Alarm bells ring while the boss turns a deaf ear

What’s that noise? It's not the alarm -- it's the sound of money being flushed down the drain, thanks to a questionable security plan

Why do business owners ignore problems that drain time and money? Finding and implementing a fix would make sense, but instead, they insist on keeping things as-is. I've seen it time and again with work projects, tech equipment, and even seemingly small items like a security alarm.

I used to work for an organization that had a building too large for its needs. To fill the space and make extra money, we rented out parts of the building to other firms.

It sounded good on paper, but there were problems. The building was located in an industrial park and was not designed for multiple tenants. The owners made it work by securing inner doors with different keys for the various companies within the building space.

A security plan unfolds

However, securing the entire building was another problem. Like many industrial parks, it was in an out-of-the way area of the town and did not have good exterior lighting. Buildings were spaced some distance apart. A burglar or trespasser could easily break in unseen.

There was only one door in and out of the building, so the owners decided to connect that door to a security system where one punched a code to bypass the alarm. The system could not be set up to simply let people out without an alarm -- someone could potentially open the door and let baddies in, so everyone was given the information needed.

I was on the IT staff, but more important for the owners' purposes, I lived only a few miles away from the building. It was my job to let the police in to check the premises should the alarm go off after hours.

Raising the alarm -- again and again

As it turned out, this became a problem because the alarm started to go off about two or three times a month. Each time, I'd head down to the building, the police would check the premises thoroughly, and not once did they find anything -- no evidence of attempted break-in or anything. But we were still charged for the response. We talked to all the tenants in the building, but none of them had any information about it.

The owners denied a request to put in an Internet camera at that door, saying it wasn't necessary. In the meantime, the charges from the police department kept piling up.

I was still first call for the alarms, but more people got into the rotation, and the alarms kept happening. Finally, a few years later one of the renting firms moved out, and virtually all of the false alarms stopped.

An employee of that firm had not always punched out when leaving the building, therefore setting off the alarm. We could have handled the problem much sooner had we installed an Internet camera or some other way to keep track of movements at the door.

We were never told how much money the owners spent over the years on the false alarms. At least that puzzle remained.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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