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How EPS Security Went From 3-Time PDQ Runner-Up to 2017 Winner

Having knocked on the door several times, EPS Security shares a playbook that has allowed it to finally punch through and capture a Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) Award.

How EPS Security Went From 3-Time PDQ Runner-Up to 2017 Winner

When it comes to managing false alarms, EPS Security has taken the ball and run with it.

The goal-line stand is one of the most exciting sequences in football. Especially when it’s first and goal at the 1-yard-line and the outcome will determine the difference between winning and losing a championship.

That’s the type of dramatic scenario Engineered Protection Systems (EPS Security) found itself in after three straight years of being named a runner-up for the Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) Award.

Like a great team that goes into the offseason more determined than ever to find a way to improve even more and return to finally grasp that trophy, each time EPS recommitted itself to further refine and enhance its already remarkable alarm management program. It’s time to uncork the champagne!

At last, the company has broken through to score its hard-earned and well-deserved PDQ Award. “Dave [Hood] and I have worked with our monitoring center, operations team and administrators for four years on this award,” says EPS Security Marketing Specialist Jeremy Schellie. “To come in second for three years was disappointing, but it revealed two things. We knew we were worthy and we knew we were close. As far as inspiration, that is all we needed.”

The full-service installation and monitoring provider, which was founded more than a half-century ago, logged a 2016 false alarm police dispatch rate of just 4% (down from 13% in 2015) within its headquarters base of Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2017.

Having more than doubled in size the past decade, EPS’ more than 200 employees populate four Michigan locations that serve in excess of 20,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers across several states. Earlier this year, the firm’s UL-Listed monitoring center was renewed as a TMA (The Monitoring Association, formerly CSAA) Five Diamond operation.

In the required law enforcement letter validating EPS Security’s dispatch rate, Grand Rapids Chief of Police David Rahinsky stated: “EPS is an exceptional company to work with and whose opinion we trust as experts within the security industry. Our partnership with Engineered Protection Systems has led to concrete goals being met in regards to our collaborative focus on reducing police dispatches in our area, and I wholeheartedly support their application for the Police Dispatch Quality Award.”

Founded in 2005 by the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA) and Security Sales & Integration, and officially endorsed by the Installation Quality (IQ) program, the PDQ Award annually recognizes a security company that best demonstrates a proactive, cooperative and successful effort in false alarm reduction strategies.

The PDQ program’s mission is to raise industry-wide awareness, promote partnering with responding agencies for public safety, motivate alarm companies to be proactive and provide workable models. Applicants participate at no charge and are evaluated by three judges in a thorough process that analyzes 14 areas (see sidebar).

In once again an extremely tight race, former winner Vector Security of Warrendale, Pa., was named as this year’s runner-up (see sidebar).

“Every year the job of deciding a PDQ winner gets harder,” says SIAC Director Ron Walters. “This year the judging was so close there was actually consideration of presenting two awards, but there really needs to be one winner. With all things said, the winner, EPS has applied previously and each year their performance improved. Vector Security is very hard to go against, but this year EPS met and very slightly exceeded the standard that Vector has set for the industry. Of course, the real winners are all of the customers of these two excellent companies’ service and the police departments that respond, which is the entire purpose of this prestigious award.”

EPS’ many proactive tactics include educating customers about false alarms and prevention measures. That includes a quarterly newsletter that has addressed the false alarm issue, what it means to the customer and actions each party can take. The content is re-produced on the company’s website blog.

Further education is promoted through EPS brochures including a false alarm prevention guide, handbook and security systems guide. For more on how EPS blocked and tackled its way to the PDQ title, SSI interviewed Schellie, Director of Business Development David Hood and Monitoring & Support Operations Manager Josh Sanders.

What were the drivers in EPS Security deciding to mount such a comprehensive false alarm reduction program?

JEREMY SCHELLIE: The odd thing about our improvement in false alarm reduction is that we already had significant programs in place. We simply realized they were not working. We needed to adjust. As an organization it was the idea that better training — not just with monitoring center operators, but with our sales reps, technicians and administration staff — was far more impactful with the end user. Education has become the golden ticket. We’ve focused on being proactive rather than reactive.

Who are the primary people responsible for developing, implementing, fine tuning and maintaining the program?

JOSH SANDERS: We use metrics to evaluate baselines. We use the baselines to set expectations. We train to expectations using materials that are updated monthly by myself and the supervisor staff.

How costly of an undertaking was this; how did you budget for it? How does it fit into ROI terms?

SANDERS: We made a concerted effort to enhance training. This included training operators on signal interpretation, technicians on end-user demos, and soft skill training for both to better educate our customers.

How do you coordinate efforts between your installation and monitoring departments/personnel? What are the advantages of operating your own central station?

SANDERS: We have taken steps to be much more proactive. Our hosted infrastructure gives us weekly analysis on problem accounts; we take this information and coordinate with our service department and our customers to eliminate problems before they lead to higher probability of faulty reporting.

Having our own monitoring center is advantageous because our operators know the area and the customers. They also know how to escalate problems to our teammates in other departments so problems reach resolution faster. Having this service contracted to a third party would likely decrease that unique knowledge and efficiency.

What role do you believe standards, practices and training play in successful alarm management?

SANDERS: Having standards eliminates questions. When you eliminate questions you highly increase the consistency of dis-patching scenarios. We establish standards, procedures and protocols so we can continue to improve the interactions with AHJs and customers.

What were the challenges implementing the plan on the law enforcement side? How did you get their buy-in?

DAVID HOOD: EPS has standards established to accommodate law enforcement. EPS works closely with the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police [MACP] and SIAC to discuss best practices for alarm management. Most recently, we have collaborated with MACP and other alarm companies to create a model alarm ordinance that can be utilized by municipalities.

After four years of knocking on the door, EPS Security finally captured a PDQ Award to display in its monitoring center (top). At the first sign of a false alarm issue, EPS monitoring professionals (bottom) swing into action.

What feedback have you received from colleagues; have you inspired any of them to be more proactive?

SANDERS: We regularly interact with similarly minded alarm companies through our memberships with industry organizations. We share best practices and improve our strategies. Many colleagues have implemented versions of our practices in their centers and likewise.

How have the results meshed with your expectations?

SANDERS: With a more focused effort on quality of training and proactive approaches to problem accounts, the results far exceeded our most liberal projections. Since, however, expectations have been set to improve even more on these results.

Do you believe your approach/plan should serve as a blueprint for other monitoring centers and alarm companies to follow?

SANDERS: Depending on company structure, of course, I believe our plan would be an excellent guideline for any regional/medium-sized, full-service alarm company. Any provider and customer base will have unique needs, but set standards and an emphasis on training will prove beneficial anywhere.

Overall, what do you believe is going to happen with police response to burglar alarm systems? The situation seems to be improving, but pockets of problems still pop up; why?

HOOD: The delivery of information continues to be streamlined with technology and the integration of systems. For example, ASAP to PSAP [automated secure alarm protocol to public safety answering point] is being implemented in many areas of the country; we are looking forward to the program expanding in our markets. This is the next generation for the processing of information from alarm monitoring stations needing emergency dispatch, while reducing the relay currently in place.

What are some of EPS’ keys to business success?

HOOD: The security landscape continues to evolve. While we are steadfast and focused on continued development of our products and services, we also have to rely on what has led to our success. Our commitment to each customer as a trusted security advisor is a quality we strongly believe in. Investing in training, technology and employee resources allows our staff to perform as safety and security experts.

Our customers appreciate it, and we believe the overall EPS customer experience has been para-mount to our continued success as a security provider. Dedication to life safety and security as a member of the community also shines through. We believe our presence as a symbol of security in the communities we serve is compounded by the involvement we have with others in the life-safety and security space.

We are diligent in maintaining working relationships and direct communication with law enforcement, first responders, dispatchers, inspectors and community safety influencers. Those relationships are necessary in maintaining a system that depends on all parties involved being on the same page. Managing it all can be difficult at times, but the benefit to our business, employees and customers is worth the effort.

About the Author

Contact:

Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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