Security Systems News

JAN 2018

Security Systems News is a monthly business newspaper that reaches 25,100 security installers, product distributors, central stations, engineers & architects, and security consultants. Our editorial coverage focuses on breaking news in all major se

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SEC ur IT y S y STEMS n EWS January 2018 Monitoring 19 By Kenneth Z. Chutchian A central monitoring station can be a cool place to work—if your idea of cool is not know- ing what's going to happen from one minute to the next, or talking people through crises, real and perceived, or getting information fast and accurate while determining whether lives are at stake. Experts at four security firms weighed in recently on the stress- ors and satisfaction that operators experience—and the kinds of support these employees receive to keep fresh. "It can be stressful for a new hire," said Steve Crist, director of customer support center at ADS Security, based in Nashville, Tenn. "The most difficult aspect of the job is the stress of handling mul- tiple high-priority alarms. At any time there could be a multitude of priority alarms, from a burglary to environmental alarms, all of which require immediate attention. The randomness is the unknown X factor. Sometimes the planets align in a certain way and (seemingly) everyone's alarm goes off." A common theme among those interviewed is that ongoing profes- sional development for veteran operators is at least as important, and possibly more critical, than the fundamental training for newbies on the job. There are limitations to what security companies can do to prepare inexperienced operators for the unforeseen and the heat of the moment at a monitoring center. "We keep our teams small and lean," said Chris Newhook, cen- tral station manager at American Alarm and Communications Inc., based in Arlington, Mass. "It's a welcoming environment, bright, open, upbeat with esprit de corps. We keep people's interest with a diverse workday." The company spends training time with new and experienced operators, help- ing them walk callers through technical trouble shooting, so that the operator doesn't automatically pass off a stressed customer to a technician. This involves more than technical training, Newhook said. It involves verbal/communi- cation skills, empathy and quick decision-making. "We don't have a 300-page man- ual for operators," Newhook said. "We might have 18 or 15 pages. Keep it tight, keep it easy. I don't ever want to hear, 'Sorry, I am just the operator.' That's not acceptable. I need thinking people." Monitoring centers take great pride in their screening of job applicants, knowing that if they don't, the attrition rate for new hires and operator turnover will become a problem for everyone— the company, customers and public safety agencies. "It's a difficult job," said David Smith, VP of marketing and business development at COPS Monitoring, based in New Jersey. "If you're not a good fit, in terms of temperament, emotional maturity, it can be overwhelming." COPS has proprietary proce- dures for screening applicants, including psychological testing developed with the assistance of an industrial psychologist trained in matching people to jobs. The system gives the company baseline information on whether an opera- tor has the right stuff. A routine exchange with a cus- tomer can turn stressful, such as when the caller gives the operator a wrong password for his or her security device. "Is it because they Central monitoring operators: Training, empathy and thinking really fast don't know, forgot or is it because they are under duress?" Smith said. "Because we have no way of knowing, our job is to assume they gave a wrong password because they need help. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, customers are not always grateful that we sent the police after they gave us what they thought was a valid code." In addition to an exhaustive training program for new hires, including 120 classroom hours, and several weeks of tandem train- ing with an experienced opera- tor, COPS' system of redundancy provides operators with layers of response, expertise and backups from multiple monitoring centers. O P e RATORS see page 20 # P A S S A I T O E N S E C U R I T Y ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO? #passionatesecurity JUNE 19-22, 2018 NASHVILLE ESXWEB.COM EDUCATION. NETWORKING. EXPO. JUNE 19-22 NASHVILLE

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