Electric Guard Dog fencing protects rental yards without causing harm
Editor’s note: Electric Guard Dog in Columbia, S.C., was founded by Bill Mullis. He initially provided guard dogs for more than 20 years, but in 1991, he started to build, test and improve his design of an electric security fence because he was still experiencing break-ins. The electric security fence, which ran on solar power, eventually replaced the dogs and his company became Electric Guard Dog, a security partner that provides theft-deterrent systems to several industries, including auto auction, trucking, metal recycling and equipment rental businesses. In 2007, a group of private investors lead by Ulysses Management acquired a majority interest in the company and hired Jack DeMao as CEO. Since then, DeMao says the company has grown to become the 28th largest security company in the United States. He recently talked with Rental Management about how his company helps protect equipment, rental yards, buildings and building contents. An edited version of that conversation follows.
RM: Why would a rental store want or need to install an electric fence?
Jack DeMao: It’s a deterrent. The reason people use electric fencing and Electric Guard Dog in particular is that we drive the bad guys away from the operation. By protecting the perimeter, we are not only protecting the equipment, but also the building and all that is locked up inside the building. United Rentals has been one of our customers for nearly 20 years. When you come in and put up a 10-ft.-tall fence with a big yellow sign that says “WARNING! Alarmed Electric Fence 7,000 Volts,” it can scare the bad guys. Our rental customers just want to drive the bad guys away. People come to us if they are in a high-crime area or have been the focus of criminal intention. This way, you don’t have to record the theft, file an insurance claim or play cat and mouse with thieves. The thieves move on and attack a weaker operation. Bad guys also come after equipment that is stored outside and most rental companies have to do that. They can’t keep all the equipment inside, so rental companies get attacked a lot and equipment rental is one of the top three major industries we support.
RM: Why does this work? Some thieves are very creative and might not be stopped by an electric fence and a sign.
DeMao: We have three layers of security. First, the 10-ft.-tall electric fence is a deterrent. You almost can hear it hum when you are near it. We also install Electric Guard Dog behind the customer’s perimeter fence, so that people are not exposed to the electric fence. If a thief tries to cut the chain link, then they are hit with 7,000V and a 4- to 7-amp charge, which is rather unpleasant, but doesn’t cause harm. The person doesn’t get stuck to the fence, but it’s usually enough to convince them to leave. If someone were to drive a truck through our fence, we are monitoring the voltage on the fence 24/7. If the voltage is interrupted, we hit our sirens on the site and call the police or the customer, whichever the customer prefers. When bad guys see the signs, however, they tend to go away. We exploit the fear of electricity.
RM: What is the process of adding an electric fence to a rental company’s yard?
DeMao: Much of our business comes from word-of-mouth. People call us. We also have added a direct sales force that is calling on potential customers. Our system cost is driven by the linear foot and a typical installation for perimeter security fencing has an average price of about $800 a month. There is no upfront cost, zero construction cost and no capital requirements. We become a security partner and have our customers sign a 36-month contract, which includes installation, maintenance and more. It usually takes about four weeks for our installation team to get everything together and arrive at the site and then it takes about a week to install the system. After that, if one of a rental store’s employees drops a compressor on our wire or knocks down a pole, we fix it, all at our cost. The fence is solar-powered, so it still offers security even if the power goes out, too.
RM: In the past, electric fencing has been criticized and some have voiced concerns about potential liability.
DeMao: Electric Guard Dog was started in 1973 with guard dogs. The company’s founder, Bill Mullis, developed the electric fence in 1991. The fence actually has less potential liability than the dogs. If the dogs were to get out, they would do harm. That’s how they are trained. Our electric fence system doesn’t do harm. We consciously operate in international safety standards for this, which limits the strength of the pulse and how long it lasts. We have been certified by testing labs and OSHA to meet that standard. In demonstrations, I will grab the fence. Also, with our business model, we take on the liability because we provide the system as a service. The fence is always ours. We are first in line when it comes to liability and we list our customers as co-insured on a $6 million policy. Our customers sometimes get insurance discounts because of this and we are included on a list of solutions recommended by ARA Insurance.
RM: Do you see this business continuing to grow?
DeMao: When you look at the long-term trends for the security industry, everyone is at greater risk because there is less police protection and property crime continues to grow. We think this is a special product and our biggest problem is making people aware of us. We love beating bad guys. We now have a nationwide network of technicians, installers and salespeople. There was a patent on this product many years ago and that has expired, but what we have is a custom product. All yards are different and have different needs, so we integrate all the different parts to give each customer a custom solution. The national rental companies don’t put us in every location. There are rental stores that don’t even have a fence and they don’t need one because they are in a safe area, but if they are in a tough area, they’ll want to talk to us.