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8.20.20 – SSI –  Steve Walker 

This year has reminded us of the importance of alarm monitoring fundamentals. Don’t let critical procedures become obsolete and don’t wait until the crisis occurs to test them.

The COVID-19 pandemic and emergence of social unrest brought new challenges to every part of our economy, and the security alarm monitoring center was no exception. The pandemic introduced changes into almost every place of commercial business. Some were closed.

Many changed hours of operation. Even more made changes to their workforce, placing some on furlough, while others were separated permanently.

All of these changes, combined with the increased threats introduced by social unrest, sharply increased the need for security for those concerned about the protection of life and property. And during this time, many customers discovered that the capabilities of their alarm systems were compromised by the simple and avoidable problem of outdated employee names and phone numbers in the hands of their alarm companies.

Monitoring 101

Professional security monitoring brings the promise of quick and accurate response to alarms from protected customer premises around the clock, 365 days per year.

Because monitoring centers process high volumes of alarms and phone calls with short transaction times — and because the customer alarms are often related to potential crimes or fires in progress — monitoring center response times can mean the difference between positive customer outcomes and tragic ones.

Speed and efficiency are key to any well-run operation, but are critical in the alarm monitoring center.

The Enemy of Speed & Efficiency

Customer alarms precipitate short notification phone calls to customer contacts, and many of these notifications result in guidance on the dispatch of emergency services — whether or not to send law enforcement. Speed and efficiency of customer notifications are dependent on quick and reliable communication with these contacts.

Speed and efficiency of customer interaction drives the speed of law enforcement notification. This then directly impacts the outcome of crimes in progress, as well as future crime deterrence.

Customer security is ultimately tied to the disciplined use of their security system — arming the system when employees are not present and successfully disarming the system during business hours. When alarms occur, employees must promptly respond to alarm notifications, ensuring that the decision-making workflow moves quickly from step to step.

The enemy of this efficiency is outdated phone numbers, inaccurate schedules and alarm response procedures that no longer reflect the needs of the customer. Each of these elements of outdated information slow the notification and decision-making process and ultimately introduce delays into police and fire agency response to emergency situations.

A Matter of Discipline

Thus, the monitoring of commercial businesses is a matter of discipline in maintaining accurate customer data. And time is the enemy of accurate data. Employee turnover, employee reassignments, changes in cell phone numbers, changes in employee schedules — these all contribute to the erosion of accurate contact lists for employees, as customers often fail to remember to update this information in their alarm notification procedures with their alarm companies as their workforce changes around them.

As a result, at the moment of greatest need for timely and accurate response to alarms, customers were faced with potential delays and the exposure of obsolete contact information — all working together to reduce the effectiveness of their alarm systems. Slower response translates directly to an increased risk of losses.

Getting Back to Monitoring Basics

This year has reminded us of the importance of alarm monitoring fundamentals. Alarm companies need to make sure customers are reminded to update their schedules and contact information. Customers should be prompted with email reminders and through the use of on-hold messaging in their monitoring centers to review and update their alarm response data as well as to test their alarm system.

Data entry specialists should consistently remind customers to review and validate employee information, especially when they are making significant changes to their operations — and to remind them how the accuracy of their data impacts timely alarm response and ultimately timely police response.

If customers are able to access information through web portals, make sure these systems are prompting customers regularly to review and update critical information. In a world of social unrest and during a time when the vulnerabilities of changing business hours and procedures expose the customer to greater risk, the importance of quickly reaching customer contacts is more important than ever.

The reminder for all of us is to keep our business safe by keeping an eye on the basics. Don’t let critical procedures become obsolete — and most importantly, don’t wait until the crisis occurs to test them.  Don’t use the crises in your world to quality-check your data and procedures.

Steve Walker is Vice President of Monitoring Operations – U.S. for Stanley Security