Keeping Homes and Schools Safe in a Changing Environment

Keeping Homes and Schools Safe in a Changing Environment

Why companies and associations—such as the Electronic Security Association and COPS Monitoring—are dedicating themselves to making homes and schools safe in an era with a constantly changing security landscape

Keeping Homes and Schools Safe in a Changing EnvironmentEvery 14.4 seconds—about the time it takes to rinse your hands—a home in the U.S. is burglarized. That means that during the roughly two minutes it takes to brush your teeth, eight homes have been robbed.

The US clocks in with the highest burglary rate in the world, meaning that Americans need to take home security seriously now more than ever. The Electronic Security Association (ESA) realizes this pressing need and has taken several initiatives to ensure homeowners can secure their property, find the right security company and stay safe. In addition, monitoring company COPS Monitoring has realized the need for state-of-the-art home security, and thinks new technology, such as mobile apps, is here to stay.

Keeping Homes Safe

According to John Knox, the president of the Electronic Security Association, home security is something ESA takes to heart.

“Home security is always going to be one of our focuses—we’re in the life safety and security business, so it doesn’t matter where you go, that’s a core business that we are in,” said Knox. “Bad things happen at home and bad things happen at work, and we try to focus on that.”

The association has tried to focus on home safety through a handful of recent initiatives, such as launching a partnership with BetterThanReviews. com, an online service, to create a tool so that consumers can ensure they are getting the best service possible. The tool, Alarm.org, provides safety facts, allows users to find a trusted security company in their area and provides information in the event that homeowners find themselves in an emergency situation. “Our website, Alarm.org, is basically set up so that consumers can get a lot of information,” said Knox.

ESA also provides a variety of resources on home security for both consumers and those in the industry on its website. Most recently, it published an article detailing how one can protect his or her home while on spring break, as well as an article explaining what to do in the event of an actual burglary.

David Smith, the director of marketing and communications at COPS monitoring, believes the home security world has been changing rapidly due to emerging technology and mobile apps. “I think historically, residential alarm systems were sold as a result of door to door sales through personnel,” he said. “With the advent of smartphones and the fact that smartphones have been put into almost everybody’s hands, everybody sees the access, control and the things they can do, which has in turn driven the home security market.”

Smith points out that the increase in consumers adopting home security technology may have occurred due to unique add ons (such as the ability to turn off and on lights), but this is not necessarily a bad thing.

“Customers like the fact that they can turn on and off lights, open and close doors, lock doors, arm and disarm the system and do things like that,” said Smith. “It might be those add ons that are driving home security, but regardless of what is causing the customers to adopt the home security— whether it’s lock control or lighting control—the end result is that they’re also being protected.”

COPS Monitoring—taglined “your hometown central station”—serves independent alarm dealers in six central stations based in Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Maryland. The company monitors for over 3,500 independent alarm dealers who themselves represent more than one million accounts.

A Changing Environment

Despite ESA’s efforts and initiatives in the home security market, Knox points out that the changing communication landscape has become a great challenge for the industry.

“I would say the biggest challenge for home security right now is being able to reach our customers and being able to communicate with our customers,” said Knox. “The pipeline is going away and we can’t operate the way we did ten years ago. I think that’s very crucial and if the state of transmission is not reliable, and phone companies are shifting to 2G, 3G, 4G and LTE, and we’re not sure that our transmitter is going to work, we’ve got a big problem.”

Knox points out that the changing communication landscape poses a threat to the security industry as a whole. “I think we’re very concerned right now with how communication is going to fall out over the next ten years,” said Knox. “We’re very challenged by that.”

Smith, on the other hand, believes the changing security landscape is an exciting time for technology, especially in terms of mobile applications.

“From a monitoring perspective, I think the industry is growing rapidly,” said Smith. “And I think that there’s a focus on integration and mobile access, which is causing the explosive growth right now.”

COPS monitoring has two mobile apps—one for the dealer and one for the customer—that allows both dealers and consumers to control their systems. The dealer’s mobile app, according to Smith, allows them to, “put their entire database in the palm of their hand and allows them to search for accounts, put accounts on and off test, and watch the signals they send in real time.” The consumer mobile app allows the homeowner to have control over their system while also allowing the dealer to, “completely brand the mobile app with their specific look and feel.” Dealers can customize this app with their company’s logo as well.

“Consumers are really looking for more and more information, control and interaction,” said Smith.

Securing our Schools

One sector of the industry that ESA repeatedly devotes time to is school security. In February of this year, the association publicly announced its support of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, which would include $165 million in funding for school security. In addition, ESA published “Electronic Security Guidelines for Schools,” which gives schools advice on what action can be taken for school security at the local level.

“Property is a valuable asset for us as human beings, but our children are far more valuable than anything we have. Parents worry about them while they’re in school, and we have to do what we can to make schools a safe haven for them,” Knox said. “It is very difficult because schools as we knew them were open to the public,” he said. “They were built in the 1950s and 1960s with no kind of plan for protecting access control or making it hard for somebody to get into the school. So it’s been a very difficult task to protect them. And then you also have to look at the fact that many parents don’t want to go through a check point just to take little Johnny to school every morning. So there are a lot of hurdles involved in school security and it’s something that we’re involved in.”

With board members from cities throughout the country and chapters from Alaska to Maine, ESA’s membership and governance are ripe with top players in the security industry. It boasts a wide range of online resources and programs, such as the National Training School, the Security America Risk Retention Group, and annual events, including ESA Day on Capitol Hill, ESX, the ESA Leadership Summit and more.

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Security Today.

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