Hiller Celebrates 100 Years With a Look at the Mobile Branch

Mobile, AL – As The Hiller Companies celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, we are taking a look at the Mobile branch, which holds a unique place in the growth and evolution of the company.  As one of the largest and oldest branches, Hiller Systems Mobile represents innovation, experience, growth and community.

The 1946 office of JACO, which was later purchased by Hiller in 1981 leading to Hiller’s headquarter relocation from New Orleans to Mobile.

“Mobile is a very special place for Hiller,” Chairman of the Board Duncan Greenwood said. “We have a lot of employees with longevity here and have seen a lot of growth and change. Technology has opened the industry up for more and more opportunities, and the Mobile branch has shifted from a primarily marine-based operation to a more even distribution of marine, offshore and commercial business.”

Founded in 1919, The Hiller Companies opened its first office in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1946, Jack Cocke and Company (JACO), another fire protection company, opened in Mobile and expanded to Pensacola, Florida and New Orleans. In 1981, Hiller purchased JACO and in 1988, Hiller headquarters was moved from New Orleans to Mobile.

Jack Cocke, owner of JACO, at his desk in 1967.

While Hiller is headquartered in Mobile, the local operational branch itself is one of the largest branches and employs more than 100 people. Mobile specializes in comprehensive fire detection and suppression solutions for commercial, marine, and military and government sectors.

“In the Mobile complex, we have done a lot of marine work. We are proud that our systems are on every combatant ship in the Navy,” Greenwood said. “But we have also worked on subway systems and brought Securiplex water mist technology to this branch. That has opened a lot of doors for us.”

Greenwood, who served as President and CEO from 1981 to 2013, has been with the company for more than 40 years and believes that the modernization of the fire protection industry has greatly contributed to growth and opportunity.  Bill Roberts, Director of Marine Engineering, agrees.

“I started here when Hiller was still JACO.  I was on the ground floor when computers came to pass,” Roberts said. “I helped develop flow calculations with the Walter Kidde Company so the people writing the code could write it correctly. We originally did these calculations by hand. Can you believe that? Duncan and I both did them by hand. It’s mind boggling how far we have come.”

Roberts is proud of the legacy the Mobile Branch has and his participation in it.

“I designed the fire suppression systems in the early 70s and 80s for several classes of navy ships. Many of these systems are still in use today,” Roberts said. “I am proud to be a part of our strong and enduring relationship with the military.”

The Mobile Branch is located at the Corporate Office.

As one of the oldest branches in the company, the Mobile branch benefits from many long-term, dedicated employees. Some have been with the company since the JACO days. One such employee is Marine Sales Manager Greg Bloch who has been with Hiller for more than 50 years.

“I started with Jack Cocke in 1969.  My job was the lowest you could go – pipefitter helper.  I couldn’t even see the top from there,” Bloch said. “Was there A/C in the trucks? No way! Radios? No way! I started at $2.50 an hour and worked my way up.”

“Back in the day, I knew Jack Cocke – we just hit it off.  He was a hard worker, and it wasn’t unusual to see him out on the job grabbing a pipe wrench to give you a hand. Duncan Greenwood also played a pivotal role for me. When I was uncertain of my future after Hiller bought JACO, Duncan was the one who made me a deal at a Sunday night dinner. He really knew how to bring out the best in people.”

Bloch worked his way up from pipefitter helper to pipefitter to supervisor to project manager/production manager. He has been a Marine Sales Manager since 2000, and he sees a bright future for Hiller Mobile. Duncan Greenwood agrees.

“For me, it all flows back to the people,” Greenwood said. “While modernization has made things faster and easier, without the people we have at Hiller, we would not be successful. We are always looking for that balance of youth and experience in our workforce to continue to grow.”

Today, the Mobile branch specializes in both commercial and marine applications, including design, installation, commissioning, training, inspection and service.

Roberts looks forward to the future and after more than four decades at the company, he still feels excited to come to work every day.

“I love my job. I love what I do, and the gratification of knowing my systems could save someone’s life keeps me vested,” he said. “I told Duncan that if I ever get unhappy or if my work stops being fun, I will shake his hand and walk away. That hasn’t happened in more than 40 years.”

The Mobile branch consistently enjoys growth year over year. Its strength and experience in the government and commercial marine industry as well as in health care and other verticals forecasts that this growth will continue. Hiller Mobile’s combination of experience and innovation ensures a strong future for both employees and customers alike.

The Hiller Companies Announces the Purchase of American Fire Technologies

The Hiller Companies is pleased to announce the purchase of American Fire Technologies (AFT) in Wilmington, North Carolina. AFT was welcomed into the Hiller family on June 28, 2019.

“As Hiller continues to grow, we look for opportunities to expand our offerings and expertise. American Fire Technologies strengthens Hiller’s special hazard fire suppression, detection and design capabilities while expanding our market along the East Coast,” Hiller CEO & President Patrick Lynch said. “AFT gives us deeper reach into many key verticals regionally and across the country.”

American Fire Technologies supports commercial, educational, governmental, industrial, medical and utilities markets nationally and internationally in the areas of suppression, detection management and design. Their professionals have expertise in fire safety and special hazard systems and are dedicated to providing customers with the latest technologies and state-of-the-art products.

Hiller plans to maintain all of AFT’s management, staff and technicians, so customers can continue to count on the dependable and professional services they have always received. This will ensure a seamless transition of AFT to a division of The Hiller Companies.

“We are excited to become a part of the Hiller team,” Paul Hayes, AFT CEO said. “We believe that together, American Fire Technologies and Hiller will offer our customers the excellence they have come to expect by continuing to deliver quality and value. We will also be able to grow our offerings and expand our service with the strength of the Hiller family behind us.”

Commemorating 100 Years, Hiller Reflects on New Orleans Roots

The original Herbert S. Hiller location in New Orleans.

New Orleans, LA – The Hiller Companies, Inc. is celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2019, and the New Orleans office is where it all began. Founded in 1919 by Herbert S. Hiller, the original shop started as a local business and has expanded to include an international presence with 20 offices across the country.

“When I started with Hiller 40 years ago, it was still a small business based in New Orleans,” New Orleans Marine Branch Manager Mike Charleville said. “It was such a close-knit family that if any of the guys were ever short on money, they would help them out. As we have grown larger, we are more of a corporation, but we are still a family.”

Charleville has the honor of being the longest-serving employee in the New Orleans branch and said with growth, there have been many significant changes.

“When you go through this kind of growth, you lose a little, but you gain a lot,” he said. “It is harder to maintain the closeness we had as a small company, but there are a lot of positive improvements. When I started, the vehicles had no air conditioner, no power steering and AM radio. Now, our vehicles and equipment are first class.”

Another longstanding employee, Danny Brown has been with Hiller for 37 years. Brown joined Hiller in 1982 as a superintendent and worked his way up to a project manager, an engineering manager, assistant general manager and finally to general manager. In 2018, he took a corporate position as Manager, Strategic Projects for the Marine Division of The Hiller Companies.

Danny Brown (right) presenting Hiller’s 95-year commemorative fire extinguisher in 2015 to Butch Browning (left), State Fire Marshal of Louisiana

“When I started with Hiller, I thought I would be here a couple of years. My knowledge of fire protection was very limited,” Brown said. “The more I became involved and realized that I could see the country and the world, the more I liked it. Most business and residential properties require some type of fire protection. Hiller is a company that provides every fire protection system available. I saw the bigger picture and wanted to make this my career.”

This is a common story at Hiller. Not only did Brown work his way up in the company, but in 2012 he was appointed by the Louisiana Governor to the Life Safety and Property Protection Board. The board has the authority to approve all training, certification and examination requirements for licensure for The Office of State Fire Marshal. He currently serves on the Louisiana Fire Marshal’s Suppression Board, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 301 committee representing the Fire Suppression System Association (FSSA), and is President of the Louisiana Automatic Fire Alarm Association

Brown has also witnessed many changes and periods of growth at Hiller requiring the New Orleans office to move three times during his tenure.

“The New Orleans branch is different because this is where it all started,” Brown said. “We have been through a lot in New Orleans. We survived Hurricane Katrina, we have hit bumps in the road, but we always come out stronger than before.”

With more than 60 employees, the New Orleans branch does it all, according to Brown; but, one unique service they focus on is military fire protection.

“Hiller designed a panel for fire suppression in military vehicles,” he said. “We have provided over 3,000 systems for one of the U.S. Army’s Armored Security Vehicles.”

In addition to fire protection of military vehicles, Hiller New Orleans has played an integral role in the design and fabrication of customizable fire suppression equipment, such as the USCG-approved AFFF hose reel stations. Originally designed in 1978, the AFFF hose reel stations and standalone hose reels remain a key industry offering to this day. Other Hiller innovations include breathing air stations, soda acid and foam hand-held fire extinguishers.

Mid-19th Century Herbert S. Hiller Fire Extinguisher

Brown is also proud of the way Hiller gives back to the community. In 2007, The National WWII Museum in New Orleans bought and restored the PT-305 – a boat from the mid-1940s used as a fast attack boat during the war. It took 10 years and 120,000 volunteer hours to get the boat restored and fully operational. Hiller reached out to some of its dedicated vendors and supplied the engine room CO2 fire suppression system, portable fire extinguishers, fire hoses and nozzles. Hiller donated the engineering, project management, field labor, pipe and fittings required to install and certify the systems.

“Hiller is a great company to work for,” Brown said. “They believe in giving back to the community and in strong families. These attributes combined with strong customer relations, keep business thriving day in and day out.”

Charleville agrees. “We have a lot of employees who’ve been with us for 20, 25, 30 years who really know what they are doing and are very professional. When you work with good people, you develop good relationships in the company and with your customers. Hiller is full of good people.”

Hiller Announces Partnership with Hana Technologies & Systems, Inc.

The Hiller Companies, Inc. is pleased to announce a new partnership with Hana Technologies & Systems, Inc. to deliver advanced fire protection solutions to the U.S. Government and Armed Forces.

Based in Honolulu and organized under the Native Hawaiian Organization, Hui O Hana Pono, LLC, Hana is an SBA certified 8(a) Small Disadvantaged Business with a proven track record of providing exceptional service to the Department of Defense and Federal Government customers around the country.

Hiller has always prided itself on being a preferred fire protection provider for all branches of the military.  Well versed in LANTDIV, NAVSEA, ARMY CORP, UFC and NAVFAC special requirements, Hiller is equipped to design, install and maintain fire protection solutions for military vessels, vehicles, bases and government facilities.

With a drive for innovation, Hiller thrives on creating custom solutions to meet the growing demands of the government and military. Hiller’s AFFF hose reel station and variable foam proportioner, for example, are both U.S. Coast Guard approved fire suppression solutions. There is also currently a Hiller-designed fire suppression system on every U.S. Navy surface combatant ship in the fleet.

“With the new partnership in place,” shares Hana’s Director of Critical Infrastructure & Systems George DeLisle, “we now have the tools to leverage an even more robust portfolio of offerings to protect government and military entities.”

Hiller Senior Vice President of Corporate Sales & Marketing John Cocke adds, “Over the years, Hiller has built a reputation for reliable and innovative solutions backed by superior customer service. Our collaboration with Hana is about more than just growth; it’s an opportunity to protect those who serve our great country.”

Hiller Offers Bi-Directional Amplification System as a Life Safety Solution

Hiller Fire

The Hiller Companies, Inc., a century-old fire protection and life safety provider based in Mobile, Alabama, now consults, installs, and trains users on NOTIFIER’s Bi-Directional Amplifiers (BDA).

Designed and customized to meet all public safety frequency band ranges, BDA is an emergency responder radio coverage solution that boosts in-building radio frequency signals for public safety radio. During an emergency, this solution helps first responders inside a building communicate clearly with emergency personnel outside the building, possibly preventing injuries and saving lives.

“Responders inside a building can lose contact when radio signals are diminished by obstructions like concrete and metal,” says Joe McElvaney, Lead Fire Protection Engineer for Hiller. “Effective communication in these emergency-type situations is critical. On 9/11, communication failures caused responders in the World Trade Center to not receive the evacuation order. If BDA systems had been around then, it’s likely many more lives could have been saved.”

NOTIFIER’S BDA is a UL-listed two-way radio communication system and delivers reliable performance to meet signal strength requirements, even in the most challenging radio frequency environments.

BDA systems are required in both new and existing buildings per the ICC Fire code and NFPA 1 and can be paired with any existing fire system to provide the reliability and quality expected from a life safety solution.

In addition to the consultation and installation of BDA systems, Hiller offers product training for all customers. The trainers have received extensive education by Notifier and each hold an FCC general radio operator’s license.

For more information about BDA systems, please visit hillerfire.com/bi-directional-amplifier/

Hiller Announces New General Manager Of American Fire Equipment

The Hiller Companies, Inc. has recently named Mark Murrell as the new General Manager of its Phoenix-based division, American Fire Equipment Sales & Service.

Mark Murrell

Beginning as a service technician in 1997, Murrell has taken on numerous roles, starting as a service and installation technician for fire alarm, special hazards and monitoring systems. From there, he has managed the finals department, worked in contracting sales, served as Operations Manager and is currently the Treasurer for the National Independent Fire Alarm Distributors (NIFAD).

In addition to his strong leadership skills and commitment to the American Fire safety culture, Murrell understands the value of any company is in the people.

“I am so blessed to have this opportunity,” said Murrell. “In my 22 years with American Fire, I have been privileged to work with some of the industry’s most talented individuals.”

He continued, “Working at American Fire has given me a foundation to be able to launch into the next level of success that is expected from this amazing team. We are privileged to be a part of the Hiller team and we are looking forward to what is in store for us in the future.”

Mark’s certifications include Notifier, Fike, Ansul, Janus and many others. He is also NICET Level 4 certified in fire alarms and NICET Level 1 certified in special hazards.

Hiller Celebrates 100 Years of Safeguarding Lives & Protecting Property

The Hiller Companies, Inc. turns 100 this year, and the company has much to celebrate.

Founded as a single shop in 1919, Hiller began as a modest venture in New Orleans, Louisiana under the name of its owner Herbert S. Hiller. Initially, the company served to provide fire protection equipment for commercial and shipyard customers. As the business (and the need for fire suppression technology) grew, they relocated their headquarters to Mobile, Alabama and today Hiller boasts a global reach as well as over 20 offices around the United States.

Quietly working behind the scenes, the Hiller name is not always well known outside of the fire protection industry. However, Hiller systems can be found around the globe with such clients as the New York City Mass Transit Authority (MTA), the Harvard Library, The National WWII Museum, the Smithsonian, and the Indian Navy. There is also a Hiller system on every active U.S. Navy combatant ship.

Within the fire protection industry, Hiller has grown to become a trusted worldwide leader in fire and life safety. They’ve combined sound mechanical and electrical engineering practices, decades of experience, and the latest in fire protection to create products and services of the highest level of excellence. Services include life safety protection through the design, installation, monitoring and service of fire extinguishers, fire sprinkler systems, fire suppression systems, fire alarm systems, security systems, and more.

“What makes Hiller the best of the best is our ability to design, install, and service some of the most complex fire protection systems in some of the harshest environments in the world today,” said Patrick Lynch, Hiller President and CEO. “We are able to do this through the knowledge, experience and passion of our employees. Our engineers and technicians are outstanding at what they do. Some of them have been with us for over 40 years and we have the right leadership in place to enable us to perform wherever and whenever our customers need us.”

Hiller will be celebrating its 100th anniversary at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans on April 24th, 2019.

The Hiller Companies, Inc. Announces the Acquisition of Systems Management Group, LLC

The Hiller Companies is excited to announce the purchase of Systems Management Group, LLC (SMG), based in Denver, Colorado on September 1, 2018. Headquartered in Mobile, Alabama, Hiller offers fire protection and security products and services that are preserving lives and property all around the world.

The acquisition of SMG grants Hiller access to the Colorado market and provides the tools to more effectively service existing customers in the western United States. Hiller plans to maintain all of SMG’s management, staff and technicians, which will ensure a seamless transition for current SMG customers.

“We are always looking for opportunities to serve our customers more effectively,” said Hiller President and CEO Patrick Lynch. “We have found that one of the best ways to achieve this is by strengthening our first-class team. This is certainly the case with the Systems Management Group acquisition. Not only will it give us an opportunity to expand our service area, but we are gaining an experienced team of customer-focused employees.”

Adding a new dimension to the Hiller offerings, SMG specializes in consultation, design, installation, service and integration of low voltage systems, including fire alarms, intrusion alarms, access control, camera systems, audio/video systems, BDA systems, area of refuge systems, telecommunications, data systems and more. SMG’s strong brand presence in Colorado has solidified the company as a market leader in the low voltage fire alarm and security space.

SMG Founder and newly appointed General Manager Terrence Kane shares, “The acquisition by Hiller gives our existing customers and potential new customers the best of both worlds. We are able to provide them with the attention and support of a local company that’s also backed by the strength and resources of a strong U.S. brand. We couldn’t be more thrilled with this opportunity.”

Herbert S. Hiller Partners with the National WWII Museum to Restore PT-305

The newly updated PT-305 docked.

It is in the mid-1940’s, we were in the middle of World War II. The United States Navy was in need of small boats that could move in fast against the enemy. The PT-305 was part of a new class of vessels in the war; a light, swift and aggressive hunter. Patrol Torpedo (PT) boats went where larger ships could not, patrolling enemy-held coastlines at night, launching attacks on enemy shipping, then vanishing into the darkness.

PT boats built by Higgins Industries of New Orleans were made of wood: spruce ribs, pine keel, and a mahogany hull. Three powerful Packard engines gave them a top speed of over 40 knots. Carrying torpedoes, machine guns, and a cannon, PTs were pound for pound, the heaviest armed craft in the US Navy.

On March 30, 1943, the keel was laid for PT-305, “Sudden Jerk.” She launched on May 27th and was commissioned into Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 22 on December 8, 1943. The next six weeks were spent testing PT-305 on Lake Pontchartrain before shakedown in Miami. In April, she was loaded onto an oil tanker in Norfolk, VA, for shipment across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Theatre. During her war days, she was responsible for sinking three enemy vessels.

She was purchased by the National WWII Museum and returned to New Orleans in April 2007. After ten years and more than 120,000 volunteer hours, the PT-305, “Sudden Jerk”, has been completely restored to her late 1944 appearance and is fully operational.

Herbert S. Hiller reached out to a few of our dedicated suppliers. We supplied the engine room CO2 fire suppression system, portable fire extinguishers, fire hose, and nozzle. Hiller donated the engineering, field labor, and pipe and fittings required to install and certify these systems.

To find out more about the PT-305 and the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, visit their website.

Herbert S. Hiller employee volunteers on the PT-305.
Hiller technicians David Lucas (left) and Randy Brisbi (right) install CO2 piping for the PT-305.
Danny Brown (Manager, Strategic Projects at Herbert S. Hiller) alongside Candy Westfall (PT-305 Project Manager for the World War II Museum)

The Hiller Companies’ Chuck Johnson Goes Above and Beyond

Chuck Johnson has a knack for being in the right place at the right time when people need help.

“I was driving on Highway 65 on the way to my next job when I saw a truck with a trailer in the northbound lane. It was on fire, so I stopped.”

Johnson is a General Products Technician for the Birmingham branch of The Hiller Companies, a fire protection company headquartered in Mobile, Alabama. He was able to quickly assess the situation and take action.

“By the time I stopped, the man was running in the middle of the road asking anyone if they had a fire extinguisher. I told him, ‘I got you’ and I passed him two extinguishers. I fed some to another man, and I took two,” Johnson said.

The driver of the truck indicated to Johnson that there was a propane tank on the trailer, and Johnson knew they had to move quickly.

“I think we used five extinguishers,” he said. “And the way the wind was blowing, it wasn’t hitting the fire. I kept telling the men to aim at the base of the fire. We were worried that a propane tank would explode, but we managed to keep it under control until the fire department showed up.”

Johnson believes if he hadn’t happened by, the situation could have been a whole lot worse before the fire department arrived.

“I am just glad I was there,” he said. “It is a good feeling to be able to provide a service. In any way I could help, I was willing to do it.”

Keith Carter, Operations Manager of the Birmingham branch of Hiller, said Johnson is one of their best performers.

“Chuck is one of our top technicians, and he always thinks of others – techs and customers alike – before he thinks of himself,” he said. “What he did for that person on the side of the road was a natural thing for him to do. It’s just who he is.”

This was not the first time Johnson has helped someone in trouble. A couple of years ago, during a drought, he came upon someone trying to put out a fire caused by a cigarette in a grassy area. He helped keep the fire from spreading until the fire department arrived.

And in the end, all’s well that ends well – as Johnson drove the same path to work the day after last week’s fire, he saw the Hiller extinguishers on the side of the road and was able to recover them and get them recharged.

The Hiller Companies offer fire protection products and services that are preserving lives and property all around the world. Headquartered in Mobile, Alabama, Hiller extends its reach globally as well as locally with offices in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia. We are proud to safeguard everything from small businesses to nuclear power facilities, yachts to aircraft carriers, and gas stations to offshore platforms.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact

Keith Carter at 205-323-3338 or email at kcarter@hillercompanies.com