Schaumburg, alarm monitoring companies at odds over new law
Private alarm monitoring companies are up in arms over a new Schaumburg law that directs all the village's approximately 1,200 businesses to the governmental agency Northwest Central Dispatch for their alarm monitoring.
Kevin Lehan, executive director of the Illinois Electronic Security Association, calls it an aberration in Schaumburg's business-friendly reputation.
But Schaumburg Fire Chief David Schumann said that while he's sympathetic to those companies that may be losing business, this is one decision based purely on public safety rather than the pursuit or potential loss of economic development.
"I understand his point of view, but we have different philosophical opinions on that," Schumann said of Lehan. "I don't agree with the point that this is an anti-business measure."
During a 15-month period, the Schaumburg Fire Department documented 31 instances of unreliability among private alarm and sprinkler systems which Schumann said exceeded his comfort level.
Though all of these involved false alarms, they might just as easily have concerned real fires, Schumann said. Among the problems were systems that caused a 10- to 12-minute delay in contacting the fire department.
Schumann said the new law only moves the village back to the way things were for decades before it moved its emergency dispatch services from in-house to Northwest Central Dispatch in 2007.
Outside of these past nine years, all businesses in the village had the same expectation as anyone calling 911 from their home -- that their emergency would be reported directly to the dispatch service rather than through the "middle man" of a private firm.
"We just feel that's a better model," Schumann said. "The less steps, the more streamlined it is."
Nevertheless, he said he's keeping an open mind over a meeting with Lehan scheduled for Nov. 8 in which the latest achievements in private alarm monitoring technology will be discussed.
Not only is the decision on the law still reversible, but companies have been given five years to comply out of respect for private contracts they may still need to honor, Schumann said.
But Lehan complained of a recent letter from Schumann to businesses saying they needed to comply with the new law by Aug. 31, 2017. That's at odds with the language of the law, he said.
Schumann conceded that the letter may have contained a typo, but that there's no intention to begin enforcement of the law in 2017.
All 10 of the other municipalities that belong to Northwest Central Dispatch have been relying for years on the same system Schaumburg just switched to -- without the agency itself ever being involved with such a political dispute, its Executive Director John Ferraro said.
But Lehan said the high concentration of businesses in Schaumburg makes the impact of its switch entirely different for private alarm monitoring companies.
"This one will wreck companies," Lehan said.
Schaumburg Village Trustee Tom Dailly is the one member of the village board who's expressed a willingness to reverse the decision based on Lehan's arguments.
Dailly sees the change as an overly severe response to a relatively small number of reported problems. He believes that fining companies for alarm malfunctions should be sufficient to prevent them.
Fellow Trustee Frank Kozak, who chairs Schaumburg's public safety committee, said the debate over whether this is a public safety or private enterprise issue hasn't been lost on elected officials. He said he knows there's a lot of hearsay being spread around the village, but whether the new law could or should still be reversed was something he said he couldn't immediately comment on.
Schaumburg Business Association President Kaili Harding said the debate has also reached her ears from a few member businesses, but that the association has not yet taken a position.