Port Charlotte Monitoring Station Stays Up in Hurricane’s Bull’s-eye


It has been more than a week since the coastal city of Port Charlotte took the brunt of Hurricane Charley, but the town still looks like a disaster area. On his way to work at Port Charlotte alarm company Security Alarm Corp. (SAC), Vice President Lester Frank sees tree limbs stacked eight feet high along the side of the road. “It’s like driving through a tunnel,” Frank tells Security Sales & Integration.

With the only local 24-hour alarm monitoring facility in Port Charlotte, SAC faced the storm and the aftermath of Charley, which hit Port Charlotte directly Aug. 13 and led a path of destruction to Orlando and Central Florida before hitting the Carolinas. As of Aug. 24, Charley’s toll was 25 dead, 31,114 homes destroyed or uninhabitable and more than $7.4 billion in damage.

As of Aug. 24, more than 40 percent of Charlotte County remained without power and full power isn’t expected to be restored until at least Aug. 29. That has left Frank and SAC still uncertain on the status of several of its customers.

“We’re getting six to seven calls a day from customers wanting to disconnect monitoring because their house is gone,” Frank says. “That is going to hurt the company, but they’ll be back. The monitoring accounts I’m losing, I’ll live with it. They lost their homes.”

Frank was not among those who lost their homes. In fact all of the employees at SAC have been accounted for without injury and still with their homes, though the parents and relatives of many employees have moved in with them since their homes were destroyed.

As for SAC itself, the company’s building didn’t suffer any noticeable damage despite several downed trees surrounding the property, and the results of disaster preparedness meant SAC’s central station never went down and back-up generators kept everything running until power was restored Aug. 18. However, SAC had no power over phone lines that were up during the hurricane but went down eight hours after the city’s power grid went dark.

As of Aug. 24, SAC was still concentrating on accounting for all of its life safety customers and getting all down systems back up and operational. Commercial customers will come after that, followed by residential accounts.

SAC, which started business in 1979 with Frank as its first employee, first put together its disaster manual 15 years ago and has reviewed and revised it twice a year since. While the preparedness kept SAC operating despite the storm, there were still enough hiccups that left Frank ready for another revision. “You never know until you physically go through it,” he says.

In the meantime, Port Charlotte has come together in the wake of disaster that has left debris strewn around like autumn leaves. When the phone lines were out, neighbors and customers of SAC came by and knocked on the doors to make sure the employees there were OK. “I still get choked up when I see the response in this town,” Frank says.

For a related story on how alarm companies in Florida are dealing with the aftermath of Charley, click here.

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