Anyone who questions the value of participation in local and national burglar and fire alarm associations need only look at the ongoing activities of the Illinois Electronic Security Association (IESA) to validate the reason for membership.

Just last week IESA members and lobbyists travelled downstate to Springfield to show support and testify against two new bills, up for debate in a senate committee hearing, that would ultimately prove harmful and create a competitive disadvantage for licensed Illinois alarm companies. And while IESA remains on alert, they feel certain they have thwarted the latest attempt to change the way alarm companies in the state do business.

Municipal fire alarm monitoring

Two new bills surfaced in the Illinois General Assembly, SB 1495 and SB 1685, one resurrecting the issue of municipal monitoring of fire alarms and the other in essence duplicating the current alarm company state licensing signed into law in 1984. SB 1495 sought to amend the Fire Protection District Act to allow the board of trustees of any fire protection district to adopt ordinances regulating the supervision and monitoring of fire alarm systems maintained within the district. In 2011, IESA fought a push by the Lisle-Woodridge Fire Protection District to move fire alarm signals from burglar and fire alarm companies to district-run monitoring facilities. IESA was successful in thwarting that attempt when the 7th U.S. Circuit of Appeals upheld an injunction against the fire protection district’s enforcement of the ordinance.

The other bill, SB 1685, would require fire alarm system designers in the state to hold National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) Level 3 certification or higher. Being that there are only 147 persons certified in the state at this level or higher, the legislation would essentially prohibit at least 80 percent of existing private alarm contractors in Illinois from continuing to offer fire alarm design and installation services, says Kevin Lehan, executive director of IESA and manager of Public Relations for EMERgency 24 in Des Plaines, Ill. Lehan says he is confident these bills will not be called out of committee for a vote after the group’s testimony last week outlining the adverse effect of the proposed legislation.

Duplicate licensure for alarm contractors

Lehan says, with regards to SB 1495, the Illinois Fire Inspector’s Association reasoned that an increase in fire deaths in the state was cause for a change in who monitors fire alarms. However, Lehan and IESA disputed the statistics – and said that the bill, which refers to commercial fire systems only, is being associated with research specific to residential systems.

"Everyone was on board and knew these measures would greatly hurt many member companies if allowed to go through.”

“This is in no way, shape or form related to the activities of licensed alarm contractors. Those deaths occurred because the residence didn’t have a smoke detector or the batteries hadn’t been changed. Those deaths didn’t happen in a commercial facility. In addition, when you have a system connected and monitored smoke detector, the device does a regular analysis, and the dealer checks to make sure the system is online and operational. We were wrongfully linked to a statistic, and we explained this during the hearing process,” he says. Lehan says SB 1685 would basically duplicate the licensure for alarm contractors in Illinois, in place since January 1984.

The National Fire Alarm and Signalling code 

According to Lehan, the overarching document followed and adhered to by licensed alarm companies in Illinois is NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signalling Code.

“The way it works is that licensed alarm companies in Illinois send their fire alarm designs to their local Authority Having Jurisdiction, the AHJ reviews it, and can accept or reject the plans. Once accepted, the system is installed per NFPA 72. The AHJ inspects for NFPA 72 compliance and if the system passes, occupancy is granted.”

“We continue to play defence, but our members came through. The alarm industry had 90 percent of the seats occupied in the committee meeting room, and we had about 60 people participating. The Illinois alarm industry spends a tremendous amount of money to make sure our legislative rights are protected. Everyone was on board and knew these measures would greatly hurt many member companies if allowed to go through.”

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Deborah O'Mara Owner, DLO Communications

Deborah L. O’Mara, SourceSecurity.com's dealer/integrator correspondent, is a veteran of the security marketplace, having extensive experience in security, fire alarm technology and integrated systems.

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