On Assignment

March 12, 2007

So one day last month I got out of the cozy comforts of the office and went on a residential security install in frigid, snowy Chicagoland.  Once I arrived on site, I was greeted by Robert Mikolainis, an installation team leader for Alarm Detection Systems (based out of Aurora, Illinois), as well as two ADS installers, Bob White and Georgi Ganchovski.  Robert has 20 years experience in the security installation industry, including the last 4 at ADS.  His experience was readily apparent as he spoke easily about a variety of topics, ranging from which companies have the most user-friendly manuals to why window contacts are trickier to install these days with manufacturers putting less wood in the windows.

Admittedly, I don't often work “in the elements†and this showed immediately as my pen stopped writing due to the cold.  Despite the fact that we were “inside,†this home had been completely gutted and was being totally redone with a second story added, and as such, the insulation and drywall had yet to go up.  Long story short, it was 13 degrees outside and probably not a whole lot better inside (except for no wind—that makes a difference!).  As for my pen situation, fortunately Bob White, an installer with ADS, let me borrow one that actually writes in the cold. 

Once I had a properly working writing utensil, Robert showed me around the house.  It was early in the installation process, so mainly I was looking at wiring and markings for where things would be going (motion detectors, sprinklers, contacts, etc.). A First Alert combo fire/burg panel was going to be used, and the home’s security plan called for “full perimeter†security.  (I’m not going to divulge the home’s address and detailed security plan for obvious reasons—or at least I hope they’re obvious!)

Up on the 2nd floor Robert pointed up where he put the AES backup 2-way radio to carry the signal in case the primary line didn’t work.  He always aims to put the radio as near the roof as possible because that’s where the signal will be best.  “I’ve seen installers put the radio in the basement, which is a mistake,†he continues, explaining that a radio might be tested once and work fine in the basement, but that’s no guarantee that it will work on a different day in an emergency situation.

In the three hours I got to spend on the site, Robert managed to share many tricks of the trade—and plenty of his own insights into how security is intertwined with other industries and technologies.  As far as his thoughts about today’s technicians, one thing he stresses is to bring instruction manuals with you on an install and be willing to open it in front of a customer.  He says he’s had a lot of techs tell him that they don’t want to look stupid in front of a customer and hesitate to refer to a manual.  However, Robert says that if they’re not sure, consult the manual and if anyone ever makes a comment, let them know that technology moves fast today and there’s a lot to keep up with—better to be safe than sorry.  “Don’t be embarrassed,†he states.

When ADS broke for lunch, my little adventure was over and it was time to head back to the office.  I certainly came away from the experience impressed with the ADS security installation crew on that job--and the fact that they don't let a little freezing weather stop them from working!