Guardians of the (Seattle) Galaxy
Guardian Security protects Washington State
Seattle is the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest. This home to big tech, grunge and craft beer is rapidly growing as 57 new residents arrive every day, or as many as a thousand a week, depending on who you ask.
Seattleites, new and native, can rely on Guardian Security Systems, Inc. (Guardian Security) for their safety needs. Based in Seattle with offices in Tacoma, Bellingham and Yakima, the locally owned and operated company has specialized in comprehensive security, fire and life safety systems for family homes, big-box stores and everything in between for nearly 40 years.
I spoke with Stassa Hansen, the Fire Systems sales manager, and Bob Vezzani, director of Fire System sales, on a brisk January day. They represent the fire side of Guardian Security.
“Guardian provides clients a wide array of choices,” Bob says. “Unlike other companies, we carry multiple brands and types of equipment so our clients have the freedom of choice. We’re a one-stop shop.”
Stassa adds, without missing a beat, “And, we provide solutions throughout the life of a building. We can provide security and access control for a construction site and then fire systems for the completed building, and everything in between.”
“Can you tell we’re proud of Guardian?” Bob says, before erupting in laughter. Their energy and passion for safety were as hot as a five-alarm fire.
It’s no wonder why Bob and Stassa love fire safety. Both of them grew up in safety-conscious families. Stassa’s grandfather was a fireman and Bob’s father owned a small fire safety and security business.
“My first job was to burn the cardboard boxes the fire extinguishers came in,” Bob explains. Both he and Stassa share a palpable passion and a knowledge of all things safety only seen in people who literally grew up in the industry.
Safety and security are also in the blood of the company’s owner, Frank Close. But Guardian Security didn’t start with a bang, or a burst of flames. Instead, it started with a sizzle.
It was the 1970s, and Frank’s father, Donald (Don) Close, owned the Donald W. Close Company (DW Close), an electrical contracting company specializing in commercial, industrial and government construction with special expertise in unusual or technically involved projects. The firm delivered services from Nome, Alaska, to American Samoa and from the Yap islands in the Federated States of Micronesia to Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State.
“DW Close was an electrical company out of Seattle, and Don was grooming his son to take over the business,” Bob says. “So, Frank goes off to college and gets a degree in nuclear power design and electrical engineering. As the story goes, when Frank comes home from school his father invites him to join the business. And wouldn’t you believe it, Frank says ‘Dad, I love you, but I will never work for you. But I will buy the low power division from you.’ And his dad thinks about it for a couple of days and agrees to sell the business. And then Frank goes, ‘Great! Can I borrow some money off you?’ ”
Bob pauses for a beat, then adds, “Frank is such a great guy, and is supremely smart. He saw that fire alarms, security design and installation systems were the future. He also knew it would be better to have a central monitoring station instead of having one monitoring platform for fire and another for security. He bundled all these services together and we’ve been providing bundled options ever since.”
With their familial backgrounds in this industry, Stassa and Bob understand the field’s unique challenges. Take, for example, their opinions on fire and safety regulations. “It’s safe to say that fire and safety regulations are very stringent, and with good reason,” Stassa says. Bob adds, “It’s important to understand why. Most codes are written and updated through consensus, starting with the code adoption process and evaluation.” Stassa comments further, “And thank God they are! These regulations need to stay in step with modern life. Just think of the construction methods and building materials we use today. Do you want to live in a modern building with fire codes written in the 1970s? I don’t.”
Bob explains that the safety industry is made up of three primary segments: security, fire and monitoring. “Each segment has its own needs and specialties,” Stassa says. And while each segment is different, one thing is similar—there is no “one size fits all” option.
Bob agrees. “No, definitely not. That’s one of the reasons Guardian is different. Other shops only carry one brand of products, and you have to use their monitoring systems and all that. Not us. We carry multiple brands so you can choose the right solution for your business. And, we can test and inspect nearly everything on the market, not just the brands we install,” he says.
“We actually get a lot of support calls from clients who aren’t our customers,” Stassa says, proudly. “It happens more than you’d think.”
Guardian Security carries solutions from Honeywell, Siemens, Bosch and AES Corporation, and provides home automation, intrusion defense, fire alarm monitoring, home video surveillance, access control and other services.
Being able to serve residential and commercial clients across multiple brands is a feat in and of itself, but it becomes more interesting when you learn that Guardian Security designs its own systems.
“Yes, one of the reasons why we can carry so many products is because we have a team of engineers on staff who can build out a fully integrated system for anything from a project site to an existing warehouse or residential home,” Bob says. Stassa adds, “We like to find and remove redundancies in existing systems, too. Instead of having redundant controls, procedures and systems to learn and monitor, we can integrate existing systems so they’re simple, easy to learn and efficient to monitor.”
Best Piece of Advice
Even with so many solutions across so many platforms, one challenge can’t be controlled—the speed of the decision-making process. “We see this every day,” Stassa says. “The biggest challenge in our industry is the perception that you can rush your decision.”
Bob agrees. “So true. It’s important for clients to be patient and take the time to figure out what will work best for them. You really shouldn’t rush your decision.” He pauses for a beat and continues, “Let’s examine fire safety. Say you’re going to install a fire system. You have to plan what it will look like. Will you have fire extinguishers in the ceiling every 10 feet? Or one a room?” Stassa adds, “And then, you have to review the plan with the general contractor to make sure it will actually work in the building, and then you have to get your plans reviewed and have a permit issued. If you rush choosing the solution, you could spend thousands of dollars redoing your work. It’s so important to take your time.”
“Also,” she continues, “I tell my clients that, just like with anything else in your business, it’s important to have a one-stop shop. It’s far more cost-effective to have your fire and access control under one roof, being monitored by one team. And, it’s important to have one point of contact to call. Because if something bad happens you don’t want to be scrambling to get ahold of different people. Make your life easy!”
Making Life Easy
From the looks of it, Guardian Security’s job is to make its clients’ lives easier by providing peace of mind. Maybe that’s why the company was one of the first to network multiple addressable buildings, including the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, the Seattle VA Medical Center in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, and the Grand Coulee Dam.
“At the end of the day, we love our clients, our community and our people,” Bob says. “And we’ll continue to be of service, one alarm at a time.”