Certain industries seem to attract people who are naturally dedicated to serving and protecting others. In my time covering the security industry, especially a time such as this, I am pleased to say that there seems to be common thread among the people I meet at tradeshows, conferences, and in interviews: These are people devoted to helping others. The presidents and CEOs, right down to the people setting up booths and coordinating appointments are people who, for the most part, got where they are by rolling up their sleeves and pouring their lives into their companies and the people they help secure. 

Hurricane Harvey is estimated to be the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. The photos show the complete devastation, and the scope of the damage is hard to believe; it’s difficult to imagine any good coming out of an event such as this. However, it is exactly times like this that we see the overwhelming good some people are determined to do. We see the first responders and neighbors working together to rescue the stranded. We see people sending money and traveling from all over the country with boats and their own equipment to lend aid. We see homes and businesses opening up as shelters.

Perhaps the late Fred Rogers, host of the children’s program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood said it best:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” (www.pbs.org/parents/rogers/special/scarynews-thoughts.html)

Unsurprisingly, many security dealers, integrators and central stations located in Texas, and specifically near Houston, have been unable to stop for interviews, but some were able to give brief updates about how the hurricane is affecting their business and their customers. 

To help put the devastation in perspective, Jim Pugliese, executive vice president, RAE Security, Houston, said, “It is the most unbelievable weather event I ever witnessed. Think about where you are and go 50-60 miles in every direction, and a lot of it had tremendous flooding issues.” At the time Pugliese spoke with SDM, 40 to 55 inches of rain had fallen in Houston. 

RAE Security shut down from August 26 and reopened Sept. 5, responding only to emergency service requests. “Transportation around town was near impossible,” Pugliese said. “We made the decision to protect all our employees as well as let them focus on taking care of their family, friends and their community.”

Pugliese said he is unsure yet what problems his customers have most faced due to the storm, or even how many customers were affected. RAE is operating on a skeleton staff, but Pugliese said they have had only a few requests.

Community support has been unbelievable, he said, adding, “I have taken people into my home and been volunteering, helping friends demo their houses that got water.”

Shaun Castillo, president of Preferred Technologies (Pref-Tech), Houston, said seven of Pref-Tech’s 93 employees experienced flooding in their homes. With numerous customers and vendors experiencing losses — and even a Pref-Tech van being flooded — Castillo said Pref-Tech lost a week of productivity. “Movement around Houston is still tough,” Castillo said. “Our travel times are risen considerably.”

Castillo said that its service team has been responding to outages, and service tickets are up by about 30 percent.

The 86 employees at Pref-Tech actually pitched in to help the other seven who received flood damage in their homes, Castillo said. “The Pref-Tech Family banded together, mustered all of our resources, and took care of our own. I am still in awe of the love that our employees showed to one another.”

Castillo shared some of the notes of thanks he received from his employees who received help:

I just want to express my sincere thanks to everybody that showed up today in my house to help me. It was a big accomplishment and a huge help I needed. You worked hard with a smile on your faces. I will never forget all you did today for me. It is an honor to be part of the Pref-Tech family, and just as you did today for me, I want you to know I will be there for you as well. God bless you all. – Jose Negrete

First of all, I would like to thank God for all of the blessings He has bestowed upon me in my life. … I want to thank all of the Pref-Tech family for what they have been able to accomplish this past week. From those holding down the fort at the office, putting together care packages and ensuring that business goes on, to those running service calls, to our family in Austin for their support, and to those battling on the front lines and helping those like me on Friday to get our lives back after much to all has been literally washed away. … I could not be more proud to be part of something so special and a family so loving! … I couldn't even keep count of the number of our [Pref-Tech] family members that had come to help. The feeling was surreal and humbling to say the least. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, or at least to my knowledge, does a group come together to work so efficiently, with diligence, and with so much pride in their hearts to achieve the goal at hand. … Obviously, it will take time to recover, but we are strong, and I believe through it all we will only become stronger and closer. By living the way we do and going by our strong set of core values, I believe there is nothing we can’t accomplish. – Joshua Parker

First of all I want to thank God for sending you to my home Friday. Thanks to all the employees at Pref-Tech who came out and simply went to work and jump-started my family on the path to recovery! Also thank you Pamela for bringing out the care package from the office. Your efforts did not go unnoticed. I’ve only been here two months, and I can honestly say you made me feel like I’ve been here for years. Not only did you help me when I was down, but you went out and helped my neighbors. You truly represent the definition of PGRIT! – Alfonso Perez

United Central Control — UCC — is a monitoring center located in San Antonio, about 200 miles west of Houston. Mark Matlock, senior vice president, said UCC got only a half inch of rain and no flooding. While they were well-prepared for the storm, they served many who bore the full brunt of the hurricane, with about 75,000 monitored accounts in the storm-affected area. “It’s been rough,” he said. “Our team has definitely been taxed, but I will say that everyone rose to the occasion. Our dealers were very pleased with our service during and after the event.” Matlock said UCC was able to maintain service to all accounts outside the affected area as well.
Matlock said UCC spent all of last week ensuring it was doing everything it could for its dealers in the affected area. “We called 260 dealers in the affected areas just to see how they were doing, to lend support and to see if they needed any special handling of accounts.”  

Electric Guard Dog, SDM’s 2016 Dealer of the Year, raised more than $3,000, which was used to pack a tractor-trailer with supplies for families struggling as a result of the hurricane. 

Charlotte, N.C.-based CPI Security Systems announced in a press release it has made a $25,000 donation to the American Red Cross and another $25,000 to Samaritan’s Purse. Additionally, the company will donate up to $50,000 more through its own employee charitable donation match program. “Our hearts go out to all those affected by Hurricane Harvey, and we just want to help in any way we can,” said Ken Gill, president and CEO, CPI Security.  

Grant Graham, director of monitoring operations for MONI Smart Security, Dallas, said there was a 34 percent increase in alarm activity in the South Texas region and a 93 percent increase in actual incidents in the South Texas region. 

With more than 50,000 customers in the affected area, Graham said the biggest impact has been on the customers’ ability to dial 911 themselves, as well as MONI’s ability to report alarms to the PSAP (public safety agency point). “Most police and fire departments were inundated with rescue requests/emergencies,” he said, “and were under-resourced for the increase in calls. Those agencies that we could reach were largely not responding to non-verified alarms.”

Graham said MONI also saw a large increase in power fails and trouble-types of signals from alarm systems. “Power fails increased in reporting for the region by 2,700 percent.”

Because MONI put in place a preemptive mitigation plan, its customers outside the affected area experienced no degradation in service level, Graham said, while customers within the affected area experienced only a 2 percent drop in service level during the hurricane period. “MONI’s service to customers remained strong. There were at least two cases where customers used their alarm systems to alert for rescue help. In those cases, we dispatched the U.S. Coast Guard who responded to rescue the customers.”

Graham said several of MONI’s dealers went to Houston to help the victims there, and MONI has been collecting money to send to those in need. 
The damage is widespread and severe; several phone numbers for dealers in Houston didn’t even work, and the extent of damage will only be fully understood with time. One thing is sure, though: Everywhere there is devastation, there will be people from the security industry with sleeves rolled up, helping where they can. 

“The Houston community and the security community have overwhelmed us with support,” Castillo said. “Great people with beautiful hearts surround us!”

In this time of disaster, I am proud to work among such helpers — so many caring people in this industry.

If you know of a company affected by the storm or have a story to add, please email me at scallyt@bnpmedia.com.