Editor, IFSEC Global

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James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
June 3, 2021

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“The safety measures we implemented at the start of the pandemic for our engineers have continued today”: Ambush Security on its pandemic response

The COVID pandemic has affected businesses of all shapes and sizes in the fire and security sector, not least installation businesses where operating processes needed to change and new solutions were required from customers. Here, IFSEC Global speaks to Mike and Tracy Alley, Directors of installation firm Ambush Security, to understand how one such company responded, and whether they’ve witnessed any long-term trends as a result.

AmbushSecurity-Installers-21IFSEC Global: Firstly, can you tell us a little more about the services Ambush provides? And the types of clients/projects you work with/on?

Mike & Tracy Alley: Ambush is a family-run security solutions company based in Uxbridge. We serve both residential and commercial customers across London and the Home Counties – our services include alarms, CCTV, access control, entry phone, gates, shutters, barriers and smoke detection. We provide tailored security solutions on all kinds of projects from large retail solutions and corporate plots to residential homes – and we’ve been doing so since 1998.

How did the various lockdowns impact Ambush? Were you able to continue operating as key workers?

The business coped really well during the lockdowns of the last year and we are sure most other companies in the sector would agree, that the Government Furlough Scheme was the key to stability in 2020.

We were able to continue operating with only key staff on duty, meaning the office phones were manned and just two engineers covered the on-call rota so we could fulfil our 24hr emergency service – this satisfied our NSI obligations as well as meeting the needs of our clients. We were also able to adapt and find new practices which enabled us to work within the restrictions put in place because of the pandemic. Fundamental changes were needed – essential if the country was to fight the pandemic – but the silver-lining was it facilitated new ways to continue to operate efficiently.

Remote working for example – something we would not have considered prior to the pandemic – while there was also training, and online courses were valuable once restrictions started to ease and we are now putting pressure on our suppliers to offer more courses. We now have more flexibility within our day-to-day operations which we put in place as we started the return to work during the un-furloughing process – beneficial for our staff and beneficial for the company!

How have you changed standard working practices?

On monitored systems and where technology was in place, we were able to carry out remote maintenance checks, this meant that systems still in use in unmanned premises could be checked electronically giving reassurance that all was well – likewise with residential systems, meaning the six-monthly check was still viable. This all helped to reduce the need for the physical visit and therefore reduce the risk of cross-contamination. These virtual appointments proved a great success and we had positive feedback from our customer base.

When a site visit was necessary under 24/7 emergency engineer rule (an industry requirement), extra measures were taken – the engineers were (and still are) supplied with PPE, anti-bac sprays, disposable gloves and training on social distancing measurements for visits to clients homes. Where possible the client stayed in another room or even in the garden (you may recall the weather was glorious!) which ensured face-to-face meetings were kept to a minimum. These safety measures are still in place today and regular reminders are sent to the engineers by team leaders and managers.

“Since the pandemic started, we have noticed a considerable increase in interest from customers requesting CCTV installations and service.”

Meanwhile our administrators worked from home, which helped us broaden our horizons, understanding that working from home is an option that works really well and in some cases, has provided a basis to excel in fields where confidence may have been lacking. Notably, we have also identified staff members that need team interaction to enjoy their roles, equally crucial as staff welfare is so important to us.

We chose to pay our staff the remaining 20% where the government furlough pay was 80%, this meant that full pay ensured there were no ‘lean times’ as a result of furlough, this was greatly appreciated by all of our team! Those that live alone were given priority when key-workers & furloughing were being decided; daily contact was in place for vulnerable members too.

What were the biggest challenges? Were there any issues with supply of products/demand from customers?

Our biggest challenge was to keep the moral of our staff in a good place. We all kept in touch regularly and where we could, swapped furloughed and non-furloughed staff around.

Secondly, we had to defer some regular maintenance visits until after lockdown because they were considered non-essential, this meant we had to deal with some customers who were unhappy that their systems hadn’t been checked by the renewal date, This was tricky, however, we promised to get in touch to re-book when the end of lockdown was in sight ensuring the protection of our staff and clients alike.

With regard to product supply; we have always carried a large stock of products, so this enabled our company to be prepared for any serious shortages of equipment – and whilst the hike in costs that followed was challenging, we managed because of our back-up stock.

Are there any specific new trends you have seen as a result of the pandemic? Have customers been requesting different types of solutions/devices, for instance?

Since the pandemic started, we have noticed a considerable increase in interest from customers requesting CCTV installations and service. We don’t really understand the reason for this but perhaps time spent at home over the last year has given people a chance to investigate the technology and they feel much more comfortable with it, knowing that they can simply log on to an app on their phone and check their homes and businesses remotely. Whatever the motivation, this area of the business has seen an increase.

Connect with the security industry online 1-30 June

Connect 2021 is your first major opportunity to come together with the security industry online from 1-30 June!

The month-long online event will give attendees the opportunity to make up for lost time by browsing security solutions, connecting with suppliers and accessing thought-leadership content - all from the comfort of your own home or workplace!

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