The Illinois Electronic Security Association (IESA) staff along with 60 licensed alarm contractors spent a “Day in Springfield,” the capital city of Illinois, on March 25, 2015. After month of planning, the group of state-licensed alarm contractors descended on the Illinois capitol armed with fact sheets, letters of opposition and a clear focus on what they needed to do in order to keep potentially dangerous legislation from advancing.
The group made more than 180 legislative contacts and met with key committee members. While most house and senate members were busy in voting and non-voting committee sessions, IESA was active in reaching out to everyone from staffers to lawmakers. “Everyone had a positive response to us,” remarked Kevin Lehan, executive director of IESA. “It was a chaotic and busy day but we touched many key lawmakers multiple times by focusing our efforts to reach the members of committees that control the fate of two harmful bills.”
IESA has been planning its “Day in Springfield” in order to raise awareness about threats to the Illinois alarm industry, namely two bills: Senate Bills 1495, which had advanced to the Local Government Committee in the Illinois Senate, chaired by the bill’s sponsor, Thomas Cullerton; and Senate Bill 1685, also sponsored by Sen. Cullerton. That bill had moved to the Licensed Activities and Pensions committee.
“SB 1495 would allow fire protection districts to adopt ordinances regulating the supervision and monitoring of fire alarm systems, and collect fees for fire alarm services that are provided to customers by the district itself or through its selected vendor,” said Lehan. “That seems to be idle, but SB1685, the bill that creates redundant fire-alarm licensure, was addressed in a Senate committee hearing while we were in Springfield.”
Representing the IESA, Lehan testified to the committee that the bill establishes dueling requirements for the design, installation, repair, inspection and testing of fire alarm systems. This bill calls for a person with a NICET Level 3 certification or higher for system design.
If passed, it would prohibit 725 currently licensed alarm contractors from continuing to perform commercial fire-alarm services unless they hired a person with those credentials. Because there are only 147 persons certified in Illinois at this level — and many work for common employers — at least 80 percent of existing private alarm contractors would be barred from providing a service they are licensed to now provide, according to a fact sheet released by IESA.
In addition, Senate Bill 1685 also requires a person to have NICET Level 2 certification for inspection and testing of fire alarm systems. With just 347 NICET Level 2 persons in Illinois — compared to the thousands of highly trained and background-checked professionals who now provide this service — it would be impossible to meet the demand for the life safety service. Delays in testing and inspection would result negatively on life safety in Illinois, the group claimed.
“Our argument is that the proponents of SB1685 are creating a false crisis by suggesting there is a life-safety issue here in Illinois, when there is not. They cited a statistic that there was a nine percent increase in fire deaths in Illinois, but that was a stat specific to residential deaths,” Lehan said. “This bill pertains only to commercial fire-alarm systems. I shared the true origin of that stat with the committee and explained that those tragedies are likely the result of not having a working smoke detector in the home. That, in no way, relates to the hundreds of licensed alarm contractors in the state.”
Even though the bills are essentially stalled and not going forward during the spring session of the General Assembly, IESA is not standing still. A new program aimed at getting members to be in regular contact with their state senators and representatives for both their home and business addresses will soon be underway. “I want private alarm contractors to continue to meet and talk with their legislative leaders in person to talk about legislation that could negatively affect our industry. We will keep a record of who’s talked to who with the goal of touching every single lawmaker at least once a year. We want our members to talk to lawmakers in their district offices. Everyone is on their home turf then. That’s where deeper relationships can be formed.”