Security Dealer magazine interviewed representatives of four central stations to discuss the evolution of service and the many facets of monitoring—from the reduction of false alarms to providing critical life safety response services. We thank them for their insights and contributions.
Johnson: How have the activities of central stations changed and evolved with new technologies and innovation in remote monitoring? Is there more supervision, maintenance and value-added service?
Suzie Avondet, vice president of operations, AvantGuard Monitoring Centers, Ogden, Utah: I have seen a vast improvement in central station automation systems. Current automation systems are capable of performing functions that had previously been done manually. The advances in automation system technology have enabled our central station’s operators to devote more time to focusing on customer service and response times, reducing the workload burden on our operators. Also, the new technology alarm receiving units reduce the amount of time devoted to troubleshooting signals and format information with our dealers. These advances in technology have allowed us to streamline our processes and increase efficiency. When we went from a DOS-based system to a Windows-based system the benefits were realized immediately with the speed in reporting and customized reporting we could provide.
Kerry L. Egan, vice president, Security Partners LLC, Lancaster, Pa.: Central station activities have been simplified through features in automation software but the art of monitoring is still done best with the best people. Our list of services continues to expand. We have moved beyond just offering basic monitoring services and look for new ways to stay a head of industry trends which help our dealers stay competitive. Our services include not only monitoring but also video verification and video notification. Technology makes it feasible to manage a central station remotely 24/7. We can accomplish this through hardware and software technology as there are many programs rich with features that allow us to minimize operators while at the same time increase coverage. Reporting is set up so that they are e-mailed to me daily. This allows for the on-going review of central station activities.
Mark S. Fischer, vice president/CTO, Nationwide Digital Monitoring Co., Freeport, N.Y.: There have been dramatic changes in the types and quantities of signals being sent to the central stations. Today most manufacturers provide a means to supervise all essential components of the alarm system. This supervision means that system failures are reported, documented and repaired. In older systems a subscriber may fail to notify the installer of a trouble which could result in there being a gap or total loss of protection. The introduction of alarm monitoring through the Internet allows virtually any alarm system to benefit from line supervision, eliminating the problem of a communicator disconnected from the phone lines going undetected. Video verification and other video related services are becoming the key selling points of a growing percentage of new systems.
Jeremy Wyble, general manager, Alarm Central, Kansas City, Mo.: With the central station becoming more automated, we are able to provide instant notification to the end users via text messaging or e-mail notification. We are also providing more non-related security services: latch key child services, temperature monitoring and more. In addition more customers are signing up for online account access.
What is the process of training central station operators and what are some of their critical challenges? How do you keep these operators on top of their game?
Avondet: For our entry level operators we employ a 90-day Level 1 Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) training course which includes 128 hours of class room academics and 32 hours of supervised on-the-job training in the employee’s first 30 days. After the first 30 days, the new employee completes 320 hours of supervised on-the-job training in our central station. Once the operator has completed these requirements, they must pass a test given by our training department with a minimum passing score of 85 percent.