Ontario central station operator saves lives

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

OAKVILLE, Ontario--A fire on Dunwoody Drive here in December of 2008 could have ended up much differently, if one central station operator had not done her job. Lives could have been lost, rather than just $500,000 worth of damage incurred. Roger Barnes is president of Burlington, Ontario-based Roger’s Security Systems, the security company that installed the Honeywell system and First Alert panel at the Dunwoody Drive residence of the Sabine family. He said the alarm was handled by third-party monitoring center Security Response Center’s Nicole Hurak with above average professionalism and concern.

Hurak received the alarm from a smoke detector installed in the furnace room of the Sabine residence at around 4:45 a.m. She immediately called the residence, where Douglas Sabine, a chef who worked late hours, and two friends had recently returned to Sabine’s parents’ empty house from work and were getting ready to go to sleep. “When the monitoring center called and told him that the fire alarm was going off, he said, ‘Well, you know what, I don’t hear anything, but let me go down stairs and take a look,’” Barnes said. “And that was the last communication at that time with the monitoring station. We lost contact … Nicole waited on there for about 15, 20 seconds and then it was just dead.”

Undaunted, Hurak called back. She got a busy signal, hung up and called back again with the same result. Acting quickly, Hurak proceeded to call the numbers on the alternate call list. Receiving no answer at any of the alternates, she immediately called and dispatched the fire department. According to Barnes, dispatching the emergency responders was the end of Hurak’s legal obligation on the alarm. “She went above and beyond … She just kind of felt a little eerie about it. So she called the contacts again and got a hold of the father. He had just gotten off the phone with the son [Douglas]. When the fire department got there, they told us that the mother was there in the background shouting out, ‘Thank you very much, you saved my son’s life.’”

According to Barnes, it is situations such as the fire on Dunwoody Drive that exemplify the importance of quality operators. “She told me later, ‘I was kind of shaken that day. If I hadn’t done my job three people could’ve died.’”

Despite the lauding of friends and family, Hurak insists that she did nothing extraordinary. “The thing that went right here was that he answered the phone. Because even though I dispatched the fire department, it’s just that few seconds of him picking up that phone,” Hurak said. “It is a good feeling … Later on with the news article - my sister had sent it to me - they were sending me emails and saying, ‘Oh there’s our hero.’ I said, ‘I’m not a hero. I was just doing my job.’ That’s part of our job. but it felt good to know that we got them out okay.”