EPS Security acquires Eagle

April 15, 2012
| By Pete Daly |
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EPS Security, one of the nation’s major residential and business fire-and-burglary security firms, has acquired Grand Rapids-based Eagle Security, located at 1029 28th St. SE where it operated for more than 30 years. Terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.

EPS (Engineered Protection Systems) has been transferring the alarm monitoring of Eagle’s 1,100 commercial and residential accounts to its central station monitoring facility in northwest Grand Rapids. The acquisition includes business accounts only; it does not include Eagle Security’s property on 28th Street. EPS has, however, brought into its employment some of Eagle’s former employees.

According to security trade publication SDM Magazine, EPS ranks 33 on the 2011 list of top 100 security firms in the U.S. Its gross revenue in 2010 was reported to be $19.2 million.

EPS vice president Jim Zweedyk said EPS is the second-largest security firm in Michigan — the largest being Guardian Alarm in Southfield with almost $128 million in annual revenue and almost 1,000 employees. The largest in the country, according to SDM, is ADT, with revenue of $4.4 billion and an estimated 26,000 employees.

Zweedyk said EPS saw a downturn in business during the recession due to businesses going bankrupt or leaving Michigan, “but for EPS, 2011 was our best year in our history.” He said the company now has about 180 employees, and with the addition of about 1,000 Eagle Security accounts, will serve almost 18,000 clients in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, with the majority of its business being in West Michigan.

About half of the clients are residences and the rest businesses, according to Zweedyk, but business accounts represent about 80 percent of annual revenue.

“We do all our monitoring (of alarms) in Grand Rapids, versus somewhere else in the country or out of the country,” he said.

In fact, the EPS central station on Front Street south of Leonard is one of just nine alarm company central-monitoring facilities in the U.S. to be UL-listed, FM-approved, and certified Five Diamond by the Central Station Alarm Association. The 62-year-old trade association represents companies offering security alarm monitoring systems through a central station, which have been certified by testing laboratories such as FM Global, Intertek (ETL) and UL. The certification is important to the security firms’ insurance companies and to local police and fire services, which are notified in the event of detected fire or break-in.

Years ago, alarm companies were typically wired directly to dispatch centers for police and fire, but that is no longer the case, according to Zweedyk, because many alarms do not actually require emergency responders.

“I wouldn’t say there isn’t some small town somewhere in Michigan that does it, but 99 percent of the time, it’s absolutely going to some type of (private) monitoring center.”

“We go through a lot of steps to reduce false alarms,” said Zweedyk. “We actually only dispatch approximately 8 percent of the alarms we receive. We screen and we are able to cancel the other 92 percent.”

One way EPS keeps down the number of false alarms is by making two phone calls to the client to verify whether the alarm is an emergency. EPS representatives meet regularly with customers regarding false alarms, he said.

“The term ‘false alarm’ is actually kind of a misnomer,” said Zweedyk. “If you have a waste basket fire and that sets off the fire alarm, you had a fire, but your house is not burning, and if the fire department gets there, there is no fire to put out. That’s not a false alarm. Most false alarms occur by operator error: setting it incorrectly, failing to disarm it.”

With the technological advancement in digital imaging, the installation of surveillance camera systems is a popular item for EPS, said Zweedyk.

“People want to employ more and more cameras,” he said. “Of course, there’s cost to do that and sometimes budgets get in the way of what they would really like to do for security.

“It used to be that the standard camera was about a third of a megapixel of information. Now we have cameras that do three megs, five megs and even higher,” he said. Such increased resolution means more detail is captured and can be zoomed in on when necessary.

In Zweedyk’s opinion, Michigan has been in the forefront of using Internet protocol cameras, which he said is definitely where the security industry is going. IP means the camera view can be carried on its own network or via the Internet. Property owners can access their home security cameras via their smart phones to make sure nobody is messing with their fancy car parked in the driveway.

EPS was founded in 1955 and acquired by Allan Carlson in 1970, when it had five employees and about $100,000 in revenue. According to an EPS news release from 2008, it had become West Michigan’s leading security firm by 1980. In 2008, Carlson’s son, Kevin, was named president of the company.

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