ESA, SIA & TMA Urge Public Safety Leaders to Consider Importance of Electronic Security, Fire, Life Safety & Monitoring Services

The Electronic Security and Life Safety Industry Associations call on state leadership to ensure that essential emergency services are not suspended or impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

The Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), and The Monitoring Association (TMA) have partnered to circulate a letter drawing state public safety leaders’ attention to the essential emergency services provided by electronic security, fire, life safety and monitoring companies and ensure that those who depend on them are not adversely impacted during the evolving situation with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter, which has already garnered more than 450 signatures from industry CEOs, company owners and leaders, highlights the critical functions of alarm response centers for monitoring, saving first responder resources, alerting businesses to potential break-ins or troubles, monitoring and notifying customers of health emergencies, following industry standard best practices and more.

The letter’s two requests for state leaders are to:

  1. Ensure that government policy reflects that companies providing essential emergency services and field service and dispatch remain operational
  2. Provide an exemption for electronic security, monitoring and life safety services as essential services in any shelter-in-place, quarantine or similar order

[Note: TMA is continuing to collect signatures from executives at firms in the security industry. To add your firm to the letter, please provide your information online. If you have any other questions, email TMA Executive Director Celia T. Besore at cbesore@tma.us and affirm your consent to sign.]

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DICE Corp Presents Solutions for the Challenges of Remote Working

Register now to attend our next Virtual Product Review (VPR) presented by DICE Corporation, March 26th.

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way many organizations operate for the foreseeable future. As governments and businesses around the world have recommended self-quarantines, social distancing, and office closures, remote working has become a new reality. Operational changes have impacted the alarm industry significantly. Monitoring stations handle thousands of life safety calls and interactions every day and no matter the circumstances, customers rely on operators to respond without interruption. In this presentation, we will explore the importance of establishing a disaster recovery and remote working plan and how you can support your customers when it matters most.

After this presentation, you’ll:

  • Understand the benefits of disaster recovery plans and remote working
  • Understand the necessary steps to implement a disaster recovery and remote working plan
  • Understand how telecom and PBX plays a critical role in remote working

Speakers:

  • Cliff Dice, President and CEO
  • Avi Lupo, Executive Vice President 

Register now to attend this FREE VPR.

7 Tips to Enhance Virtual Office Efficiency

Special thanks to AICC’s Chairman Lou Fiore for sharing these tips with us today! It seems many of us are getting adjusted to working remotely in recent days. The TMA staff went fully virtual on Wednesday of this week. I, for one, was void of any desire to work at home or, in fact, remote from any location. I liked the routine, structure, and social aspects of working with others in an office. After (my first) three full days of working from my kitchen table, I must admit that I do like it! My dogs, Beau and Blue seem to like it too.

We hope that wherever you are calling “work” these days amidst COVID-19 – you are safe, healthy, and at peace!  Oh, and productive! Try these:

  1. Find a workspace
    Have a designated space to do your work. If you have a home office great. If not, you need to determine your workspace. Turn a spare room into a temporary office. Find the place you will focus on work. A designated workspace matters for a few reasons. It would help if you had a place for all your work materials. You may want to invest in wireless earbuds for the calls you will be making from your cell phone. If your kids are learning remotely, set a learning space for them. When you go to this designated space, you know that it’s time to work.
  2. Determine your mindset.
    Working from home requires a different mindset. To be more productive while working away from the office, we need to create the right mindset. It’s training our brains to focus on work during our scheduled work time. When your day ends, it time to shift to family and your time.
  3. Structure your day.
    Give your day structure and make a schedule for the day ahead. I recommend making an hour-by-hour schedule that includes your priorities and when you will work on them. You should schedule breaks throughout the day. Taking a 10-15 minute break gives your eyes a break from the computer screen and manages your energy throughout the day. If you have children at home, this is a great time to reconnect. You can show them what you do each day, your teaching focus, and responsibility. You can share time together during these breaks, including lunch. Most of us will be saving an hour a day from our commute to work. How can you use that extra hour for yourself?
  4. Stay connected with colleagues
    In the first few days, you may enjoy your time working remotely. But most of us may miss connecting with our co-workers. When creating your daily schedule, make sure you schedule a time to call a colleague, check your social channels. You may want to connect during one of your scheduled breaks or while having lunch. Technology gives us this opportunity with facetime, zoom calls. We don’t want to feel isolated, and we want to stay connected to others. Also, say hey, Alexa play my favorite radio station. You will remain attached to a broader community.
  5. Have designated work clothes
    We were laughing at work, saying it is going to be great to work in my pajamas or sweats. For those of us in sales and management, I am not suggesting that we suit up when we are working remotely. We need to be mindful and understand that the clothes you wear can determine your mindset. Yes, be comfortable, be aware. There is a mental benefit to getting ready for work and changing your clothes at the end of the day. It signals the brain to shift from work mode to family time.
  6. Reduce distractions
    One of the benefits of being able to work remotely is escaping workplace distractions. Sure it’s okay to throw a load of laundry in during your workday. Just avoid cleaning the whole house.. Just be mindful of any distractions, like turning on TV and scrolling through news feeds on Facebook. Why? It’s because multitasking doesn’t work. Switching between tasks can result in as much as a 40% loss of productivity, according to Dr. David Meyer in an American Psychological Association article. So stick to the schedule you created for the day so you can be more productive..
  7. Determine the end of your workday
    When working remotely, you may find it challenging to know when it stops. We all desire to achieve a work-life balance. I will finish following up on one more email, that leads to the next one. That’s why it’s essential to determine in advance when your workday will end—time to close your laptop or close your office door so tell your mind the workday has ended. Celebrate what you accomplished that day. Schedule your next days of priorities. You may find it helpful to note all that you have accomplished, including the most important priorities you set out for the day.

Until next week…From all of us at TMA!

 

Track State and Local Government Response to COVID-19

Find out what steps U.S. state and local governments are taking to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

A link to the state-by-state tracker has been added to TMA’s dedicated repository of information and resources to assist and support members.

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Urgent News From UL for Monitoring Centers

UL Statement on Certifications to the US Alarm Monitoring Industry

As developments around the coronavirus COVID-19 continue to evolve, UL has been asked how health risk mitigation techniques might impact Alarm Service Certifications, especially those that involve quarantine, social distancing, work from home, and similar.

At UL, our driving mission is to help create safe living and working conditions for all of our constituencies. This value shapes our Standards and program policies. The emergence of the COVID-19 virus presents a new challenge, but by working together, we can find ways forward.

As in the past, after natural disasters such as hurricane Katrina, superstorm Sandy and others, actions taken to maintain monitoring operations may temporarily be out of sync with the current language of UL827, Central Station Services. In emergency situations like these, know that UL’s primary concern is for the health and safety of your staff and customers. If circumstances prevent you from complying with the written requirements of the Standard for staffing a station, we simply ask that for now, you document your station’s alternate procedure and when it went into/out of practice.

UL is working with industry to develop reasonable guidelines and alternative operating methods for scenarios such as the current COVID-19 outbreak. An initial draft is attached to this statement and will be updated as improvements are identified. These guidelines will eventually form the basis of revisions to UL827 to address pandemic-type scenarios better.

Please note that for US based stations monitoring National Industrial Security System accounts, any deviations from UL827 language need to be discussed with and approved by the relevant US federal security agency with jurisdiction.

UL’s current understanding is that due to the high risk nature of these systems, many Federal Security Agencies will not approve of monitoring outside a UL Certified Central Station operating room. If such monitoring is not available, it is likely defense contractors will have to react in the manner prescribed by the applicable security manual for instances where monitoring is not available or not employed.

At this time, we encourage monitoring stations to make contingency plans for operating in environments where operators are not able to physically come together to monitor signals in a central station operating room. There is a meaningful risk that the rapid spread of COVID-19 could trigger governmental movement and assemble recommendations/controls that would preclude normal station operation.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact Steve Schmit, steven.a.schmit@ul.com, 847-420-8032

In the current COVID-19 mitigation environment, central stations may be challenged to operate in strict compliance with UL Standards. UL expects that stations will make every reasonable effort to exercise options available in UL standards. However, in cases where delivering ongoing monitoring services requires alternate procedures, we request that stations document those procedures and be prepared to share them with UL if/when necessary as a basis for maintaining their UL Certification.

As a last resort, some stations may be considering use of home based operators to process signals. Based on input from industry, UL recommends considering the following guidelines.
Note – For US based stations monitoring National Industrial Security System accounts, any deviations from UL827 language need to be discussed with and approved by the relevant US federal security agency with jurisdiction.

UL’s current understanding is that many Federal Security Agencies will not approve of monitoring outside a UL Certified Central Station operating room. If such monitoring is not available, it is likely defense contractors will have to react in the manner prescribed by the applicable security manual for instances where monitoring is not available or not employed.

VIRTUAL WORKPLACE GUIDELINES

These guidelines are designed to provide procedural guidance to operators who perform job duties at alternative work sites, most specifically at home offices. The virtual work arrangement requires remote operators to be self-motivated and work well with minimal supervision. The following guidelines apply to the virtual environment:

  • Virtual workplace operators should be provided with a computer. Home/personal computers shall not be used.
  • Connections between virtual workplace computers and central station automation systems shall be made through a secure, encrypted virtual private network (VPN)
  • Internet speed may be affected by others in a home using the same internet. This may require an virtual workplace operators to suspend use of the internet by other individuals in the home.
  • Multifactor authentication should be required every 24 hours.
  • When not on shift, computer should be in shutdown and put in a secure place. This is to prevent any damage of theft of the computer.
  • When processing alarms the computer should be setup as not to allow others to view the monitoring screen or any other information.
  • When walking away from computer while on shift lock the screen so others cannot gain access to the monitoring window.
  • Virtual workplace operators are expected to have an appropriate workspace that is suitably designated for work and segregated in order to eliminate distraction and noise.
  • Due to the nature of virtual work arrangement, operators may not provide primary care for a child or dependent during the on duty hours except in the case of an emergency. The focus of an operator’s core working hours must remain on job performance and meeting business demands.
  • Virtual workplace operators are advised not to release their home address and telephone number to non-employees of the company.

Download PDFs:

  1. COVID-19 Statement & Guidelines for the Alarm Monitoring Industry in US
  2. COVID-19 Statement & Guidelines for the Alarm Monitoring Industry in Canada

Coronavirus Response Toolkit – U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber has compiled CDC’s coronavirus recommendations for businesses and workers across the country. American businesses are encouraged to follow data-based guidance from the CDC and state and local officials. Visit the link below to find a shareable graphics based on the CDC’s latest guidance for businesses and employees. Share these assets on social media, websites, and other channels, and send them to your colleagues and employees. 

ACCESS THE TOOLKIT

TMA Awards Deadline Extended

The deadline to submit your entry to TMA’s annual Excellence Awards and The Marvel Technology Award has been extended to April 17, 2020

Finalists in all categories will be announced prior to ESX 2020. The awards will be presented at the opening session at ESX 2020, Wednesday, June 10th.

Get all of the submission details online:

If you have any questions, please contact Leigh A. McGuire at lmcguire@tma.us.

COPS Monitoring Delivers Uninterrupted Services Through Nashville Tornado

In the early morning hours of March 3, 2020, powerful storms ripped through Middle Tennessee spawning tornadoes, killing at least 25 people, and knocking out power and communications to an estimated 45,000 Nashville business and residents. COPS Monitoring shared that monitoring services continued without interruption despite the loss of both power and communications at its Tennessee monitoring center as a result of the Nashville tornado.

“The hearts and prayers of all COPS employees go out to the families impacted by the Nashville tornado,” said COPS President Jim McMullen.” This tragedy is a painful reminder that a catastrophe can strike anywhere, at any time, and without warning.”

Barely a mile outside the path of destruction carved by the tornado, COPS Monitoring’s UL Listed monitoring center in Nashville was spared any physical damage. The site lost electricity and continued to operate on its own Generator power, but it also lost all three carrier-diverse redundant communication paths and the ability to respond to alarms for approximately 9 hours.

However, because COPS operates a network of six monitoring locations consisting of multiple layers of redundant technology and diversified staffing, its ability to provide monitoring services to alarms continued without interruption. “During the unexpected temporary loss of our Tennessee site, alarms and calls continued to be handled by our other five sites,” explained McMullen. “Furthermore, our overall active staff was impacted by less than 16%. We were able to absorb the staffing reduction and increased alarm traffic resulting from the violent weather in the short-term by altering break schedules of people already on shift at our other monitoring centers. In the longer term, we compensated by overstaffing our other sites with additional team members.”

COPS Monitoring began its preparation for redundant monitoring nearly two decades ago in the wake of 9/11. Not just for possibilities like the Tennessee tornado, but also for the countless types of localized conditions that can compromise a central station’s ability to monitor alarms such as earthquakes, flooding, fires, blizzards, hurricanes, a fiber cut, civil unrest, and even outbreaks such as the current coronavirus COVID-19.

“Opening a redundant site was a very small initial step in the right direction,” continued McMullen. “It certainly solved some technological challenges by giving us more than a single place to deliver calls and alarms in the event of a site failure. Unfortunately, operating just two sites did not solve the staffing redundancy needed to maintain quality during a site outage. It’s simple math, really; 50% of your staff can’t handle 100% of your alarm traffic, let alone the additional traffic usually created by extreme circumstances. The fact is, no matter how advanced your technology is, there isn’t any place on the planet to build a monitoring station that isn’t vulnerable to some sort of natural or man-made influences, which is precisely why we mitigate potential outages with redundant technology and by diversifying our staffing across all six of our locations.”

How you can help:

Though the storm is over, the work helping those affected has just begun. If you would like to donate through the Red Cross, you can text Red Cross to 90999 and make a $10 donation. You can also donate online at: https://www.redcross.org/local/tennessee/ways-to-donate.html