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Instructor Q&A: Danny Northcutt, Lafayette Alarm Services

Posted By Jason Unger, Friday, March 23, 2012

What's your background in the security industry?
I started helping my stepfather when I was 12 years old, holding the ladder and handing tools. Other than going to college and four years in the Navy Air-wing, Security and Life Safety systems have been my profession.

How did you get involved in NTS?
A friend, Don Brown, who was a board member of the Louisiana Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (now the LLSSA - Louisiana Life Safety and Security Assn.), asked me to be a regional VP. I said sure, but only for one year. That was a lot of years back and I'm proud of the accomplishments of our board and especially to be able to work with some truly inspirational people associated with LLSSA. I even had the privilege of serving as state President in 2000.

I have always had an interest in teaching and felt I could satisfy this interest through NTS. I also hoped to help raise the "bar" in the NTS program both nationally and in my state, LA. When Don Brown retired, he again asked me to help by taking his place as Education Coordinator, a position which I still hold.

How do you apply your background to the courses you've taught?
As I said, I started as a green helper, but being a two-person company, I've sold, installed, serviced and cleaned the office over the years. I now have a nice medium-sized company with wonderful employees and enjoy the benefits of the same.

My experiences over the years allow me to relate specifically to most of the lessons in the NTS program. I have been able to balance my real life experiences with the courses to justify the course recommendations to do or do not do certain things in our profession.

What's the funniest experience you've had teaching a course?
There's been a few, but the first time I taught FAIM, which was maybe the first time it was taught by an NTS instructor, I had gone through the slides very quickly to get an idea of what I would be teaching.

Everything looked good, and the day of the class, I had four representatives from the LA State Fire Marshal's office as students along with fifteen industry professionals. As soon as I started the program and had to dwell on a slide, it automatically advanced, and advanced and advanced. I paused class for an emergency repair and called NTS for help, but there wasn't anything they could do for me.

Apparently, the creator had set the PowerPoint up to auto advance, and since I had reviewed the slides quickly, this error had gone unnoticed. The PowerPoint Reader was just that -- "read only" -- so I couldn't modify and had to advance a slide, right click, pause, discuss, right click, resume, over and over through the entire course. Also the irregular ceiling formulas were incorrect and created serious confusion for this instructor.

After muddling through this embarrassing course, I promptly bought a copy of PowerPoint and learned how to edit programs as needed after careful review.

What do you find are the best ways for students to get the most out of NTS courses?
I like to ask a lot of questions, e.g. after a module I ask questions about specific points both general with all class participation and specific questions to individuals and only the assigned person can answer. If they can't answer from memory, I tell them to look it up and let us know when they find the answer. This adds emphasis to the knowledge based courses, in that they don't have to memorize the answers, but know where and how to find them.

Encouraging the entire class to look up the answers during review seems to help. There are always students that can answer my questions from memory. I don't ask those obvious students, I ask the ones that I think don't know the answers. This process has worked well for my classes.

How have you seen the security industry change over the years?
I've seen it change a lot. I started putting in systems with one zone using a shunt lock to allow for exiting, dry cell batteries for circuit and bell power. I've foiled many windows and knocked holes in brick walls with a star drill and hammer. So power tools, re-chargeable power supplies, multi-zoned panels, reliable glass break detectors and passive infrared space detection were very important, but the most important change was the digital communicator, which allowed affordable remote monitoring of commercial and especially residential systems.

What are your predictions for the future of the industry?
There is a new generation of clients -- our children who grew up with computers and video games are now building businesses and buying homes. They see the value in Security and Life Safety, but want it with the modern bells and whistles, i.e. the "App" generation. The new systems using smart phones to control and monitor without land lines is, in my opinion, the future.

We also have to quit thinking of a Burglar Alarm as a Security System. It is only one component of a "System." Burglar Alarms are for after hours detection of intruders, Access Control allow specific people to go where they are authorized and record the same and CCTV captures what goes on in and around a facility 24/7. When you combine and maybe integrate these items, then you have a "Security System."

Tags:  Instructor Q&A  March 2012 

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