Tales From The Alarm Industry, Part Six

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Stories from my time spent working for an alarm company.

This Time: Rats, Christmas decorations and a very unhappy customer.

I had a callout one evening to an old warehouse off the city centre. I had spoken to the key holder and said I would be there in around half an hour. I asked him if he knew what had set off the alarm, “it’s the same zone as last night,” he replied. Something to think about on the drive across. The warehouse was an old hosiery factory, built with four floors, it was now used as a storage and distribution centre for a large shoe company. Northampton is usually known as the main centre for shoe manufacturing, however Leicester wasn’t far behind. There were two major companies based in the city, BUSM, British United Shoe Machinery and BSC, British Shoe Corporation. BSC was the parent company of many of the shoe shops on the high street in the nineties. The warehouse had seen better days. On entry through the gates the whole place looked run down. There were weeds all over the car park and bushes growing out of cracked and damaged brickwork. There was a light on above a door with a car parked outside, I parked next to it. I said hello to the man as I walked in through the door, He was sitting on a pallet full of boxes, he had a cup of coffee and cigarette. “It’s up on the first floor,” I said I wanted to look at the panel first and he showed me where it was. I checked the logs on the panel and sure enough, it was the same zone as the night before. I looked at the log book to see what had been done then. “False alarm zone 12, panel reset,” it was Mad Mick’s signature in the book. “Let’s go and have a look” I said tucking the log book back behind the panel. We walked up on to the first floor. Pushing open the door, there was only darkness. “Wait, don’t go in,” he switched on the light and said to wait a few seconds. I did as requested and the strip lights burst into action. I followed as we walked right across the floor to the far corner. We walked past row upon row of boxes, some open some sealed up. The open ones, I could see, had individual shoe boxes inside. “That’s the bugger up there,” pointing to a PIR fixed to the wall and covering a set of windows. From the way it was mounted I could tell it was a curtain PIR, a curtain PIR works just like a curtain, sending out infra-red beams in straight line just like a curtain. “What’s that smell,” I asked. “Rat piss, the place is full of them. That’s why we waited when I put the lights on. So the f*ckers could run and hide. If you listen you can hear them running about and scratching on the floor above.” Sure enough, there was the faint sound of scratching above our heads. It sent a shiver down my spine. I checked to see that none of the windows were broken allowing a change in temperature that would set off the alarm. They were all OK. I said I was going to replace the detector and asked if we could go back down to the panel to put it into engineering. With this done, I quickly went out to the car, found the exact replacement and carrying my steps and tools, went back inside. I didn’t want to spend any longer inside than I had to. With an exact replacement I only needed my screwdrivers and cutters. I would fit a new pcb and cover. Once fitted, I flicked a switch on the pcb that turned it into a “pet friendly”, that way it would ignore anything that might be scurrying about on the floor. I squeezed between some boxes further down the building to check the detector was working. With that done, it was back downstairs to the panel. On the way I asked if they did anything about the rats. “Pest control are here most weeks, we are fighting a losing battle, we will be gone from here in about eighteen months. We’re moving to a brand new warehouse. Until then, we just have to put up with them. I try to kick f*ck out them if I see one during the day. They eat the cardboard boxes, you have to be careful when you open them.” With the paperwork done, I asked if there was a sink nearby so I could wash my hands, clean any rat pee off that I might have come in contact with.

Being out and about in the small hours gives you an insight into the wildlife that there is in our cities. The first time I saw a rat shocked me. It was half way into a black plastic bin bag at the side of the road. It was on a busy main road, there were still cars driving past, but it just carried on with its foraging. I’ve seen plenty around fast food outlets and takeaways, so much so that I accepted seeing them in the same way you would cats and dogs. Foxes were also an occasional sighting, they always looked like they owned the place, sometimes seen walking down the middle of the road. My best sighting was a family of badgers, I was on my way home, driving through the countryside about 03.00. As I came up to a crossroads, I slowed down, There was something in my headlights. I couldn’t make it out and slowed right down. I eventually stopped and watched a family of badgers messing about in the road. I don’t know what they were doing, I thought they might be licking salt off the road but didn’t really have a clue. They were there for about five minutes before sauntering off into a field.

At the beginning of December the rota for the month had been issued. No one wanted to work new year’s eve. It was a double shift with new year’s day. I was down for Christmas day and with a toddler I didn’t want to work. Animal who was single was down for the new year shift so he reluctantly swapped with me.

At the start of the month I had a callout around 19.30 to an office building in the city centre. I rang the key holder on site, he told me that he had just got home and the phone was ringing to tell him the alarm had gone off. “I don’t know why it’s gone off, not had any problems for ages.” I did the usual things on arrival, checked the log book, checked the panel and identified the zone where the alarm had gone. The reception area was all trimmed up, there was an artificial Christmas tree and decorations hanging round the room. “It’s down as “far side main office”, can you show me where it is. The main office had row upon row of desks, each one had a computer and a phone. Call centre I thought to myself. “This is the area.” I looked around for the detector, but couldn’t see it. This room had also been trimmed up for Christmas. The reason I couldn’t see the detector was that someone had celotaped  one end of a decoration onto the front of it. “There’s your problem,” I said pointing to the detector. “Someone has stuck a decoration on the front of it.” I stood on a chair and gently peeled the end of the decoration off. It was now dangling from the other end. I said to him that there was going to be a problem with the decorations as when the heating comes on in the morning and they start wafting about, the alarm is going to go off again. With that, he changed in a second, from being a normal, slightly pissed off key holder, into a maniacal, very pissed off key holder. He started ripping down the decorations. “F*cking Christmas decorations, I’ll give them f*cking decorations in the morning. They only put the f*ckers up this afternoon.” Within minutes, there wasn’t a single decoration left in the room, they were all stuffed in a waste paper bin. I’m glad I wasn’t going to be there in the morning when the staff arrived. He apologised for the outburst, saying that it was the first time he had let them put up decorations in the main office. He didn’t want to let them but had been persuaded in the end. He asked how much the callout was going to cost, when I told him he said that he would stop it out their wages. Having written up the logbook and done the paperwork, I left a very unhappy man who was going to give the staff an ear bashing in the morning.

Another night on call and I had already been to two earlier calls and I was back home and in bed by 23.30. I was fast asleep when I was aware of the pager going off. Slipping out of bed, I shut it off and made my way downstairs to phone in. I looked at the clock in the kitchen, 02.15. Rubbing my eyes, I dialled the number for the control room to find out what had happened. “There’s a real arsey guy waiting for you to phone him, he wants the code to reset the panel. He says he knows why the alarm went off and wants to go back to bed.” “OK, give me the details.” The site is in the south of the county near Lutterworth, it’s on a small industrial estate near where the Sir Frank Whittle designed the jet engine. With the customer’s phone number, I give him a call putting on my happy voice. The phone is picked up immediately, I say who I am and before I can get any further, he interrupts saying he knows why the alarm went off and can I give him the code to reset the alarm. I asked him why the alarm went off. “Someone left a window in an office open and the wind must have blown the blinds activating the alarm, can you give me the code please.” “No,” I said, “I’m not allowed to do that, if the alarm goes off and it’s connected to a communicator that then sends an alarm signal to a monitoring station then we cannot give out codes to reset the panel.” “Just give me the code then you don’t have to come out and I can reset the alarm and go home.” I again repeated that I wasn’t going to do it. “Give me the f*cking code.” I again said no. “Look mate, give me the f*cking code now.” I thought to myself, “firstly, I’m not your mate and secondly, even if I had thought about giving him the code, once you start swearing at me you’re not getting anything. “No.” He again is swearing, demanding I give him the code, he is also threatening to report me to the office in the morning. “I will not be giving you the code, no matter how much you swear at me, and, if you are going to report me in the morning, please remember to tell them how much you were swearing directly at me.” “How long is it going to take you to get here?” I’m up near Junction 23 and you are at Junction 20, normally I would be about 45 minutes, but I am going to have a cup of coffee before I leave, so it will be nearer an hour, hopefully you will have calmed down by then.” I didn’t wait for his reply. I hung up, put the kettle on and went to get dressed. The motorway at that time of night is usually quiet, mainly lorries on overnight jobs. I would usually fly down but this time I stuck to just over 70mph. It was an hour before I got there. He looked a very angry man, I was my normal happy self, I checked the alarm panel, asked where the window was that he said had been left open and made sure it was in the correct zone and then reset the panel. “If you had given me the f*cking code, none of this would have been necessary.” “If you had made sure the window was shut, the alarm wouldn’t have gone off.” “What’s your name,” he demanded. “It will be on the paperwork I will leave you with. The phone number will be on there as well. There will be someone in the main office from 08.30.” I wrote out the paperwork, normally we wouldn’t price up a job at night, we would leave it for the office to do the following day. On this occasion I filled in the cost of the callout plus the mileage just to piss him off even more. I waited outside to make sure the alarm would set before I left. I said goodnight, but didn’t get a reply. With that I was in the van and back off up the motorway. He never rang the office to complain, I was sure that he wouldn’t, but I rang in to give my side of the story first just in case. I can understand people being narky with their phone going off in the middle of the night, but swearing directly at someone who is trying to do their job just shows them up for what they are. Low life!!!

Next time: Two robberies.

© 10210ken 2023