What's your background in the security industry?
I don’t refer to it as an industry. I refer to myself as being a professional in a professional business. After all, we are licensed in most states by some sort of professional licensing board. My house was almost broken into in the early 1970s, but they never got in. My father knew someone at ADEMCO, which was in Syosset, right next to where we lived.
I purchased equipment for my house, then my brother, and then neighbors. That was it. I was in business. At about the same time, I joined the local volunteer fire department. I served for about 14 years as a firefighter, Lieutenant, Paramedic, and assistant county fire inspector. I was also an instructor for new recruits in the fire department we called "probies."
During that time, I learned about fire alarm systems. I lost a dear friend going to a false alarm when the fire truck he was riding was hit by a car that went through a red light. I sold my business in New York and moved to Florida for health reasons. I started another company and eventually sold it to the predecessor of Devcon. I expected to stay six months for the transition. That was 13 years ago, and I’m still here.
How did you get involved in NTS?
I don’t know! I suppose it was because I was very involved in the fire service and the fire alarm business, so I took some of the NTS courses in the 80s. After listening to the instructor, I said "I can do that,” having taught fire back in the day. I started doing some classes for Level 1 and then FAIM.
One of the best classes was one we taught in Miami. It was a three-day class. We had both alarm guys and fire officials in the class. The alarm guys sat on one side of the room and the fire officials on the other. Just the way it was in real life, them against us.
I was able to break the ice, having been in the fire service and telling some jokes. During the class, I invited dialogue and questions. By the second day when everyone got seated, they all mixed together. We had a better understanding of what they were experiencing and we understood the problems they were having with both the quality of the installations and the cooperation or lack thereof from the alarm guys.
How do you apply your background to the courses you've taught?
I try to stick with what I know best. That’s fire, but I teach the other courses as well. I hate the word expert, because I don’t consider myself that. I just feel I have a good understanding of the material and how to apply that knowledge. I try to impart that to those in my classes. I’ve been told that I have a passion for our profession, and it shows during my presentations. I hope that the individuals come away with a little of that passion as well.
Can you share a teaching experience that's stuck with you?
As I said, I lost a dear friend to a false alarm response. My son is a paramedic/firefighter in Delray Beach, Florida. I always start my classes with a slide dedicating the class to my departed brother firefighter and I explain the situation. I tell them that we have a responsibility to those we ask to serve us by responding to alarms, be it a burglar or fire alarm. And I say I don’t want any system we install to put any of my friends in the fire service in danger, or my son.
Though not a funny experience, it was a great one. Someone from another company, an owner, from another state who is highly regarded in the industry came up to me after class and told me he thought he knew the material, and he realized how much he didn’t know. His praise was something I will always remember.
What do you find are the best ways for students to get the most out of NTS courses?
I have been through hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of courses as a student. I absolutely hate when an instructor either reads the slides or reads straight from a book in such a monotone voice that it puts the student to sleep. I try to use the slides as a guide for my presentation and just speak from the cuff but stay on point. I find that my rather loud voice keeps everyone awake and I try to be animated when I deliver the presentation.
How have you seen the security industry change over the years?
People aren’t attending the classes for the reasons they should. They attend because they have to. I think we have to get the passion into people for a career in security and not just a job. ESA Young Security Professionals (YSP) organization is a great start for that. Get the young people involved and help them develop that passion for our profession and become professionals.
What are your predictions for the future of the industry?
I think it’s a great time to be in the security profession. The economy is starting a slow recovery, and when it rebounds, I think that companies and individuals that position themselves properly will excel in business. That means proper training and certification.
Having established and recognized credentials will help get people through the doors that need to be opened. In order to open up lines of communication with our public safety officials, they need to know you mean business and are qualified to do business. Work with them, and not against them. They can be a great ally as well.