Burning the midnight oil

Monday, September 1, 2003

Editor, Security Systems News

By now, many of the more than 450 security companies and central stations across the eight states impacted by the Blackout of 2003 are breathing a sigh of relief. You’ve made it!

For some of you it meant weathering 24 hours without power except for that supplied by back-up generators. For others, it meant countless house calls after the power returned to residential customers and businesses to replace depleted back-up batteries, change worn out back-up batteries with ones with more juice or reset an access control system.

We talked to nearly a dozen people in the security industry about the blackout and how you sprung into action for a story that appears on the cover of this month’s issue. There were still many more of you who responded to a blast email we sent out to inquire how companies were dealing with the situation, but unfortunately we did not have time to catch up with everyone prior to press time.

All across the board, we heard the same story. Employees pitched in, contingency plans went into place, generators turned on, and in some cases, security dealers and systems integrators took time during the blackout to visit customers firsthand to see how their security system faired.

We heard how employees worked extra hours to provide more staffing at central stations getting flooded with calls from both customers inquiring what was going on and from failing back-up battery supplies. For some, the flood of calls were enormous, such as at Criticom where, in the first 24 hours, the central station handled more than 265,000 signals in a 24 hour period.

We learned that many central stations, like the one run by John Lombardi at CIA Security in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., crafted a game plan on how to inform customers about their low or failed battery signal even before power returned. Only a few days after the power outage, Lombardi expected to send letters to several hundred customers, letting them know that their security system sent a low battery signal only a few hours into the blackout and that the security system needed service.

Some system integrators took to the street, like Dan Nolan of Dodge Protective Service in Cleveland, who drove around town to check on his clients. Mike Ferer of Around the Clock Lock & Alarm Co., used his entrepreneurial ability to offer a new service – security guards – to provide personal security service to businesses whose security system failed because of the loss of power.

Security is a resilient industry. How many other industries are out there today that provide service 24 hours a day and when disaster strikes, and can provide that service successfully?

Many of you credited standards in place by Underwriters Laboratories that require back-up generators at central stations and contingency plans for your success in handling this disaster. But aside from that, two important factors also played a role – that’s you and your employees. You made it work. Without dedicated company owners and staff, the security industry perhaps would not have faired as well.

I found that a number of company executives who I called the Friday morning after the blackout first hit were unavailable to talk, not because they were busy with a meeting, but because they were taking some much needed rest after pulling an all-nighter at their security firm or central station.

Talk about resilience. Talk about dedication. Talk about burning the midnight oil.