COPS Monitoring delivers uninterrupted services through Nashville tornado

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Monday, March 9, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—In the early morning hours of March 3, 2020, powerful storms ripped through Middle Tenn. spawning tornadoes, killing at least 25 people, and knocking out power and communications to an estimated 45,000 Nashville businesses and residents. 

“The hearts and prayers of all COPS employees go out to the families impacted by the Nashville tornado,” COPS President Jim McMullen said in the announcement. 

Barley a mile outside the path of destruction carved by the tornado, COPS Monitoring’s UL-listed monitoring center 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 nine hours. 

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,” McMullen explained. “Furthermore, our overall active staff was impacted by less than 16 percent. 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.

“Opening a redundant site was a very small initial step in the right direction,” McMullen said. “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 percent of your staff can’t handle 100 percent 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.” 

With a clear understanding that two monitoring locations was not enough to provide the needed workforce to maintain desired service levels to protect lives and property, COPS set out on a path to continually enhance its technology and staffing redundancy and now operates six UL-listed monitoring stations. 

The combination of multiple sites, redundant technology and distributive staffing means COPS Monitoring has comprehensive redundancy and the ability to withstand unexpected events, such as this devastating tornado.