ESI Fire & Security Protection, Inc. offers systems to prevent crime, eliminate false alarms
In August 1999, when brothers Robby and Bryan Burleson founded ESI Fire & Security Protection, Inc. (ESI) in the Houston area, they focused on selling and installing closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems. Over the ensuing years, they expanded ESI’s services to include designing, installing and maintaining access control, intrusion, video, fire alarm and security systems while growing their staff from two to more than 30 employees.
“Initially,” Robby says, “our mindset was to offer the best cameras at a reasonable price. The obvious reaction to break-ins is to catch the criminal.” However, when their clients repeatedly stated a need for proactive protection of their properties, Robby and Bryan decided to tackle this challenge as well.
‘Hey, You in the Red Jacket’
“We did a lot of research and development to figure out how to best combine video analytics software, cameras and speakers,” Robby says. “Then we developed an exclusive agreement with one of the top proactive video monitoring (PVM) services in our industry. The security systems we design and install today use PVM and other technologies to stop crime before it happens. Our proprietary software analytics also improve upon what other companies provide by eliminating false alarms. In other systems, police are dispatched right away when the system is triggered so there are a lot of false alarms, and municipalities charge fines for these. In our system, there are no false alarms.”
Chester Burress, Regional Account Manager for ESI, elaborates on these points. “When our analytics detect movement, this triggers a notification for our 24/7 human monitors,” he says. “We have people standing by at a central station monitoring the situation in real time rather than reviewing video of an incident the next day. Our monitors can also remotely move our cameras around to investigate. If they see someone is there, they get on the horn and use IP speakers to voice-down and talk to an intruder live. They say something specific like: ‘Hey, you in the red jacket. You’re trespassing. Leave the premises or police will be notified.’ At the same time, a phone call goes out to the owner and we ask if we should contact the authorities. Some owners tell us: ‘If you voice-down to someone and they don’t leave, you don’t need to contact us. Just have police dispatched right away.’ We can catch people all day long with analytics, but it’s the audio that runs them out of there.”
Systems to Move People Away from Danger
According to Robby, ESI can add PVM capabilities to enhance existing security systems. “For example,” he says, “there may be certain exterior entrances that no one should be around—period. At schools, theaters or shopping centers, etc., these entrances could provide an access point for a gunman or other intruder. The proactive video monitoring system can show that someone is present at any time of the day and our monitors can tell them to leave. If they don’t, police will be dispatched to catch them before there is any breach of the building.”
ESI can also design and install systems that address active shooter situations. The firm recently became a certified partner with EAGL Technology, LLC, which produces an emergency automatic lockdown and gunshot detection system. “EAGL fits perfectly into our toolbox for providing our customers with an additional layer of safety and security,” says John Copeland, Partner and Operations/Strategic Project Manager for ESI. “We have evaluated and been asked to represent other shooter systems. EAGL is the best we have seen. We recently performed a live-fire demonstration for some of our customers. We programmed the phone numbers of the attendees into the system. Every time we test-fired, the system sent a notification of a ‘gunshot detection’ to their phones. The system can tell where the shots were fired from, how many shots were fired, and whether the gun was a rifle, pistol or shotgun. We are going to be pushing EAGL and are trying to get this technology out across school districts and municipalities.”
In addition to designing, installing, testing and maintaining proactive security systems for buildings, ESI custom-designs and constructs Mobile Security Trailers (MSTs) that can be placed on construction sites or used for other purposes, such as disaster recovery.
“Our first major deployment of MSTs was in response to flooding from Hurricane Harvey,” Robby says. “We are now selling MSTs to public clients so they can use these for disaster management. We provide them with a monitoring and maintenance service contract for the units they buy.”
ESI also leases or sells its security trailers to general contractors, developers and owners to prevent theft and vandalism on construction sites. “If someone vandalizes the heavy equipment, steals the batteries or flattens the tires, it’s very costly because the crews are ready to work and can’t do their job,” Robby points out. “We recently set up an MST on a construction site for Jade Construction Group, Inc. in the Greenspoint neighborhood in Houston. Our system detected an intruder the first night. The staff at the monitoring center used live voice-down to warn him to leave and he did. Jade plans to expand its contract with us to include more sites in the future.”
"The security systems we design and install today use PVM and other technologies to stop crime before it happens. Our proprietary software analytics also improve upon what other companies provide by eliminating false alarms.” Robby Burleson, Partner, ESI Fire & Security Protection, Inc.
Robust, Reliable Technology
Since its MSTs are often located on sites that don’t have electrical service or are remote, ESI has equipped them with renewable and redundant sources of power. “They have solar panels,” Chester says, “and we’ve added a bank of batteries for backup power so they can run at night or on dark days. Solar panels don’t work as efficiently during the winter due to shorter daylight hours and the cold, so we can also provide gasoline-fueled generators that self-start when the voltage level drops. The generators and solar panels charge up the batteries. So, our MSTs are very robust and mechanically sound. People can buy cheaper security trailers and those keep the honest thieves away, I guess.”
Investing in People
Throughout the years, ESI has made developing and retaining an advanced, diverse workforce a top priority. “Our staff is factory-certified for all the products we offer,” Robby says. “We pay more because of how highly trained and skilled our personnel are. They can manage projects on their own.”
ESI also taps into the talents of experts from other industries as needed. Chester is a licensed electrical engineer with expertise in the development of implantable medical devices. “I’m the nerd of the group,” he explains. “Rob and I are high school friends, so I’ve been involved here and there, as needed. He brought me in to help design the mobile security trailers, then improve their efficiencies and build this new vertical market.”
“We have put together a dream team by surrounding ourselves with good people,” Robby says. “In addition to encouraging training and certification for all our employees, adding critical partners along the way has helped us to become one of Houston’s top integrators for security and fire safety systems. For example, John Copeland has been working with us for 18 years. Before that, he’d worked for big companies on the integration side. He really pushed us to think outside our box and get into integration. We made John a partner in 2014 and he oversees operations for our company.”
When ESI’s leaders decided to add fire alarm system design, installation, testing and maintenance to the range of the firm’s services, they were introduced to Lorenzo Cuellar, who had been providing business-to-business fire alarm sales and service for over 20 years. “Lorenzo had a wealth of knowledge and he fit our culture,” Robby says, “so we brought him on board as a partner, too.” Since 2010, Lorenzo has served as Sales and Service Manager for ESI’s Fire Protection Division.
“We’re one of the few companies that offer a complete range of fire and security options under one roof,” Lorenzo says, adding that he believes integrating fire and security systems is convenient for clients because they only need to call one company with concerns or service requests. The technicians who report to him are fully cross-trained to design, install, monitor and maintain both fire and security systems.
Hundreds of Buildings, Thousands of Access Points
James Humbert was a client before he became a partner and the Business Development Manager at ESI. “We worked with James as a subcontractor for companies where he was a top salesperson,” Robby says. “He’d help build a company up by bringing in new accounts. Every five to seven years the owners would sell the company that employed him, and he’d start over again. When he came on board, it was a gamechanger because he brought enterprise-level customers to our business, such as one of the largest counties in the nation and the main U.S. campus for a major, multinational insurance and financial services company.”
“The security system for this campus monitors 113 floors in five buildings—one high-rise, three midrise and one low-rise,” James says. “The system employs over a thousand cameras and controls access to 800 doors and 43 elevators.”
The scale of the work ESI does for its local governmental clients is massive in other ways. “When we first started work for our county client, the top priority was to standardize the security systems across more than 150 buildings. We created a comprehensive, phased plan for accomplishing this goal and now this client can monitor and control thousands of cameras and access control points from a central location,” James explains.
Giving Back to the Community
ESI’s leaders also feel it’s important to do all they can to help when they are approached by community organizations.
“We support several local fundraisers,” Robby says. “Each year, we provide food and cook for the Barbers Hill ISD Fall Fest, which is attended by 400 to 500 people and raises money to supply kids with necessary tools to earn a great education. We buy and donate equipment for fundraising events such as the Chambers County Youth Project Show and we are a strong supporter of ASPIN (Aiding Security Professionals In Need), which was founded by one of our industry colleagues. We helped with the first golf tournament held for The Luke Arnold Memorial Scholarship Fund and continue to support this organization, which honors the life of a young man who died after an all-terrain vehicle accident.”
Looking Back, Moving Forward
As ESI celebrates its 20th anniversary and its leaders reflect on the decisions they have made throughout the company’s history, they are abundantly optimistic about the future. ESI now serves clients across Texas and is the only Honeywell Integrated Security (HIS) Platinum-level Certified Fire and Security Dealer in a four-state region that includes Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. ESI became a Honeywell Gamewell-FCI Certified Dealer in 2017 and is an ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions Certified Partner. As noted earlier, in 2019 ESI also became an EAGL Certified Partner.
“Investing in innovation and staff training as well as adding partners with a high level of expertise, professionalism and a wealth of industry knowledge vaulted us to where we are now,” Robby says. “These decisions, and our willingness to grow and adapt, have helped us to increase revenue each year and keep us on a path for continued growth.”