Terrorist attacks spark demand for security systems

Feb. 1, 2002
The tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001 are forcing companies and institutions to build better security systems, and cable installers are being sought out for the work.

The tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001 are forcing companies and institutions to build better security systems, and cable installers are being sought out for the work.

Industry analysts say the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are now sending shock waves throughout the cabling industry. As more companies seek out quality, advanced security systems, the demand for contractors who can install the systems increases.

But some installers are "on the fence," saying they want to see more evidence before they delve too deeply into diversifying by installing cable for security systems.

"It would depend on what happens," says Bruce Kramer, who works for Interstate Electronics in Willowbrook, Ill. "In Chicago, many people are dedicated to security contracting, and we don't know if we'd go for it. There is a lot of competition out there."

But as the demand grows, some believe it will direct a flow of capital into an industry that has been mired in a slowdown for many months.

"People are becoming much more security conscious," says Ron Shaver, a master instructor for BICSI (www.bicsi.org). "Since Sept. 11, people are more aware of what can happen. Before that, everybody felt pretty secure in this country."

A technician for Washington, D.C.-based Kastle Systems Inc. installs cabling for a security system. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the company reports that security system sales are up 10 to 20%, and it needs more installers to keep up with the demand.
Click here to enlarge image

Companies that design and manufacture security systems noticed the demand first. Mark Purcell, vice president of sales and marketing for the Washington D.C.- based Kastle Systems Inc., says sales for his company's security systems are now up 10 to 20%. "Our company is on the demand side-it's fourfold," says Purcell.

Demand for the systems is only part of the change. Purcell says most companies that contact Kastle Systems started by doubling the number of on-site guards. Then they began to investigate installing better security systems, which Purcell says are being budgeted at a dramatic rate this year.

John Lopinto, president of Communications Specialties Inc. (www.commspecial.com) in Haup pauge NY, is seeing an increase in the demand for surveillance systems for institutions such as schools, government buildings and other public areas.

His company manufactures optical-fiber transmission networks that are used in security systems. He says the need for such networks once took a back seat to other projects, but now, the projects are being moved to the forefront.

"(Security) projects at the corporate level that were on the back burner have now risen to the top," says Lopinto. "There are more (security systems) being put into places where people didn't think there would be a need for that level of security."

Purcell says much of the demand is for security systems that deliver services through one database. These systems rely on a mixture of optical fiber and copper cabling, and provide a link between a commercial building and the security operations system.

That's the type of system that Bruce Hill recently had installed. Hill, director of operations and engineering for Intell Management and Investment Co., says his company is completing a major renovation on an office building on West Jackson Blvd., Chicago. Cable installers are now wiring the building's telecommunications shafts. The system will allow tenants to sign in using a key card, which they can also use to gain access to the elevator and tenant suite.

Hill says he has had several meetings with representatives from other buildings who wanted to come see how the system works. "They come to look at our system because it is so state-of-the-art," says Hill. "We've tied the security system to the directory system and our communications system. It's all one system."

But Lopinto says the need for security systems will be particularly important to those that specialize in the installation of optical fiber. His company provides technology for the capital equipment business, which has been in recession since last year. But since Sept. 11, he reports strong sales.

Before the terrorist attacks, Lopinto says, companies were content to have security cameras that could spot a truck parked at the back door of a building. Now, he says those same companies want their systems to be able to read the wording on the side of the truck, or read the truck's license plate. These call for the high-speed data transfers that optical fiber can provide. "Since Sept. 11, this has all been taken to a new level," he says.

This demand for quality security systems is naturally causing a demand for installers who can set up the systems. Purcell, for example, says his company has six regional operations in the United States. Today, all of them are seeking additional cable service, maintenance and installation workers who can install cable wiring in the buildings.

"We have 435 employees, and about 25% are installers," says Purcell. "We need more."

Purcell says his company is not alone. "Others like us are affected," he continues. "If I was a cabling installer and I wasn't involved in installing and servicing and maintaining electronic security systems, I would look to add that to my portfolio."

Lopinto agrees: "As far as fiber optics go, installers have always had a passing interest in it. Now they are trying to find out more about it and become educated on the specifics of the technology."

But Rick Tuggle, the Atlanta project manager for Universal Fiber Optics Inc. (www.ufo-inc.com), wants to see more proof. He says his company focuses on installing fiber to the home, and has yet to receive many calls for security system installation.

"If I knew there was a market for it and a way I could get into it, it would be one thing I would look into," says Tuggle. "If there was a consumer demand for fiber optics in security systems, by all means, I'd pursue the work."

-Brian Milligan

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