Roundtable: 3rd-Party Central Stations on Navigating COVID-19, Value-Add Offerings

Wholesale monitoring executives and managers share how the pandemic has reaffirmed their commitment to delivering premium service to their dealer partners and more.

Roundtable: 3rd-Party Central Stations on Navigating COVID-19, Value-Add Offerings

(Image Credit: National Monitoring Center)

One could make that case that there is no better application of the saying, there’s no rest for the weary, than using it to describe security monitoring centers. And, for a multitude of reasons and manifestations, nothing has ever been as wearisome as contending with the 2020 pandemic.

But to hear operators of the industry’s third-party, wholesale monitored security systems providers tell it — they’re just fine with that. The fact is these central stations and their facilities have been prepped and equipped to deal with and continue to monitor critical alarm signals given any eventuality, even the ramifications of COVID-19.

“UCC has deployed work-from-home solutions and created a virtual world both internally and externally,” says company President Teresa Gonzalez. “Sales presentations and dealer training has been revamped to virtual sessions vs. in-person. These solutions and changes have strengthened our ability to adapt throughout our company to outside influences, and empowered our employees to be more versatile and flexible.”

Gonzalez is among the representatives from seven leading central station firms who took part in this year’s SSI Monitoring Roundtable. As you will see, even in the face of historically challenging circumstances, these essential providers that are the backbone of emergency alarm response have risen to the occasion. Beyond that they have continued to support and contribute to the ongoing success of their dealer partners.

Family-owned and operated, EMERgency24 is said to have been the first company to computerize the dispatching process and the first nationwide, third-party central station. (Courtesy EMERgency24)

How has the pandemic changed your business?

Kevin Lehan, National Sales and Marketing, EMERgency24: In mid-February, EMERgency24 began planning to move almost all staff to their homes, including monitoring operations. Our priority was to balance the health of our staff with the safety of our customers. This balance drove innovation and quick implementation of a remote workstation that fully complied with UL guidelines.

We acted early and were ready when UL permission was granted. We designed a remote station with heavy user acceptance testing and tested for failure points. We began deploying the remote workstation the week UL gave the approval to move non-ops and monitoring operations offsite as much as possible.

Hats off to UL for understanding that if central stations became impacted, that puts the nation at risk. The life-safety services we provide are frontline and if we — as an industry — falter, it will have a huge impact on national security. We continue to staff each of our central stations at all times, but with the great majority of staff working at home, there is more than ample social distance between all people at all times.

We expanded our facilities wherever possible. In mid-June, we began moving some of the monitoring staff back to our operation sites, but we’ve made physical alterations to our space so that staff are spread out further than the suggested six feet with one-way hallways.

Of course, we’ve implemented cleaning protocols, heavy use of plexiglass shields, established protective apparel requirements and speak with staff about being forthcoming about any symptoms they may be experiencing.

Troy Iverson, V.P. of Sales & Marketing, AvantGuard Monitoring: We have seen significant changes to where our daily business activities take place. At the onset of the pandemic, we equipped our operators with laptops and significantly reduced our daily personnel in each of our facilities. As with any major change, working from home has brought significant challenges, but has also provided unique opportunities to change how things are done. In many ways it has allowed greater business flexibility, redundancy and responsiveness much in the way the Cloud has transformed many IT services in recent years.

William Niles, CEO, Brinks Home Security: The pandemic has made us rethink the ways in which we work and interact with customers. The safety and well-being of those we employ and those we serve has always been our top priority, but COVID-19 has reinforced this. Our teams follow CDC guidelines and where possible employees have been working from home since early March.

Our award-winning alarm response center’s redundancy measures have enabled us to socially distance our emergency dispatch operators, without compromising on our alarm response times. We remain here when customers need us, 24/7/365. We have also worked hand-in-hand with our authorized dealers and agents, helping them navigate the CARES Act, building customer relationships and conducting business in these challenging times.We have grown closer, while apart, to our internal teams, authorized partners, and customers, and we expect those strengthened relationships to be long-lasting.

Woodie Andrawos, President, National Monitoring Center (NMC): Safeguarding our dealers’ flow of revenue and business continuity are our top priorities as we help dealers and channel partners navigate the changing dynamics. Our goal is to provide guidance and support and ensure they continue to scale their business while identifying new, high-value RMR opportunities. To do this, we have realigned the focus of our training and support webinar series on amplifying the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of our Netwatch Proactive Video Monitoring services and offering new services to help grow their RMR business.

Since COVID-19 was elevated to pandemic status, we’ve found that demand for intelligent security systems has surged amid a steady rise in commercial property crime. With many businesses in the service and manufacturing industries having faced reduced hours and reduced staffing, there has been a greater need to protect and secure their property and assets.

Joyce Rosito, Senior Account Executive, USA Central Station: We immediately put in place our guidelines and protocols for all employees. All travel was cancelled indefinitely. Anyone returning from a trip or who met anyone who had traveled was immediately quarantined for 14 days. All personnel were deployed to home offices. We had a mandatory no entry into the central station policy except for staff working onsite after taking their temperature. For personnel with immune-compromised situations PPE was and is still available. Mask and sanitation protocols were implemented immediately and are still in place. The field salesforce was grounded and self-quarantined for 14 days, and began Zoom meetings.

Keep reading to hear about technology changes and value-adds at each provider and more…

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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