Pressure On UL to Facilitate At-Home Alarm MonitoringPosted By Michael Goris
There is currently a big push within the security industry to update the regulations and standards associated with central station monitoring. Many monitoring centers are pressing for key regulatory changes that will allow central station operators to work from home on a permanent basis.
Anyone familiar with central station monitoring knows that there are many policies and rules that govern central stations and their operation. Any certified and accredited monitoring center must adhere to these guidelines, or else they are subject to fines, penalties, and other repercussions. In the United States, such policies are largely authored by Underwriter's Laboratories (UL), a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) that wields significant authority over the security industry.
You may recall back in August of last year, it was learned that UL was working to revise the UL-827 Standard for Central-Station Alarm Services. The changes were being made to facilitate remote workers during any "disruption event" that warrants the use of off-site monitoring. Now, many monitoring centers are pushing for policy changes that will allow operators to work from home not only during a so-called "disruption event", but at all times.
Most alarm monitoring centers have reportedly been pleased with the transition of their operators from a traditional monitoring center environment, to a non-traditional home office environment. As one might expect, there are many challenges associated with the changes. While central station operators can be easily seen and supervised in a traditional monitoring center, supervising an employee from home is much more challenging, or even downright impossible.
With possible changes on the horizon, here are some ways that we might see the UL-827 standard updated to accommodate central station operators working from home:
- Work space updates to ensure that operators cannot have their screens viewed by unauthorized parties. There must also be updates to minimize the noise distractions that can occur in a home office environment. This will require auditing methodologies to ensure that these standards can be consistently maintained.
- Power requirement updates that may require at-home workers to have backup power supplies to remain operational during electrical outages. This might not be required if the operators are strategically placed in such a way that regional outages should not have a big impact on the performance across the entire monitoring center.
- Data protection and privacy updates to protect customers. This will likely involve methods of encryption and multifactor authentication. It may be necessary to implement some backup protection measures against data breaches and possible vulnerabilities.
- Automation updates to ensure that any customer or end user who becomes disconnected from an operator is automatically rerouted to another operator who can assist with the situation. There must also be auditing and reporting requirements to keep track and record when this happens and the resulting action(s).
It must be stressed that even if UL-827 is updated to facilitate permanent at-home operation, not all monitoring centers will change their current operating procedures. Really, it will come down to the discretion of the monitoring centers on how they want to proceed moving forward. The proposed changes to UL-827 will provide monitoring centers greater flexibility in how they conduct business moving forward. In other words, while some monitoring centers may embrace these changes and allow their workers to operate from home, other monitoring centers will likely proceed with no changes and require their staff to continue operating from the central station.
Alarm Grid has not received any word from Criticom Monitoring Services (CMS) regarding any changes they may make in response to updates of UL-827. CMS serves as the central station for all Alarm Grid monitored customers who receive central station monitoring service in the United States. If you have any questions about CMS, or if you are interested in starting new monitoring service, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be happy to answer any questions you might have. Our support hours for checking emails run from 9am to 8pm ET M-F. We look forward to hearing from you!