thing called VoIP, which stands for voice over Internet protocol. Don't mind the alphabet soup; it's a technical way of saying that your customers can disconnect their phone lines and talk directly using the Internet. 

    Before you wave this off as just another technology to live with, you should know that it means a lot to your job as an alarm systems dealer. The thing that industry insiders, like Honeywell Security and Custom Electronics' Vice President of Marketing Gordon Hope, will tell you is that VoIP will change how you do business. 

    In the world of VoIP, you have some solutions providers, such as Vonage, that simply sell customers the hardware that they need to connect to their existing computer and high-speed connection to create a phone system that uses Internet bandwidth. This is called a non-facilities based solution. Then you have the big players - companies like AT&T, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Verizon - that use a facilities-based solution, meaning that the technology isn't in the box you have, but is in their telecom facilities and that they provide you with the high-speed connection too. These are the companies that are doing heavy marketing of VoIP, and it's selling. 

    Consider the following: A recent offer from Verizon's VoIP division (the service is called Voicewing), promotes VoIP calling for just $29.95 a month when you add that to existing Verizon DSL service, or $34.95 a month by itself. It's a deal that many customers are biting on. With included features like unlimited local and long distance calling, voicemail with email notification, caller ID, three-way calling, a phone/address book that integrates into your PC software, $.05/a minute or less to places like Australia, Aruba, Italy, Canada and Israel, it's not hard to understand why the American public is starting to make the switch from POTS (plain old telephone service) to VoIP. 

    So what's that have to do with the security industry? Lots, unfortunately. 

    Here's the kicker to all the good deals, straight from the Verizon website: 

    "Verizon VoiceWing Service does not support traditional 911 or E911 access to emergency services. The limited emergency response service ("Limited Emergency Response Service") differs in a number of important ways from traditional emergency response services. You must maintain an alternate means of requesting emergency services. An accurate Service Address is required to route your calls to the closest emergency call center in the event that you dial 9-1-1. Verizon VoiceWing Service will not work if power is out. VoiceWing will not support home security systems and cannot be used with satellite television services. Network congestion or use of data services at the same time as VoiceWing might affect sound quality." 

    The small text, found here by doing a detailed search of the fine print and FAQs, states unequivocally if you plan to use an alarm system with a VoIP system, turn around and walk away - it won't work. And you'll find similar language from the other major providers. 

    "Customers are oblivious to this fact," says Alan Glasser, president of the Metropolitan Burglar and Fire Alarm Association in New York. 

    "I called up the PR office of CableVision," explains Glasser, "and was speaking to a woman there and she had an alarm system, which she had never tested. She had VoIP and had no idea that her own company didn't support alarm systems." 

    So that's it - the alarm system can't connect, can't send an alert signal, just won't work? Unfortunately it's not that easy. 

    "The signals might get through," says Glasser, who adds that you can't count on the signal going through. "We don't know for sure that it's 100 percent compatible. The techs say it's not 100 percent compatible, and no one wants and alarm system that only works 99 percent of the time." 

    "CYA": What Others Are Doing 

    For alarm dealers and central station monitoring providers, it brings up real issues of liability. What if John Q. Homeowner's burglar alarm sounds while he's on vacation and the signal doesn't make it over the Internet to the monitoring company to alert the police? Twenty minutes later and his prized collection of vintage coins is gone, and when the homeowner returns, the installing company, the monitoring company, the homeowner and the VoIP provider are all standing around pointing fingers. So, who's to blame? 

    That answer hasn't been determined fully just yet, but as long-term security industry legal consultant Ken Kirschenbaum, says, "VoIP is too unreliable to interact with alarm systems and its communicators." 

    "We're going to have to have disclaimers and include specific warnings in our contracts when people that have VoIP are being solicited," continues Kirschenbaum, "I think there are going to be experts that would be willing to testify that the VoIP is too unreliable and should not have been used. When there is a failure, the alarm company should have not agreed to using VoIP." 

    Andy Lowitt, the vice president of dealer relations at Metrodial central station monitoring in Hicksville, N.Y., says there's a need to be proactive that has to come from dealers and the central station community,. 

    "From a liability standpoint, it's a good idea to notify your clients," says Lowitt. "Perform a regular test and find out if your signal works. There's a chance the signal will go through and there's a chance it won't go through. We've sent all of our dealers a standard letter that explains all of the issues. We point out the possibility that the signal will not go through. We've pointed out the problems that will be there if they have a loss of power." 

    Glasser concurs. He's made sure that the company's contracts and salespersons address the VoIP issue before it comes to head in an ugly lawsuit. 

    "The way the contract protects us is that we had an existing alarm service and they change their communications (i.e., from phone to VoIP), then we are protected," explains Glasser. "But if you're in sales and you sign up a new customer without asking the question of how their communications connection is set up, then you're screwed. You'd be liable because you should have asked that question." 

    But don't stop there, says Glasser. 

    "You should tell your customers that if they change their service, then they should let the alarm company test the system. But if you're selling alarm systems, you better ask the right questions...and if you're selling it to a customer with VoIP, you better have a back-up system." 

    And while the back-up seems like a no-brainer, by estimates of many people in the industry, back-up systems are used by less than 10 percent of alarm systems. 

    Organize, Mandate and Legislate 

    While there's certainly a thought in some parts of the industry that VoIP is a problem that will be solved with technology, just like the advent of DSL filters and communicator panels that worked with the Caller ID functions, Honeywell's Gordon Hope doesn't think it's that easy. 

    The problem as he sees it is this: "The FCC is not mandating cable providers to the same standards as telephone company providers. It is offered as an extension of normal cable services."

    Fortunately, people like Hope are working within the security industry to create coalitions, solve problems and create workable standards. Hope and others involved with the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) have begun to create the initial contacts that are needed to solve this problem, by having security industry manufacturers communicate directly with cable industry organizations. 

    "The way to fix this problem is through standards organizations," says Hope. "At the ISC show we tried to pull some of the manufacturers together. We're offering the cable providers free equipment to let them test and to make sure their stuff will work with our equipment." 

    But the plan is more extensive. By involvement on the AICC, security industry leaders are planning meetings with groups like the CSAA, SIA and the NBFAA and cable organizations like the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and CableLabs, a group that is working to set standards and define the technology that's used in the cable modems that power the Internet and communications to VoIP-enabled homes and businesses. 

    Hope says that initial reaction of meetings between the cable industry and the security industry has been positive, but that a solution will take more effort. 

    For now, however, the issues of liability give execs in the security industry a bit of frustration and lot of hesitancy. "It's going to take high-level industry-to-industry communications to solve this," explains Hope. 

    Until then, the temporary solution is to watch your back and be wary of what commitments you make to consumers using VoIP. Hope doesn't like the current picture. 

    "At Honeywell, we are recommending that dealers don't connect with VoIP," he says. "It's a moving target, and we know some of it works and some of it doesn't." 


    Visit the websites of the following organizations involved in the issue of VoIP and alarm system compatibility:







    Click here for a direct link to this article on the SecurityInfoWatch web site

Just so you know... we put this NEW site on line Jan 7, 2013 and it is STILL under construction.
Please e-mail us back with errors, suggestions, or updates you may have. Thanky You In Advance! Alan.

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