Catching up with Central Stations

We all know that the alarm central station industry is not an easy endeavor, be it running a central station or working at one. Working 24/7 shifts, dealing with stressful situations that often lead to employee burnout and following the same repetitive schedule with little interaction except with who’s on the other end of the line, you have to be in it for the long haul if you want to survive and be the best in this competitive industry. This month, we caught up with the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) and some of the best of the best -- the leading alarm central stations in the country to get their take on the industry.

What new exciting developments and services is your company offering or seeing in the industry?
Rick Raper, manager of Alarm Detection Systems, Aurora, Ill.: “Customers want to know exactly what’s going on with their system as it is happening. They want to be able to access their accounts immediately. The market for instant notification will definitely get a lot bigger.”
Steve Doyle, executive vice president of CSAA, Vienna, Va.: “One new development that CSAA has decided to initiate is the Five Diamond Certificate program. One of the problems that insurance companies have been having is not having that proper verification of what kind of alarm systems are installed. The Five Diamond Certificate can be issued to commercial and residential  properties, by Five Diamond companies only, which would act as a guarantor to the insurance company that the system being installed and monitored would meet the appropriate criteria for that sort of alarm. Now, a Five Diamond company will be able to log onto the Five Diamond data base and issue their own certificate’s from their location.”
Jim McMullen, C.O.P.S. Monitoring, Williamstown, N.J.: “We have been using technology for a long time and some of the services already offered in the industry, such as SMS text and phone alerts, is old news to us. We are excited about access control and human interface devices (HID). Now, you can use access control technology to replace having to carry a set of house keys with you. We can maintain that technology with a customer and do this at the central station. There is going to be a bigger market for that.”
Kevin McCarthy, national sales manager, EMERgency24, Chicago: “One obvious trend is that the end-user wants more control over their system. We are offering more services to users that are smart-home oriented and that provide real-time information from your alarm system. We are also in the PERS market (Personal Emergency Response System). Our position is that PERS is a very serious and service-oriented offering. If a person calls us, they’re distressed. For the subscriber’s comfort, we will stay on the line with them, instead of just saying ‘ok, we’ve dispatched your service’ and then disconnecting from the caller. It’s a higher level of care we are offering our subscribers.”
Mary Jensby, director, Monitronics International, Dallas: “Our main goal is making sure that our employees get what they need. The job is the same old routine where you come in and a lot of what you are doing is very repetitive. This past year, we had a number of wage increases for our employees, we offer a weekend differential incentive for them, we have once-a-month employee recognition, we’ve increased the break times of our employees from one 10 minute break to two 15 minute breaks in the day. The job is very competitive, and for us, it’s about making it more fun for our employees.”

What can we expect to see from alarm central stations on the issue of false alarms?
Raper: “People are going to rely more on trying to figure out ways of verification prior to dispatching police departments. If alarm companies don’t come together to resolve this problem, the issue of non-response will continue to grow. Using video and different ways of verification, instructing customers on what to do when an alarm goes off-these are all issues that we need to resolve.”
McMullen: “False alarms are something that a central station will always have to deal with. In terms of ordinances and the local municipalities, yes, there are a lot of false alarm ordinances out there and each municipality deals with it differently. Our experience has been that if you work with these municipalities to try and resolve the problem, they will work with you. The main problem is that there are false alarms and people are not taking care of the alarm systems.”
McCarthy: “Enhanced call verification is an important part of minimizing false alarms. We encourage our dealers to add a second number to the subscriber line, preferably a cell phone number of the alarm owner, so that in the event that an alarm was triggered as a mistake, we can contact the subscriber before calling the authorities. We have also been promoting the use of CPO1 control panel. We like to keep our dealers informed of the hardware that’s designed to minimize false alarms.”

What are some of the biggest focus points for alarm central stations today?
Raper: “The alarm central station industry is seeing a bigger need to have a more tailored training system. I think that the industry as a whole is seeing that your operators are your frontline people. They’re the first people you have contact with in most cases. All operators should have advanced training level, not just the supervisors. Training is one of the biggest issues we face. The more training you put in for your operators, the easier you’re going to make their job.”
Doyle: “When it comes to the whole aspect of online training, we identified where the biggest need was, and that need was for standardization training among operators. Online training is really the way to go. People are in the electronic age. Now, they can take a training course at home over the course of a two week period and get a whole lot more out of it instead of being sent to another state to take a course over three hours. The day of bringing everybody together to have one person be a trainer, those kind of days are dead.”

What can we expect in the future for alarm central stations?
McCarthy: “Right now the healthcare industry is an emerging market for central stations. As baby boomers continue to age and the cost of healthcare continues to rise, more people are looking to remain in their homes longer. On top of offering personal emergency response, we’ll be getting into medical monitoring for diabetics, medical distributions, reporting directly to medical facilities-there are big opportunities here for this market.”
Doyle: “We’re not in the business of growth for the sake of growth as an association. It’s about the amount of services you can turn back around and supply to your members. It’s about the standards that you write that help raise the efficiency and efficacy of the industry. CSAA expects to see continued growth for the company, in our online training, and in the demand for our Five Diamond Certificates.”

Re-educating the Industry on the CSAA
Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA)
440 Maple Avenue East, Suite 201
Vienna, VA 22180
Phone number: 703-242-4670
Fax: 703-242-4675

Who we are: The Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) is a national non-profit trade organization for individuals or companies whose primary business is the operation of central station facilities. Our purpose has been to foster and improve relationships among providers and users of UL Listed and FMRC Approved central station protective services, and with agencies that have jurisdiction over, or regulate, such services.

The Five Diamond Program
The CSAA’s Five Diamond 100% Operator Certified Central Station designation is granted to those central stations who:

  • Have 100 percent certification of its central station operators certified by the CSAA Central Station Operator Level I Online course
  • Pledge to continue all future certifications through the CSAA
  • Are CSAA members in good standing
  • Meet the requirements of the five points of excellence.

Five Diamond Program five points of excellence:

  • Commitment to random inspections and quality criteria standards by a nationally recognized third-party laboratory such as UL or FM.
  • Commitment to the highest levels of customer service.
  • Commitment to ongoing job-related education and testing by having 100% of its central station operators certified using the CSAA online training series.
  • Commitment to raising the industry standards through CSAA membership and participation in its activities.
  • Commitment to reducing false dispatches.