Keeping central station employees in the know through extensive training

Many different options abound
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

The controversy surrounding Article 6-E—proposed legislation in New York that looks to vet and license central station employees according to statewide standards—has many in the industry talking about central station employee training. There are plenty of virtual and classroom training options provided by industry associations like CSAA and SIA. And, many monitoring companies take full control and create their own training programs for employees.

Experts who spoke to Security Systems News seem to favor a hybrid approach, taking advantage of a variety of methods to train employees: association-sponsored training, both online and classroom; as well as in-house expertise.

 John Lombardi is president of Fishkill, N.Y.-based Commercial Instruments and Alarm Systems. He’s also CSAA second vice president and chairman of CSAA’s Education Committee.

“Currently, the industry is going through a transformation from our traditional circuit switching technology to a significantly more sophisticated IP technology. Consequently, training is a requirement for survival,” he said.

SIA’s education and training manager Kimberly Roberts believes an effective training program allows the trainer to get an ongoing assessment of a new hire’s readiness. “Training sharpens the skills of experienced operators and enforces the idea that continued growth is a job requirement,” Roberts said.

“Monitoring has become much more complicated over the last 10 years,” said Mace CSSS vice president and general manager Morgan Hertel. “Without constant training you will slip behind as new technologies, new laws and new concepts emerge. It’s an ever-evolving, moving target.” Mace CSSS is a UL-listed, CSAA Five Diamond Certified central station.

“There’s two things: One is to provide a positive team atmosphere right through training, and the other part is to make sure that they’re not just familiar with policies and procedures, but that they also learn about security and realize how important their job is,” Monitronics’ central station data entry director Mary Jensby said. Monitronics is one of the largest UL-listed, CSAA Five Diamond Certified third party central stations in the country.

When Richmond Alarm Company moved into a much larger headquarters in 2010, the company’s training program really came into its own.

“We never had a real classroom until we moved last year. So it’s been great to have that space for larger groups,” RAC president Wayne Boggs said. “We, through the State alarm association, ESA-VA, do our own training to the [Department of Criminal Justice Services] standard, so we can customize the eight hours of classroom time [the DCJS requires] to our specific needs after covering the state mandates.” Richmond Alarm Company is not a CSAA member, but is UL-listed.

Everyone with whom Security Systems News spoke utilized classroom-learning models and if they weren’t learning in a virtual environment yet, were looking into it.

“We don’t do much virtual training, though I do have that in the plan for the future,” RAC’s Boggs said.

Dera DeRoche-Jolet is CFO at Alarm Monitoring Services in Monroe, La. She also is one of SIA’s national instructors from its old trainer-training course. SIA is revamping that course now, and DeRoche-Jolet will spearhead those efforts.

“A virtual classroom makes a standard curriculum available on a more flexible schedule and allows a central station trainer to have access to a range of teaching tools,” DeRoche-Jolet said. “Virtual tools are particularly good for information that needs to be memorized, such as policies and procedures.”

Jensby and Monitronics training coach Anne Glickstein agree each mode of training has its plusses.

“My definition of CBT or virtual training is that it’s designed for the individual who is a self-motivator. Classroom training is designed more for building team atmosphere, and some people learn better that way,” Jensby said.

“The other difference, too, is that which exists between training a new hire and training new upgrades to the existing staff,” Glickstein continued. “It depends on the material.”

Mace’s Hertel agreed.

“We use both virtual and classroom-type training, and both have their place in the industry,” Hertel said. “I don’t believe for a moment that you can take a new employee off the street and run them through a few distance learning programs and instantly you have a trained and competent dispatcher.”

Everyone agreed that regardless of whether training was conducted virtually or in person, was provided by an association or designed in-house, training had to be ongoing.

“We never stop training. We have weekly meetings and ongoing discussions, as there’s always something new happening,” RAC’s Boggs said. “Training is the basis of providing a quality service … Learning never stops.”