As president and CEO of St. Louis security dealer Burnes Citadel and partner in central station company Centerpoint Technologies, Chris Burnes has a broad perspective on the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the business. We talked to him recently about what he’s seen on both sides of the security industry.
Both companies were classified in the “essential services” category and have remained fully operational since the pandemic was declared a national emergency in mid-March.
“We tried to follow all the rules,” commented Burnes.
Burnes Citadel implemented social distancing within the office by, for example, creating additional workspace for customer service and administrative staff. Sales personnel worked from home at least part of the time so that only a portion of the sales staff was in the office at any given time.
Service and installation staff were provided with personal protection equipment (PPE) and before technicians entered a customer location, they asked customers several questions, including whether anyone had been exposed to COVID.
On the central station side, Centerpoint brought in plexiglass dividers and enabled some central station operators to work from home.
“UL had the foresight to relax some of their guidelines to allow for that,” Burnes explained. On the technology side, enabling operators to work from home was a challenge that required working closely with Centerpoint’s communications service provider and central station automation provider.
“It wasn’t just throwing a switch,” recalled Burnes. “We had never done it before because it was never allowed before. We had to make things happen on the fly.”
Market Impact of COVID
At the time COVID broke, Burnes Citadel had an extensive pipeline of installations to be completed. In the early days after the pandemic reached emergency status, installers were unable to do some installations because some businesses that had ordered the systems were closed and some homeowners were unwilling to allow technicians into their homes.
Burnes noted, though, that “We were able to find work for our technicians to do that was substantive and needed to be done.”
For example, the company juggled the installation schedule to move up companies that were willing to have technicians on site.
On the central station side, Burnes said call volume may have decreased slightly because with more people working from home, security systems likely weren’t armed as often as usual.
He added, though, that “we didn’t staff any differently.”
Things are different now that stay-at-home and other orders aimed at preventing the spread of COVID have relaxed, Burnes noted.
“After everything slowed to a crawl, it came back stronger than it was before,” commented Burnes.
He noted, for example, that businesses that have reopened are more sensitive to people walking in, generating increased demand for access control systems.
Burnes Citadel also has seen strong demand for cameras that take employees’ or customers’ temperature readings as a pre-screening measure for COVID. The desire to enhance security in response to civil disturbances that have erupted in some areas also is driving camera sales.
“We’ve sold more cameras year-to-date than in the past,” Burnes said.
Business has picked up so much that Burnes Citadel has hired technicians and office staff and is still looking for good people, he added.
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Security Equipment Supply (SES) is a leading wholesale alarm equipment distributor in the U.S. with 37 years of experience serving security dealers like Burnes Citadel. We carry a full line of access control, intrusion protection, and video surveillance, including equipment such as what Burnes mentioned that can check employees’ or customers’ temperature.
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