A day in the life of... an Alarm Response Operator

Posted on: 21/04/2021

Towards the end of November last year, I packed up my life and left 10 years of living in Manchester behind me. I had made the decision to move back to my hometown of Preston and take on a new role completely different for me. For the last 10 years, I had been working as a team manager in a telecoms and utilities company and was utterly terrified of trying something new. But the decision was made and we were off!

On the 9th December 2019, I walked through the doors of Progress Lifeline, started my training and never looked back.

I am employed full-time which means I work 36.25 hours per week – however, I work shifts so I have varying start and finish times. I genuinely love the flexibility of my shifts especially coming from a 9am–6pm Monday to Friday type of job. These shifts mean I can carry out ‘life admin’ during the week rather than scrambling to fit everything in on a weekend.

The benefits of this role don’t just lie in me being able to get to the bank or making phone calls around my shifts, the REAL benefit of this job is the sense of reward you get when you know you have really helped someone that day. There are not a lot of jobs that give you that sense of satisfaction.

It’s hard to give a real ‘day in the life’ account of an Alarm Response Centre Operator because every day can be so different but I can certainly give you various examples of many different days all rolled into one!

I am a bit of a night owl, I love my afternoon/evening shifts and even ‘nights’ too. Typically I will arrive around 2pm to give myself a bit of time to get organised before my shift begins. The first thing I do is make a coffee and ensure I have all the links opened that are needed on the computer in order to effectively deal with a call. I generally have about 4-5 screens open so I can deal with everything from arranging an Emergency Home Response (EHR), tracking where our responders are and dealing with emergency calls through our team procedural pages. Once I know I’m ready to handle calls efficiently, the shift starts! Your very first call could be an accidental press whereby the customer has knocked the pendant and is totally fine…or your first call could be an 86 year old customer who has fallen and is distressed. If it is the latter, I will ask questions, (taking into consideration this person may be upset), in order to ascertain the kind of help that is needed. Have they fallen and simply need a hand up? Or are they injured and need an ambulance? If an ambulance is needed, do we know enough medical history for the ambulance to triage correctly and have we taken enough information regarding the injury?

“No response” calls are very common- this is usually when a sensor or alarm has been activated and the customer cannot hear us calling out to them. In this case, I would immediately call the landline to see if they answer.  If there is still no response, it’s straight onto either calling their emergency contacts to see if anyone can attend to check on them or dispatching an Emergency Home Responder in order to be sure that the customer is safe and well.

We also monitor lifelines for supported living properties, there may be a shift where a fault occurs with the landline or the equipment.  It is imperative that we recognise this quickly and have it reported. On a very recent shift, there had been a power surge at one of our schemes and every single sensor in all the resident’s property were activated at once. Although it was clear there was a fault, I knew I needed to be confident that all residents were okay.  This resulted in answering just over 70 calls in quick succession. Followed by arranging welfare checks for the customers that had not answered and arranging for an engineer to attend… busy and frantic, but that’s just part and parcel of the job and I felt a whole lot better knowing that each and every resident in that property was safe.

Although there are mostly great outcomes from the job, there can be tough and sad times too. I have spoken to a resident and arranged help for them when they had fallen, only to find that they had sadly passed away shortly after. Despite this being upsetting and very challenging, you can take comfort in the fact that you were there for that person and you were a reassuring voice on the other end of the phone when they needed it.

Sound busy? This could have all happened in the first 2 hours of your shift and there are another 5 to go!

As the shift moves on and you continue to answer calls, you may find you have managed to say, “Happy birthday” to several customers who were otherwise alone and it really brightens up their day. You may have helped them fix the signal on their television, talked to them whilst they gained the confidence to get out of bed, or even just had a chat with them about ‘the good old days’.

The role doesn’t stop at answering calls, once an installer has been to a customer’s home, installed and tested all the equipment, the information is sent to the alarm response centre, where we build the customer’s account. It is very important to read the information carefully and ensure everything is added in the correct place. Something that can seem so insignificant at the time, could make all the difference when you are arranging help for someone later down the line.

When COVID-19 hit, customers were understandably upset, worried, and downright terrified! As you can probably imagine, the operators in the alarm response room were feeling exactly the same! Nevertheless, we came in and we continued to provide the amazing service we always do because we knew that we were needed. We assisted with referrals to AGE UK, we researched and provided numbers to customers who needed assistance with shopping.

No two days are the same, in fact, whilst I was making the final changes to this, I had a call from a 95-year-old gentleman who had fallen backwards in his garden and cut his head quite badly. I listened carefully to all the information he gave me, asking questions along the way, and called for an ambulance to check him over. I called his son who was away but he was so thankful for our service and contact.

The shift is now over, it’s 22:45 and I’m on my way home to unwind and relax, knowing that I have a lie in the next day and can prepare myself for another shift!

I am very proud of the job I do and to be part of a team that doesn’t fake caring; there are so many jobs in this world that require you to pretend you care. This team doesn’t do that, every single operator in this team genuinely cares for our customers and will move mountains to make sure they are safe and happy.