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Hotel security system fails, alarm co. sued, but how much blame should security dept. have?

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I began my security reporting career focusing on the third-party monitoring side of the industry as the associate editor of our sister publication, Security Systems News. One of the biggest issues for that beat was ensuring that these third-party companies provided adequate monitoring of residential and commercial customers, which, when you have thousands and thousands of accounts, is by no means simple. (Check out Dan's blog and the monitoring page for continuous reporting on this sector).

And every so often a story would hit the mainstream media that a customer had been paying for an alarm system to be monitored, but it wasn't working properly. This, of course, was never good news and contributed to the public's skepticism about the security industry.

Now that I live on the end user side of life, I can better understand the frustration of not getting what you're paying for. Take, for example, this story out of New Jersey where a hotel employee was viciously attacked while on duty. The woman managed to hit a silent panic alarm during the course of the attack to alert police, but guess what? It wasn't working and the police never showed. Fortunately, the woman managed to escape to a guest room, but sustained significant injuries and trauma from the incident.

The article points out that the alarm company, Vanwell Electronics, who installed and then outsourced the monitoring of the system, was aware that it wasn't working properly, but didn't do anything to fix it.

"Vanwell knew for 16 weeks the (security) line wasn’t properly connected and did nothing about it," said her lawyer, David Mazie.

Yep, for 16 weeks it wasn't working. Disgraceful, I know.

The alarm company has agreed to pay the woman $2.5 million to settle the lawsuit. I suppose it's good to know that these companies who aren't doing their jobs (and are making everyone in the security business look bad), are being forced to pay up.

But, my question to the end user community is: How much responsibility do you have in ensuring that your security systems are working properly? Most end users employ some sort of integrator to put these systems in place, but ultimately isn't it the responsibility of the security department to make sure the job is done right? What type of policies do you need to have in place to make sure things are working properly?

While I agree with this settlement, that it is largely the fault of the security company for not taking care of this problem, what responsibility does the hotel security department have in this? It is, after all, the hotel's assets and the hotel's people at risk.