By: Brad Shipp
In a recent press release the Security Industry Association sought to take credit for the adoption of Maryland legislation.
In a recent ESA Blog Chris Heaton – Vice President for Advocacy and Public Affairs implied that the False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA) and Maryland Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (MDBFAA) had not properly represented its members when testifying on recent legislation.
While the signed legislation is a step forward, as is usually the case, there is more to the story.
In 2016 ADT proposed an over 20 page bill for the 2017 session that would have created a convoluted permit process for wireless alarms and would have exempted alarm user and companies from many requirements and ordinances. In short, it would have neutered many local alarm reduction programs and cut wireless systems out of professional regulation. The proposed process for electrical permits for wireless alarms would have required alarm companies to buy permits in bulk in advance and to post a copy of the permit at the front door while work was done. This would have created problems for local government and dealers alike. And it was designed to solve a problem that did not exist, since most localities allow you obtain permits on line.
Fortunately, the bill was not adopted.
In late 2017, ADT met with local alarm administrators to see what might work. They were told that exempting wireless systems from electrical permits would work and that other efforts to exempt alarm companies from fines would not.
In early 2108, ADT introduced 2 bills. One stated in the summary that it was intended to exempt wireless systems from local electrical permits. Unfortunately, the bill was worded to exempt wireless systems from all local and state regulation. This would have meant that no state license would be required. Alarm users would also have been exempt from local alarm regulations. FARA and MDBFAA was able to get the bill amended to focus the bill on its stated intent and supported the amended version of the bill.
The other bill proposed that alarm companies be given a 10 day grace period to correct when a dispatch request was made to local public safety for and alarm that had no permit or had an expired permit.
Local governments though out the state opposed this approach. MDBFAA worked with FARA and the Maryland Association of Counties to craft language that would pass. Many versions of the bills were passed back and forth until we eventually agreed to the language that was adopted.
In the end, after lots of changes two bills have been passed.
Because of the efforts of MDBFAA & FARA, Language was added to make sure that wireless systems are still regulated by local false alarm programs and still fall under State Licensing for sales people and installers.
HB 1117 and SB 927 simply adds a requirement for the alarm company to be notified that a user’s permit has expired or was suspended before an alarm company is fined for requesting a dispatch for a location without a valid permit.
Because of the efforts of MDBFAA & FARA, language was removed that would have prevented the alarm company from being fined for requesting the dispatch even if they were notified that the alarm user did not have a valid permit. As a result of this effort ESA and others have accused FARA & MDBFAA of advocating that the alarm company should get all the fines instead of the user.
What Really Happened
The reality is that FARA does not advocate one false alarm reduction strategy over another. FARA does seek to preserve the right of each locality to select the combination of strategies that works for them.
MDBFAA seeks as a responsible representative of the industry in Maryland to develop and preserve a constructive relationship with state and local government. MDBFAA worked to craft a law that solved the current problems of low voltage permits and alarm companies getting surprised with fines for dispatch requests without valid permits. We accomplished both goals and maintained our constructive relationships with state and local governments.
What Did We Learn
Beware of those who seek to overreach to craft law to correct perceived future problems that may occur or shape law to meet their particular business model at the expense of others or litigate before that exhaust negotiated solutions.
Public safety has increasing challenges. Terrorism, School Safety, etc and dwindling resources. Few if any departments have been able to fill all the allotted slots for officers. All of this put increased pressure to reduce false alarms.
Limitations on how local agencies can deal with false alarms can push localities to more drastic option such as verified response or no response at all.