Illinois alarm companies urged to reclaim business

As a public fire district exits the fire alarm monitoring business per a judge’s order, IESA says there’s an opportunity to regain customers
Monday, October 15, 2012

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill.—Now that a federal judge has ordered the Lisle-Woodridge Fire District to get out of the fire alarm monitoring business, the state alarm association is encouraging private alarm contractors to once again seek customers there.

“I’m urging alarm contractors in the state to go claim that business,” Kevin Lehan, executive director of the Illinois Electronic Security Association, based here, told Security Systems News.

It’s been three years since the district approved an ordinance requiring businesses there to terminate the fire alarm monitoring contracts they had with private alarm companies and contract only with the district to use its wireless radio network. ADT and other alarm companies sued, contending the public fire district was creating an illegal monopoly.

A judge ended up ruling last summer that the district can’t require private businesses to contract only with the district for fire alarm monitoring and that it can’t ban the companies from contracting with private central stations meeting approved codes and standards.

That modified permanent injunction order is not yet final because the fire district, which has contended its network is safer, has appealed it.

However, in the meantime, the district is complying with an order by Judge Milton Shadur to shut down its remote supervising station where it has receiving equipment to process fire alarm signals from wireless transmitters. The judge ordered the station closed because it didn’t meet NFPA code regulations.

The district has sent a letter to local businesses telling them a federal court has said the district can no longer operate its network, so the businesses should obtain fire alarm monitoring from a qualified private alarm company.

The judge set Oct. 4 as the final day for the network to operate but Lehan said that deadline has been extended to Oct. 31 for public safety reasons. Jim French, the district’s public information officer, could not be reached for comment by SSN’s deadline. He previously told SSN the district does not discuss pending litigation.

Lehan said the IESA supports the extended deadline to make sure businesses don’t have a gap in fire monitoring services as they look for a new alarm company.

 “This has been going on for years, and there’s no reason to leave a business, the people, the property unprotected,” Lehan said. “We’re certainly trying to help get this process going and help the industry, but their protection was first and foremost in my mind.”

But he is urging alarm companies to “court” their former customers again.

“It has been a while but there’s business in that market and there are opportunities for people to come in and gain a pretty significant share in the Lisle-Woodridge market, so we encourage all alarm dealers to contact previous customers and really make an effort to let everyone know in that market that they now have an open choice,” Lehan said.

He is not sure how many businesses remain with the district but said there were about 200 in May.