Security In The Glades
Long road to the top finally pays off
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Oct 01, 2012
Rob Hile’s security career started somewhat quietly, in sales and
business development with a leading manufacturer of HVAC controls
and security platforms. Little did he know that times were
going to be changing in a big way.
On a parallel course in South Florida, John Peterson was working for Simplex
as an operations manager, all the while thinking of his own dream of
establishing a well-regarded integration company. Peterson, an electrician by
trade, always had an interest in infrastructure and partnerships.
Their two courses would not intersect for several years, but when they did,
both Hile and Peterson were ready to talk business.
Along the way, Hile worked for TAC, the now defunct GVI, Convergint
Technologies, Adesta and, most recently, Siemens Building Technologies. For
him, the road to Florida was filled with key mentoring opportunities and necessary
management growth. Meanwhile, Peterson departed Tyco and, seven
years ago, started Integrated Fire & Security Solutions, watching as Hile matured
in the business world.
IFSS seemed to take South Florida with the fury of a hurricane. Peterson
and his team, including sons Justin and Michael, worked on installations at the
Port of Miami, the Port of Jacksonville and the 2005 Super Bowl in Jacksonville.
“Our approach in the security business has been to integrate the marketplace,”
Peterson said. “We were following the approach of addressing the critical
infrastructure challenges before it was cool to do that. We wanted to treat
each customer as if they were a member of our own family.”
With IFSS up and roaring, Peterson’s company has become the integrator
of note in Florida, competing with the likes of Siemens, Simplex and Johnson
Controls. Headquartered in Fort Myers, IFSS has regional offices in Miami
and, as of July, Tampa. It was with the summer opening of the Tampa office
that Peterson decided to enjoy life a little more and hit the links more often,
and he hired Hile to be the company’s CEO and take things to the next level.
Leaving Chicago, Hile finally had the opportunity to realize his one longterm
career goal: to take charge of an integration company that was well run,
profitable and ready to grow.
“When we go after work or individual jobs, we will always provide higher
detail in the proposal and show alternate ideas to make our effort the best possible
solution,” Hile said. “Sometimes, the agencies that we are bidding don’t always
know the ins and outs of the security business, and we’re happy to tell them
there might be a better, less expensive way, but we never cut corners or details.
“We have walked away from a bad deal because we don’t want anyone to get hurt or suffer because of a lack of attention to safety and security.”
In today’s security industry, logic and forward thinking seem to be the
measure of good integration. Hile said an integrator is not doing anyone any
favors by not thinking three, five and 25 years down the road. He also said
training a staff and making sure they are certified is a tell-tale sign a company
is ready to perform faithfully and be true to its word.
“Our focus is on keeping people safe and secure,” Hile said. “We want to
make everyone aware we are as professional as they want us to be. We are accountable
for our work and our reputation as a security and fire integrator.”
IFSS has enjoyed success everywhere it has worked, including at Key West
International Airport, a well-known tourist hub in the Florida Keys. When
the company started the installation in 2006, the airport accounted for nearly
95,000 aircraft operations per year, or nearly 260 per day. Key West International Airport serves travelers from all over the
world and is located at U.S. Mile Marker 1.
Key West was experiencing growing pains due
to an increase in travel, and it determined that
expansion was necessary. The airport, operated
by Monroe County, broke ground in 2006 for a
30,000-square-foot expansion to the terminal, a
parking facility and the renovation of the existing
terminal building. This meant an update to
security and life safety technologies. It also gave
airport officials the ability to leverage technology
to increase security for public-use areas.
Existing products such as legacy CCTV cameras
were no longer effective tools. The airport
needed a security integrator that could use existing
infrastructure with new networked-based products
to provide its security team with smart tools
to enhance situational awareness.
“We loved being the integrator for this job,”
said IFSS President Justin Peterson. “Key West is
getting ready to grow when travel opens between
the United States and Cuba. It was critical to get
everything in place, and get it right.”
IFSS was selected to install and manage the
expansion, as well as upgrade the security and life
“At IFSS, the same person who will shake your
hand before the deal will be the same person who
shakes it again after the project is complete,” said
Larry Flowers, director of project management
in Monroe County, said the county needed an integrator
that was not only considered an expert
in the security and safety fields but also one that
understood the challenges the airport faced from
a budgetary perspective. Justin Peterson, who also
is the Fort Myers branch manager, approached the
airport job with different solutions designed to
keep the airport well within the allocated budget.
“IFSS went above and beyond to help us solve
our problems,” Flowers said. “If we were unfamiliar
with a specific technology, they demonstrated it
to us; and if we had to work around a budget issue,
they helped us build the most comprehensive solution,
staying within budget.”
Not long after the airport project, IFSS set its
sights on Tampa Bay Water. The local public utility
supplies water to the Tampa Bay region and
needed a fresh approach to its security. IFSS responded
to a security survey and made various
The public utility has facilities in the threecounty
area including Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough,
all of which needed some form or fashion of
security system improvements. Network cameras
are being installed at facilities and monitored by a
central monitoring station.
In 2004, Tampa Bay Water conducted a critical
infrastructure vulnerability assessment of its
facilities. That assessment continues today and
improvements are made as its board of directors
approves the security budget.
Tommy D. Brown, senior contracts manager,
said, “Annual capital improvement funding continues
the progress of security at all our various
sites. Its importance is critical because 2.5 million
people depend upon safe drinking water.”
If things could go wrong, a first place might be
at the local school district. Schools have been the
focus and an unfortunate playground for those
who ignore the safety and security of innocent
students. IFSS didn’t hesitate when a request for a
quote came from the Collier County School District
(CCSD) in Naples, Fla.
John Peterson knew the company could make a
difference in the lives of thousands of students and
that this was an area where proven partnerships
would be critical to security. It’s also a partnership
with the community, something in which he holds
a lot of pride.
As an IFSS customer, CCSD takes a proactive
approach to security and enjoys a strong relationship
with local law enforcement. When looking
at upgrading its security technology, the district
sought out a solutions- and customer servicebased
blend. School officials wanted to partner
with an integrator that could be a long-term
provider and make sure security and technology
work hand in hand.
When IFSS entered the picture by being acknowledged
as the most responsive bidder to
the district’s RFP for security, it brought with it
an extensive network of cameras, video management
and other options that included monitoring,
intrusion detection, access control and motion
detectors. Working with IFSS, CCSD has found a
strongly aligned partner that guides its stakeholders
through technology transitions and services
and is invested in making the schools as safe as
possible. That equates to a win-win situation for
the school district.
The security business in Florida is a busy enterprise.
John Peterson has taken a different approach
to building his empire. Florida is his home. He and
his family want to be part of the community. In
order to grow the family business, Peterson has
increased the size of this family and will undoubtedly
be thinking about more Florida territory—
maybe Gainesville or Jacksonville for a new office.
For right now, he is focused on providing the best
solutions possible and customer service.
After all, it is the family name at stake. And
nothing means more to Peterson than his family.
This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Security Today.