By Rich Abrams CSS
December 1, 2000
Reprint Protection Officer News - Winter 2000
We are once again approaching the holiday season, which retailers dread due to crowds, lack of staff and merchandise, and the rush of unhappy customers with goods to return after the gifts are opened. Security managers have this same interaction on a regular basis; acting as customers, sales engineers, quality control, and even return clerks when purchasing supplies or equipment.
Major electronics manufacturers such as Motorola and Panasonic have full-time customer service reps, field technical sales reps, and local distributors to meet the needs of security departments. ("Can I use the Miramar X with a quarter wave antenna?") Smaller companies, who specialize in specific product lines, (CCTV monitors, access cards, alarm keypads, etc.) rely on their dealers and installers to satisfy clients' requirements. There are consultants who lend expertise on design and implementation as well, and they work closely with the manufacturer, dealer, and installers of the product. In all three scenarios, the loss prevention or safety director acts as a coach; making suggestions based on his guidelines, requiring time and financial audits, overseeing the actual labor when in progress, and reporting progress to the management and operations staff.
There are a few basic guidelines to follow, and they apply to security staff who will specify, purchase, or supervise electronic equipment in the "command center". First, be sure that you have approached the design factor. Where will the device be mounted? How much elbow room is allowed for the operators? (See my previous article on ergonomics for details about this important consideration.) What about color matching? Will it fit the standard 19-inch rack mount format? Secondly, examine the power requirements. Will it need special antistatic grounding? Will one fifteen amp AC outlet be sufficient? Does it need to be on a constant-on circuit? (This is a task that your electrician will perform at the breaker panel.) If there is a battery backup for memory, is it a regular drugstore 9-volt battery or one that is not user-replaceable? Third, look at the graphics, bells and whistles, and other parts of the unit that your security officers will be seeing every day. Is the beeper volume adjustable? Is the speaker mounted in the front so that sound is projected? Can the display screen be seen in bright room lighting? How much fine-tuning is required after installation is completed? As a control room operator, as well as an officer, I appreciate being asked for input by my manager before new items appear in the console. And last, what about user training? Who checks the manuals and documentation to make sure everything is satisfactory? Are CD or disc instructions available? Does the manufacturer or dealer offer an in-house education program?
Joy and rapture! You met the steps mentioned above, and you are now the proud owner of a new electronic toy in your security operations center. What happens if it breaks down? Has the manufacturer or dealer arranged for future updates and software upgrades? (Especially with the current emphasis on Year 2000, which was also examined in a previous article.) Who reports troubles and malfunctions to you? Are your officers trained in monitoring for failures or errors? Is there a 24-hour customer service number available? Have you invested in a long-term warranty? Supervisors and managers need to know that an equipment problem can be relayed and solved without the ever-popular 2 AM telephone conversation. ("I don't know, boss. It started beeping, and now the screen is saying 'SERVICE REQUESTED'. What should I do now?") Your technician or salesman needs to be involved from the beginning to assure quality support. If something needs to go "to the shop", is a replacement device available to keep the system intact? (Spare parts inventories can be kept on location or at the vendor's shop.)
Security and loss prevention managers can now understand how education and flexibility are key factors when new equipment is being purchased. ASIS, and other trade organizations publish newsletters that feature articles and reviews about many types of apparatus. Manufacturers often sponsor one-day seminars to display their newest technology. Shows such as the New York and Las Vegas SIA Expositions have over a thousand booths filled with demonstrations, literature, and previews of future products. It is not only important to own the latest gimmick on the market. You must guarantee that it interfaces with your existing equipment; that it fits into your console; that it is "user friendly" for all of your security staff; and that prompt and efficient service is available when the inevitable failure occurs. A good working relationship with your vendor goes a long way toward making these requirements a reality, and promotes acceptance by the operators and supervisors as well. Congratulations-you're a state of the art control room!
-Rich Abrams is a Security Control Operator II for Yale University, a member of IFPO and ASIS, and a certified Central Station Alarm Instructor.