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Symposium planned as CANASA’s monitoring committee takes on false alarms

The Canadian Security Association revived its monitoring committee a few years ago to tackle head-on some of the most pressing issues facing the security industry. The false alarm issue in particular has clear ramifications for the monitoring business — some homeowners are being charged more than $1,000 in fines by municipalities due to false fire alarms. Committee chair Kim Schellenberg, who is also director of business development for Armstrong National Alarm Monitoring, says she’s ready to take on the issue and talk to all involved parties to find an agreeable solution.


June 29, 2011
By Neil Sutton
Neil Sutton

SP&T News: The monitoring committee was dormant for some time. Was it disbanded?

Kim Schellenberg: There’s always been a monitoring committee. Each chapter had a subchapter for it for a long time, but there wasn’t a chair for quite a few years. But they have revived it.

SP&T News: Is that because of the false alarm issue?

Kim Schellenberg: I think that it was something that was needed. The monitoring side, at the end of the day, is the one that’s left with everything. Once you sell and install, the first problem comes through the monitoring station. We wanted to do something that would help with new technology coming in, understanding standards, and that maybe the monitoring community could have a say and work with manufacturers to understand standards and how things are done. [Two manufacturers sit on the committee: DSC and Honeywell.]

Basically the committee wanted to take a more proactive approach instead of reactive. One of the mandates we had right away was understanding the fire situation. It’s been a long time coming with people charging for fire (false alarms). It first started in Calgary, where the fire department charges $500 for a truck roll. We created a position paper that we thought may help the cities and small municipalities in working with the fire monitoring side.

We’ve met with the association of fire chiefs, we’ve forwarded our position paper right across Canada. We’ve also polished up our position paper on false burglar alarms. With (municipalities) everyone has their by-laws, but we’re working with the RCMP on the rural areas — areas where the RCMP cannot attend, simply because of constraints with manpower. We didn’t want them to adopt a non-response. We’re looking at a verified response position, meaning contacting many different individuals before they’re called to attend to an alarm situation.

The other thing we’re doing is looking at putting together an alarm symposium, and getting key people together, from manufacturing to software to dealers, and key people. We built a sub-committee for that. We’re trying to make sure that central stations know we’re there. We’re hoping that the message trickles down from the CANASA side and they’re pushing it at meetings. Also that the central stations are pushing the message down to their dealers.

SP&T News: CANASA Executive Director JF Champagne has made the false alarm issue in the City of Toronto one of his main platforms.

Kim Schellenberg: We worked with JF on that issue as well. We gave JF our position paper, and he has been asked to sit on an advisory board with the City of Toronto. He submitted the paper, which includes permit structure, which gives them recurring revenue every year if they want to charge a fee. It also gets them to measure it. We want them to start measuring it rather than saying that this is an issue with everybody. It really isn’t. The problem that’s arising, especially on the residential side is, monitored fire systems are not mandated.

There’s a lot of work ahead of us in trying to get our message across. We want to work with them, not work against them and fight them. The issue with municipalities right across Canada is, they are looking for money. That’s really what it’s boiled down to.

SP&T News: Does CANASA collaborate with other associations on this issue?

Kim Schellenberg: I’m also a chair with SIAC (Security Industry Alarm Coalition). CANASA holds two position seats. One is myself, the other is (CANASA president) Karen McGee. SIAC came up with verified response. They’re really trying to help out with the police fine situation. They’re trying to be proactive, saying that, before the police fine you because all your alarms are due to non-response, let’s take a proactive stance and call some people after the alarm goes off to verify that the police are actually required. It really works well with the residential market, because people know who comes and goes in their home. Businesses are much more difficult. In talking to a lot of fire people, if the system is installed and maintained properly, you shouldn’t get false alarms, but they need to crack down, because a lot of people aren’t maintaining and fixing or installing proper systems. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to work with them on that.