Sweet dreams are made of this...

Sweet dreams are made of this...

A bit of an impromptu post this one!

It stemmed from a very innocent conversation in the last couple of days as I was having some maintenance carried out on one of our patrol and response vehicles.

The nature of what came out of the conversation really left me thinking about how companies are still treating their employees. Perhaps without realising it, and perhaps without understanding the options that are out there right now to deal with this sort of thing.

I am talking about companies using daytime employees to attend out of hours alarm activations at the work premises!

After paying for the work done, I do what I would do on almost every occasion if I spot an intruder alarm panel on the wall! I don’t do the hard sell, I just ask some soft questions (people tend to clam up when you start asking serious security-based questions generally anyway!) My aim is to hand a card over and let them know to give me a call anytime. It went a little like this…

(Me pointing at the alarm panel on the wall) “So, who comes out if that goes off?

“Oh, err… well we get the call.”

“Oh blimey. O.K. Does it go off much?”

“Yeah it can do. It comes through to me first and then the area manager if I don’t answer.”

“That’s no fun if it goes off at 3 in the morning!”

“Well it went off during lockdown at about 3 in the morning, but I didn’t answer it. I didn’t hear anything the next day, so I reckon it was fine. They give us £50 for coming out but it’s a pain in the arse.”

“Well, yeah I can understand that. Especially late at night.”

“And what happens if I turn up and there’s a burglar here or something?”

“That’s a worry, isn’t it. Bit dodgy if that happens.”

I explain what we do, leave my card and say my goodbyes!

Whatever you may think of this guys approach to coming out at night or the weekend, let me break this conversation down a bit and get into the nitty-gritty of this sort of situation, because he has brought up some very relevant points, which I feel should not even be happening in this time of employee safety and protection culture.

It really did surprise me a lot to learn about their approach to a serious action:

Part 1: “We get the call.”

It came across to me like there isn’t really a ‘we’ in this situation! The call comes to this guy first and is probably expected to get on with it on his own regardless of when the call comes in! Fair enough, it goes through to the area manager if the employee drops the call. What happens in that situation? Does the question come up between them?! (I know this chap said he didn’t hear anything after dropping a call but maybe further down the line, there could be repercussions?) But what excuse is there? Should the matter be pursued? (I also wonder if there are disciplinary ramifications too?)

What happens if the call gets dropped by the AM? Then what?

What if they’ve both indulged in a drink or two? If both are incapable of driving what’s the back-up plan?! (Is there a back-up plan?!) Or does nobody go?

Part 2: “Does it go off much?”

My favourite in this situation. Catch 22!

This can have a lot to do with whether the intruder system is well maintained or not.

A poorly maintained system will cause more false alarm activations.

The more false alarm activations there are, the greater the chance of those activations being put down to system issues and the urge to not attend because of that becomes greater!

Attendance then tails off considerably because each time it’s not attended and the next morning proves it was a system issue and not a break-in, the would-be attendee has justification (in their own mind) for not turning out.

All perfectly understandable. Until that one time when it isn’t a false alarm and some sneaky toe rags have cleared your office or warehouse or shop out of anything half valuable. And smashed up anything that’s not just for a giggle. Yep. That happens. And worse.

Then explain to your insurer why nobody attended.

Then, honestly, rate your chances of getting any sort of payout to cover your losses and damage.

Fair enough if your part of a chain (a small chain in the case of my conversation) then the costs may well be able to be absorbed, but someone is gonna have to take the heat!

And if you’re not a chain? If you’re an independent or small business. What are your chances of staying in business if something like that happened? Would you survive or would you be done?

Part 3: “Went off at 3 in the morning.”

Imagine the delight! You’ve had a busy day at work. You’ve got the kids to bed and at last, you can relax with your other half and really start to wind down. You’ve got another full-on day tomorrow so you get an early night in. Bliss. You’re having a great sleep and then…ring ring…ring ring…what’s that? The intruder alarm has gone off?

So at 3 in the morning you’ve got to get dressed (in the dark) try and creep out so you don’t wake the kids (if the phone going off didn’t already!) and then drive to work with fuzzy eyes and head because three minutes ago you were in the deepest of sleeps.

Dangerous for you. Disturbing for your family. Not good for your health. It’s gonna completely destroy your productivity at work in a few hours as well.

Sleepfoundation.org has this to say about just 1 night of interrupted sleep:

“Even just one night of interrupted sleep can negatively affect your mood and cause you to experience a decline in attention span. Interrupted sleep can slow your reaction speed and make it harder to learn or remember things.”

Sounds like fun doesn’t it?! There is more, which goes into links to Alzheimer’s etc, but you get the picture.  

Is it really worth it? Maybe the next part about monetary reward will make it all worthwhile!

Part 4 “They give us £50 for coming out.”

Maybe that sounds quite generous at first. But before we get carried away let's weigh up the health issues. Then the family arguments because your phone is chiming loudly at a god-awful time of the morning. Chuck in some interrupted nights out, ruined romantic dinners and then the kids parties where you’re missing from the pictures.

Ironically, in an attempt to show gratitude for these deeds a business is likely spending way more money than it needs to! Some research and a better plan in place a could save a considerable amount of money, even in the short term!

Going on the £50 number in this conversation that is the call out sweetener, is that added on to the employee wage? If so, it is then it’s going to be subject to tax and national insurance. Not so generous after the taxman gets his lick of the lolly!

Just as a quick comparison with our alarm response service, we charge by the half-hour on-site. Most companies charge by the hour, and we will get into the nuts and bolts about that another time.

For us 95% of activations take up to half an hour to sort out. Our charges start from £17.50 per half an hour on-site. So, within a half an hour attendance that’s a saving of £32.50 already!

How many activations on average a month? That could add up to quite a considerable saving couldn’t it?! Especially when your team can stay tucked in bed at night!

Part 5: “What if there are burglars here when I turn up?”

The fact of the matter is that it’s an entirely plausible scenario. How would you react?

Consider that you may not even know there are intruders on-site until you’re face to face with them.

When the alarm is passed to you, is it specified as a single or confirmed activation? Would you know the difference? Do the Police attend your confirmed activations? How can you find out? Lots of questions I know, but it's way too late to be asking them when you're face to face with a burglar’s fist. Or worse.

What is the plan then? What would my guys' area manager have him do in that situation? Is there actually a plan, because on the basis of the conversation I didn't really sniff much of one.

Are there emergency escalation procedures in place? Would anyone apart from himself know that he is there? Is anyone going to miss him if he’s restrained and unable to reach a phone, or worse he needs urgent medical attention?

If he’s found the next morning, then the planning question is pretty redundant by that point, isn’t it? Despite the obvious short to medium term psychological problems this could cause, is the business protected from any sort of financial claim?

Especially if an injury is involved. Or worse, heaven forbid you ever got into corporate manslaughter territory.  

How would that play out do you think? Big numbers? Jail time? Lots to consider.

That £50 doesn’t really seem so generous now, does it?

Sweet dreams!