Just Ignore It, It’s Only a False Alarm

By Peter DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of AnswerStatIf you have technology in your call center, then you’ve likely been frustrated by false alarms and erroneous error messages. I was recently reminded of this as I searched for the source of an alarm, warning me that something was awry at home. The culprit: was a carbon monoxide detector. After an hour of futile troubleshooting, I began to consider that maybe there were actually unsafe carbon dioxide levels in my home.

What a novel thought; in all my years at call centers, I never experienced a smoke, fire, or carbon monoxide alarm that actually alerted an unsafe situation. In fact, I’d been conditioned to assume that any alarm was a malfunction. Smoke detectors were high on that list, with their low battery beeps and an occasional false alarm. When I would test them, no one ever left their station or asked if there was a fire. They merely said, “Make it stop so we can hear.”

UPSs also seemed to do more harm than good. It’s confounding for a malfunctioning UPS to take down the servers and switch when perfectly good utility power is available. Yet it happens. For a while, I kept track: UPSs were actually causing more downtime then they prevented. Generators also fit that category. Regardless if there was an automatic transfer switch or a manual bypass, inevitably something would go wrong. Despite agent training and trial runs, nothing seemed to adequately prepare staff to deal with an actual power outage.

Spare parts and backup circuits were another cause for frustration. You have them in case of an emergency, periodically testing them to make sure they work. Unfortunately, it seems that efforts to do so invariably result in unexpected problems, including system crashes.

The last category of irritations involves data backups. As if making successful backups isn’t challenging enough, retrieval is fraught with peril. Attempts to do so have crashed systems and corrupted good data.

Despite these frustrations, it would be irresponsible not to do all that can be done to keep staff safe, systems functioning, lines open, and data secure. The false alarms and problems are merely side-effects of the process.

As far as my issue at home, it was a false alarm after all.

[Posted by Peter DeHaan for AnswerStat magazine, a medical healthcare publication from Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]