Monitoring Missteps Cost Provider $8.6M

The customer of a national monitoring company was beaten and sexually assaulted in her home. An investigation found the provider recklessly breached its duties to the plaintiff due to egregious central station procedures. The case reinforces applying best practices and minimizing liability exposure.

Lessons for the Entire Industry

What drove the firm’s EDOs to ultimately commit the egregious mistakes and procedural failures outlined above? Zwirn says, and ultimately the jury in the case concluded, the deep-seated problems spawned from a corporate culture that was bent on profitability. For example, Zwirn says the monitoring company placed an immense amount of pressure on its EDOs to meet quotas in order to maximize the number of alarms signals handled each hour.

“To the extent the operator’s quota is not met, the operator is subject to reprimand and/or being terminated,” he says.

Hanging up immediately and not staying on the line long enough to reach a live person when an EDO receives an auto attendant was a widespread practice at the monitoring company. The potential dangers and reckless disregard for hanging up on auto attendants was epitomized in the 64-year-old woman’s case.  

“[Quotas were] accepted as a rule of law in regard to their own operation. They forced that procedure because they recognized a profit increase since their operators could spend less time per call,” Zwirn says. “I don’t have a problem with the quota system per se; my problem is when you are rushing and not paying attention to what your core duties are for each customer.”

The investigation into the EDOs’ actions also exposed a dearth of operator training. Zwirn quantifies that contention based on studying the EDOs’ conduct while handling the multitude of alarm signals emanating from the victim’s premise, and by looking at the training provided by the firm.

Essentially, the operators were not schooled to understand what the signature algorithm was of for a burglary in progress. Instead, they considered each alarm signal as just another alarm. Due to this lack of training, the EDOs had no awareness that the various types of alarms at the woman’s premise were consistent with an actual burglary.

“What I saw was a corporate culture that was only interested in numbers and didn’t really understand the criticality or the underpinnings of what the monitoring component of a security system is supposed to do,” he says. “There was no personal attention or any level of detail or sophistication regarding what the system was telling them to do.”

All central stations should take to heart the degree to which training, or a lack thereof, affected the monitoring firm’s EDOs in this case. The training has to be more than a paperwork assignment, Zwirn cautions. Monitoring companies have to put the operators into foreseeable scenarios where customers are at risk. They need to be given case studies in order to learn from others’ mistakes.

“The standard of care has to be at the highest level because every second counts, whether it’s a fire alarm or burglar alarm,” he says. “How can we as an industry step outside the central station and look inward and say, ‘What are we doing right? But more importantly what if anything are we doing wrong?’”

Rodney Bosch is Managing Editor of SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. He can be contacted at (310) 533-2426.


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About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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