Am I over reacting about my wife's job?
November 11, 2011 6:10 AM   Subscribe

Am I over reacting about my wife's job?

Background: My wife has worked her way up to being in charge of a fairly large child care facility (infant thru toddler, around 120 kids). She’s handles the schedules, payroll, often has to cover for teachers that call in sick, etc. She’s worked there for years and there have been many times that her job has upset me, but lately it’s getting worse. For example there have been at least 4 or 5 incidents where her cell phone rings in the middle of the night, it’s the alarm company saying the alarm at the center was going off and that she “needed to respond”. Some of these incidents have happened after we’d spent the night having cocktails and I didn’t feel it was safe or right for her to drive, and she agreed.

Last night her phone rings at midnight. she had apparently missed a call from the alarm company and they called the next person on the call list, her boss (who does not physically work at the building). Her female boss then informed her that the alarm was going off, the police had been dispatched and that “she needed to go secure the building”. None of the times this has happened has there ever been an actual crime taking place, it’s usually the cleaning crew that accidently sets off the alarm.

Am I wrong in feeling that asking my wife to “respond” to a potential crime in progress in the middle of the night is inappropriate and unsafe? My wife knows I feel this way, and when asked she says “it doesn’t bother her” when this happens, but I think the reality is that she doesn’t want to make waves, or address the situation with her boss. I mean who wouldn’t mind getting up out of a dead sleep, getting dressed and driving 25 minutes away?

*The main reason she’s staying at the job is that we’re trying to start a family and she’ll be able to still work and receive a substantial discount for child care when we have a baby. SHe also has a massive amount of vacation days saved. That all seemed like a great idea at the time, but now I’m not so sure.
posted by Hellafiles to Human Relations (47 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, you're over-reacting. The police were dispatched, so the safety concerns are pretty moot. And this is part of the job -- she needs to confirm that there was no vandalism or theft before they open for business the next morn.

Being in charge isn't as glamorous as people make it out to be.
posted by bfranklin at 6:18 AM on November 11, 2011 [12 favorites]

Why are you not taking her at her word? She says it doesn't bother her. Plenty of people have jobs with responsibilities outside of normal business hours, and she must feel that she is fairly compensated enough to deal with things like this on occasion. If she's okay with this, I don't really see why it's your business to try to convince her otherwise, or get assurance from the internet that you're right and she's wrong.
posted by something something at 6:18 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

She's in charge of the facility, so it's appropriate for her to arrive to meet the police to address this. As for its safety, it's not like she's going into the building without the police, right?

So, I get why you would be concerned...but she's not. She knows the reality and totality of the situation. If you're so concerned about it...go with her.
posted by inturnaround at 6:20 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are jobs that require people to be on-call around the clock. Someone has to respond to emergencies in the middle of the night, after all. Apparently, at your wife's workplace, this falls to her. She should ensure that she is being adequately compensated for being given this not-so-fun responsibility. However, if your wife feels okay about her work situation, even with this inconvenience, I think you need to back off. Your wife seems to have things under control, and it sounds as though she thinks the responsibilities of her job are balanced out by the many benefits she gets from it. She's the one best suited to understand those risks and benefits, so I think you need to trust her.

Also, your mentions of the genders of people involved makes me wonder whether some of your upset is about a belief you have about women specifically responding to emergencies. I may be totally off base, but I think you should ask yourself whether you think this is "inappropriate and unsafe" at least in part because you think men should be the ones to respond to potentially dangerous situations. If there's even a part of you that feels that way, I think you really need to reexamine your beliefs about gender, and specifically about the respect you have for your wife's abilities and judgment.
posted by decathecting at 6:22 AM on November 11, 2011 [42 favorites]

I don't think it's her job you have a problem with, it's this specific responsibility she has in regards to the alarm. You sound (understandably) cranky about that particularly because it interrupts your life almost as much as hers, and it's not even your job.

How often are these alarms going off? You say "at least 4 or 5 incidents" but is that in the course of a month? A year?

If the police are being dispatched quite frequently in a short space of time for what is always a false alarm, I would think it is in the business and police's best interest to address why these alarms are going off so frequently and to address that. I'm sure you can suggest this to your wife without sounding petulant or annoyed.

If it is over the course of like 6 months to a year, sorry I'd also have to say you need to suck it up and try and support her. If she's happy with it keep focusing on those long term benefits, they sound fab.

(Also, if she's been drinking she should take a cab and expense it to the company.)
posted by like_neon at 6:26 AM on November 11, 2011 [12 favorites]

I think you are over-reacting-- it's part of her job role. I manage the IT system for a 24/7 business, and that means I'll get a call at 3am once every few weeks/months, to reset a system, password, etc. It's my job.

If I know I want to be off the radar for a weekend/week-- I'll pass the baton on to someone else for that time.

If she's drunk driving, well-- that's totally unacceptable.
posted by Static Vagabond at 6:27 AM on November 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

My mom is a teacher at a school less than 5 minutes from our house. There were a few times I remember as a kid that she got called to go deal with an alarm situation, just because she was the closest, even though it's not her job. If it bothers your wife, she could ask if an employee who lives closer than 25 minutes away could be the one to respond. This might be something you want to do for when the baby comes.

But if she's not bothered enough to do that, you probably ought to butt out.
posted by phunniemee at 6:27 AM on November 11, 2011

This is your wife's job and the duties seem reasonable. However, she needs to work out a backup plan with her boss, to account for the fact that your wife may actually be out of town or not safe to drive on a given night if the alarm goes off.

The main reason she’s staying at the job is that we’re trying to start a family and she’ll be able to still work and receive a substantial discount for child care when we have a baby. SHe also has a massive amount of vacation days saved.

Do not, not, not undervalue this. Just don't.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:28 AM on November 11, 2011 [25 favorites]

Yes, you're overreacting. She says it doesn't bother her. It seems like she's the logical person to be getting the call. If it happens constantly, she may want to follow up with someone on better training for the cleaning crew or a different alarm system or company--address the problem at the source, but if it's just a matter of 'if you have an alarm system, you will occasionally have a false alarm' it doesn't seem like a big deal.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:28 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it's her job duty, it's her job duty - it doesn't sound out of the ordinary to me. But if someone is regularly setting off false alarms, that should be dealt with, although that's more of an organizational concern and not really something to get incensed about. Getting police out for a false alarm is both expensive, and as you've learned, irritatingly disruptive to people's personal lives.
posted by pazazygeek at 6:30 AM on November 11, 2011

When I worked in retail, this was a usual responsibility of management. In some jurisdictions the cops won't do anything unless a keyholder (your wife) shows up, unless there are obvious signs of a crime. There may even be fines from the city if police respond and nobody shows up. Trying to get out of this duty would reflect poorly on your wife. Not wanting to drive drunk would be an acceptable excuse, if it was rare (do you really want to give your boss the impression you drink all the time).

I think the larger question is why is the alarm going off so frequently? Speaking of fines, the cops may start charging the company every time they come out if the false alarms are excessive. Retrain the cleaning crew, get the system checked out to make sure it isn't defective, talk to the manager about spreading the pain out more. By spreading the pain out, I mean is there a way to set up the alarm company call list so that once you've been called your name goes to the bottom of the list, and who responds rotates among the managers? Of course, everybody else on the list might live significantly farther away from the office than your wife.

Also, what decathecting said. Even if your concern doesn't arise from a gendered place, what you wrote comes across that way.
posted by postel's law at 6:30 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is part of her job. Her being on call means that she has to be careful to not drink more than would be required of her to drive. Alternatively, a lot of places rotate the on call number - maybe use a google voice account that you can forward to different phones?
posted by k8t at 6:30 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to manage a store with a hair-trigger security system. Before I got good at Indian Jones-ing my way into the store to disable the alarm in the morning, I set the thing off. After de-activating it with the code, the cops stopped by the check out what's going on. About a half-hour after that, my boss called me from Los Angeles to see if everything was okay. Basically, if her bosses are sane, they won't be sending her to "secure" the building if there's an active crime in progress -- the police and the security company are in touch, and the security company will tell your wife's boss if it is safe (in a sense, at least) for a person to come down.
posted by griphus at 6:30 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to work as a retail manager and had to respond a few times to alarms going off. The police don't let you in until they've secured the area. It's not like your wife is possibly walking into a hostage situation.

Your wife may want to look into having somebody else who can be trusted with the alarm codes. That way when she is impaired from a night of cocktails or out of town there is somebody else who can be called.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:33 AM on November 11, 2011

OP here,

1. I apologize if what I said sounded sexist, but I think it IS relevant to consider that a 100lb young lady in Uggs would have as much "intimidation factor" when responding to a possible crime scene in a dark and otherwise deserted office park.

2. The salary she receives is hardly justifying the amount of stress, disruption and potential risk in my opinion.

3. She's the first person on the call list and normally is being asked to "respond" so they DON'T have to call the police. So basically they are sending her into an unknown situation with no police waiting or even on the way. Last night was an anomaly with the cops being there.

4. I've gone with her every time this has happened (these incidents were over the past year) and normally also bring a weapon along in case.
posted by Hellafiles at 6:42 AM on November 11, 2011

- I should have been more clear in stating that the cops weren't on the scene every time this has happened.
posted by Hellafiles at 6:46 AM on November 11, 2011

My father used the "company's alarm is going off" routine to get out of the house when he was cheating on my mother. Sometimes he could come home, other times he would say that the 25 minute drive home was too much and he would stay up there since he was so tired.

As an adult I learned what that really meant.

It is uncommon for alarms to go off so often. Her company needs to have their alarms fixed, batteries replaced, people trained to arm/disarm the system and some building security firm to answer the calls in the middle of the night.
posted by LeanGreen at 6:49 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, you're out of line. Your wife is an adult, and she has made a choice about what she's willing to accept in a job, and for her this is an okay tradeoff. I get that you don't like getting up and going with her, but is that worth putting her in a potential position where she has to feel torn between you and this occasional inconvenience for her job? Do I think your 100lb wife should be going into potentially dangerous situations? No, probably not - do I think the likelihood of this being an actual dangerous situation is high, no, probably not. Your wife has a job with important responsibilities, and the reality of that is that some inconvenience for both of you may come along with that. It's not a question of making waves - it's a job responsibility that she has.

I don't mean to dismiss your concerns, but that's part of the compromise of a committed relationship - you take the kind of crappy part of stuff along with the good part, and if overall this job is something your wife enjoys and it's also going to be a big help when your family starts, well then that's something you need to accept you don't love but you deal with it.
posted by mrs. taters at 7:01 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

If their alarm company is anything like my alarm company, they are obligated to send the police unless you can immediately confirm that a) you are at the scene and b) you know exactly what happened to set the alarm off.

Who is calling her? Her boss or the alarm company? If her boss is giving the alarm company the all clear and then sending your wife, then that's obviously crazy. Yes, it is entirely unreasonable to ask her to go verify that there hasn't been a burglary herself. But it is not unreasonable, if your wife's job description includes this, for her to go to the building AFTER THE COPS HAVE CLEARED IT AND MADE SURE IT IS SAFE to reset the alarm and make sure everything looks good for the morning. She can negotiate on-call pay, potentially, and make sure that she's not on-call in case of vacations or important parties or whatever, but if she's okay with being the one who has to do this, then you should respect that.
posted by lydhre at 7:01 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

It is uncommon for alarms to go off so often.

No it's not. My father also responds to these calls and it's definitely legit. I've answered the phone plenty of times at 2am when the alarm company called and had to wake him up.

Nine out of ten calls are false alarms, of course. But occasionally something does happen--most recently his building had flood damage due to scavengers who ripped out pipes in search of copper.

This is the kind of thing you gotta do when you're in charge.
posted by mullacc at 7:13 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

4 or 5 times a year is not a sufficient number of times to get worked up over. Do her the courtesy of allowing her to be the judge of her own safety. If she feels the need for armed backup (!), she will ask you to come with her. If she arrives on scene and there is a dangerous situation, she can stay in her car and call the police.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:20 AM on November 11, 2011

I agree that it's not safe to respond to a tripped alarm on one's own--male or female, armed or not, 100lbs or 300lbs. A reasonable approach would be for your wife (or her manager, or the alarm company) to phone the police, say that an alarm is going off at her facility and ask if they'll send a car to check things out and meet up with her after they've done so. Then, she can drive over, keep a safe distance (stay in her car), and meet up with the police when they give an all-clear signal. Or, if she's not able to drive, the company should designate a back-up or two, or have a way to remotely turn off the alarm (if the current alarm company doesn't offer that type of service, they should consider switching).

However, it sounds like there's something bigger going on here: you don't like your wife's job. You don't like the expectations her management has of her. You don't like the salary she earns. And, most significantly, you don't believe what she says about her job. There's a simple solution to the issue of danger (involve the police, don't go near the building until they ok it), but I don't think you'll be satisfied with that solution because you don't respect your wife's desire to do her job as currently agreed between her and the daycare company's management. Instead of believing that your wife doesn't mind the responsibility (maybe even enjoys having it) of overseeing the facility, you believe she's lying and making excuses to keep peace with her boss. That's pretty disrespectful on your part and, moreover, creates a situation in which it's that much harder for your wife to stand up for herself--right now, she has to stand up for herself with her managers and with you, instead of having you as her support. I suggest you experiment with letting go of some of this judgmental attitude about her job--stop second-guessing her about a job that both of you agree she should keep.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:28 AM on November 11, 2011 [22 favorites]

I re-read carefully, and have a couple questions. I'm trying to focus on the supposed cause of the problem (alarms tripped by cleaning staff at ridiculous hours of the night) rather than the political issues.

Is this just day care, or do they do nighttime baby sitting as well? I'm guessing day care staff clears the facility by 6:30 p.m. Why can't the cleaning crew be scheduled from 7-9 p.m. and be out of there by a reasonable hour, instead of midnight or two a.m?

Even if they do nighttime baby sitting, why can't the cleaning people be there when the night staff is on duty? I'm sure night staff does not occupy all admin offices and facilities, and the crew can simply clean the one or two sitting rooms at lock up time. It seems improbable that people who are bonded and contracted for daycare cleaning would have psycho child abductors working for them. I said "improbable." I also doubt they are using cleaning solutions in that type of facility that would be harmful to children when in use or afterward. Or, at least, they better not be.

If she is tasked with facility management, I think she should manage to change the cleaning service schedule to something more realistic, instead of at their convenience, if they want to keep the cleaning contract.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 8:00 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some more thoughts:

Why bother having an alarm system if it doesn't call the cops?

What the heck is worth so much at this daycare center that you think alarm=dangerous criminal?

Asking your wife to "respond" does not mean asking your wife to do the job for the police. It means show up, check things out without putting yourself in danger (drive around the building. Does it look like somebody broke in? Is there a fire? Don't go in, wait for the cops or firefighters. No signs of a problem? go ahead), and reset the alarm.

Is there an audible alarm/siren? Why do you think the bad guys (or gals) will still be there when your wife arrives given that they've heard the alarm? Even if it doesn't alert the police, they'll assume it does and leave.

If there is a legitimate dangerous situation, how do you think the cops (who should be on their way) are going to react to your presence at the site in possession of a firearm, regardless of the legality of you carrying it? Safety in this sort of situation is all about not knowingly entering a dangerous situation and waiting for the police to arrive, because they are enroute.
posted by postel's law at 8:00 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

-There is no night time activity at the center except the cleaning crew

-I have a conceal carry weapons permit, so it's not like I show up in full tactical gear and brandishing a gun :)

I think you guys have hit the nail on the head, which is why I love this site. These responses really help me see the real picture.

I absolutely need to be more supportive of my wifes responsibilities at her job, and it's clear to me now that any of my issues with her job are just that. MY issues, not hers.

We are about to start going to counseling next week, and one of the things I really want to work on is to stop pushing my shit and hangups on my loved ones. In my mind I tell myself that I hate her job because I see how hard she works for so little money and that she deserves better. I wish I knew why it was so hard for me to let my friends and wife and loved ones go about their lives without feeling like I need to butt in and "help" them.

It's probably no shock to you guys that I suffer from extreme anxiety attacks and I think how I feel about my wifes job is a great example of why.

I need to learn how to be comfortable NOT being comfortable with things. I need to learn how to make my wife feel empowered and be on her team.

These are all things I plan on bringing up in counseling.

Thanks for the great responses guys!
posted by Hellafiles at 8:15 AM on November 11, 2011 [27 favorites]

I was the second in line for calls when my old office's security system got tripped, which would happen as often as once a week. It's not that big a deal, and you're projecting all your other issues (which, frankly, are pretty sexist and condescending) into this one fairly minor responsibility.

Anyone responsible for a physical plant, whether that's a daycare facility, retail store, or regular office, is going to be the first line of response if there's a question about the physical security of the space. So, what should you do?

Be helpful. Sometime when she's not working, go to the space and figure out what's triggering all the alarms, or help her to get the right person to do so. Help her write a letter to her boss to advocate for figuring out how to reduce the number of false alarms so that people don't get complacent about dismissing them, and so that police don't get frustrated responding to bogus calls. Think of how much all the parents of those children appreciate that someone responsible is on call literally all the time because they care so much that the kids will be okay. And then remember you'll (hopefully) soon be one of those parents yourself, and appreciate how fortunate you are to have someone so dedicated as your partner.
posted by anildash at 8:17 AM on November 11, 2011 [8 favorites]

(Your response came as I was posting mine: On review, what a wonderful response you've written here!)
posted by anildash at 8:18 AM on November 11, 2011

I see that you've gotten to a sort of epiphany about this, so my response is only maybe something to help you bear that epiphany in mind:

I apologize if what I said sounded sexist, but I think it IS relevant to consider that a 100lb young lady in Uggs would have as much "intimidation factor" when responding to a possible crime scene in a dark and otherwise deserted office park.

That's as may be, but it sounds, from your description, like the alarm going off triggers not just her response, but a police dispatch as well. So if the police are also dispatched when an alarm triggers, then she's protected by the police already as it is. In fact, having the police right at her elbow at that car park probably makes her safer than you, arguably!

It sounds like you've gotten some insight into your own mind about this already, though, so I'm just offering this as something to bear in mind in case you start fretting again. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:30 AM on November 11, 2011

That does seem like an excessive number of false alarms, FWIW. I do a lot of off-hours work for my clients, so I have alarm codes. They also give me the magic word and have their alarm company call the building first, so if I accidentally set it off, I can answer the phone, tell the alarm company the magic word, and nobody else gets bothered about it. Their call lists tend to start with the closest long-term employee, not the manager, who is usually second or third on the list. They get monthly reports from the alarm company, so it's not as if they'll be in the dark.

As you said, though, it's not really your problem to fix, but it should be fixed. If they are false alarming 4 or 5 times a year, they're probably paying hundreds of dollars a year in completely unnecessary false alarm fees. A properly installed and maintained system should have something very close to zero false alarms.
posted by wierdo at 9:32 AM on November 11, 2011

Good luck sorting it all out. Now that you've kind of got a grip on why you're overreacting, I would say there are a couple things your wife (with your support and encouragement) might be able to do to help the situation.

1. A lot of people are assuming the police come out automatically when the alarm goes off, or that they're willing to come out for free on request. That might not be true. It depends on the alarm company's arrangement with the local police and the fanciness of your alarm contract. Usually the alarm company calls people on the staff list first. Usually police don't immediately respond (if they are being alerted at all) because their default assumption is that it's a false alarm. Remembering the routine at my last job which involved a lot of separate building alarms and locking up, the police would only be dispatched if the alarm company got no response and then THEY called the police. If the police were in fact sent out to our site for a false alarm, the city would actually bill our business to pay for this inconvenience. Of course we wanted to avoid this which is why a priority was placed on responding to defuse the alarm. Our procedure was to call the alarm company back with a security code and then to call the police to say "False alarm." If the alarm has to be physically reset then yes, someone has to go to the site. So, what can you do? Understand the parameters of the system you are working in. Will the police send an escort when she goes to re-set? That would be nice. Should she be on the phone with someone like a dispatcher when she drives up to the building? That's possible. In her position I would approach cautiously and be watching for anything out of the ordinary - first do a drive-by - and then leave the car right in front of the building, running, door open.

2. You mention that sometimes your wife has been drinking when she gets these calls. This, to me, is the situation is super dangerous - to her and others - and far, far likelier to get someone hurt than any amorphous fears about bad guys. This is where I suggest putting your attention. Perhaps you can recommend that she works out an on-call arrangement where she's on call 5 nights a week, and someone else takes 2 (or whatever's fair). Then she can drink on the not-on-call nights without worry, and stay sober on the on-call nights. Being on call all 7 nights is kind of an onerous responsibility as it basically means you can never drink (or be out of town, or be really sick). Negotiating some way to share this responsibility with a backup might work. It might involve having to have a separate phone number that forwards to different people's phones, but that's solvable. If there's absolutely no way to designate a backup person, then please, for all of us on the road and you as well, have a cab service number programmed in your phone ready to call. She can charge cab fare to the business.

3. Looking into the cleaning company situation sounds fine too, but keep in mind that there may be zero flexibility about when the company can come and clean. Those are some complicated schedules and it depends a lot on geography and what relative rates each business is paying as to when each place gets cleaned overnight. You can't clean every building between 6:30 and 9, so some buildings just have to get the midnight shift. IT's worth asking but there might not be wiggle room.
posted by Miko at 9:38 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Her billing a cab to the company isn't an option, but suggesting that on that nights we go out she have a back-up person certainly is, and I'll suggest that for sure.

She's not one to drive impaired by any means, and even if she tried to do so during an alarm event I wouldn't allow it.

I'd rather pay for the cab out of pocket in that scenario. :)
posted by Hellafiles at 10:15 AM on November 11, 2011

Just adding to the ton of other comments that you are way overreacting. At the vet hospital where I worked we had the the same setup (admittedly it was incredibly necessary because people break into vets all the time). The hospital administrator, who is an older woman who has problems walking would go over and check it out. If the building appeared to be broken into she would immediately call the cops. I'm sure your wife would do the same unless she considers herself some kind of amature crime fighter.
posted by boobjob at 10:20 AM on November 11, 2011

I agree that your response was well worded. I didn't mean to imply that I thought you were showing up in tactical gear. I do still think you should think through ahead of time how you would let the police know you are there, if you haven't already.

Something that helps my own anxiety is planning ahead (but also acknowledging that I can't plan for everything). Perhaps your wife would be interested in taking a self defense class, or possibly get her own conceal carry permit (I'm not endorsing that second option, but to each their own). Has she had weapons training? Would she know what to do with your gun if something happened to you?

You do have to be careful how you frame these suggestions to your wife, however. They aren't about her, your lack of trust in her, or her ability to take care of herself. They are about you and your struggle to control your anxiety.

Sorry to keep posting to this question. I'm procrastinating.
posted by postel's law at 10:41 AM on November 11, 2011

I don't see over-reacting here.

-If your wife in not paid enough to cover being on-call every night, then that is an issue for both of you.

First of all, there is the message your wife is telegraphing to herself and others that her time and efforts hold little value. When you love someone that is hard to watch, but when your "other half" accepts poor treatment, that has a direct impact on both of you.

I recognize there are vacation days and discounted (but not free?) daycare on the table. If your wife received a raise or additional compensation would that then make it OK for both of you to schlep 25 min at 3:00am?

- My old job in NYC provided a car service to and from the studio for anyone working after 10am, or coming in before 5:00am. This was in mid-town Manhattan. And the studio had a security guard 24/7. Your wife is expected to go to an isolated office park at 3:00am by herself?? The school should look into paying for a security service. These exist. I, too, don't understand what kind of alarm company notifies the client but not the police. (unless I missed something??) This sounds dangerous and beyond the scope of anyone's job description. My studio provided a car service for liability reasons. Even though it is perfectly safe to walk the streets of Manhattan and take the subway after 10pm, crime happens, and they did not want to get sued. On the safety issue, I agree this is a BIG problem and the police or a security company absolutely MUST be the first to respond to the alarm - not you and your wife!


I'm not sure why you and your wife are starting counseling, but you may be conflating the way you've approached this vs. the fact that being under paid and inconvenienced and put into danger by an employer are legitimate concerns.

I'm annoyed that you must go with your wife everytime the alarm sounds (my husband would, too!) and the school is in effect getting 2-for-1. They should hire a security service and pay qualified individuals to do the work.

You're right. Maybe you are just talking about it the wrong way?
posted by jbenben at 11:00 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Part of the job.

However, she should talk to her boss about how to handle it if it's happening frequently.

I would suggest some surveillance cameras that she could take a look at remotely (even if they're cheap ones she can look at on a computer or iPhone) when the alarm gets triggered so that cops are not called and she doesn't have to drive in if it's just a squirrel or a janitor that didn't badge correctly, etc. If there's really an incident, yes, she needs to be on the scene to work with the police, survey damage, press charges. But so often that stuff is a street light reflected onto a motion sensor, a paper banner that's fallen, etc. This would: - make it more safe for her - make less chance of false alarm - give evidence to police if there is an issue - give her more control of the situation so that the function she serves is useful and meaningful, rather than a "oh crap it went off again. I'm getting down there."
posted by Gucky at 11:21 AM on November 11, 2011

If the cleaning crew are constantly setting off the alarm, terminate their contract and get a new provider.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:14 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think the main take-away here is this: When I asked her last night if having to answer these alarm calls bothers her, she said "not really". So, regardless of it's appropriate, or safe, or not is virtually moot at this point.

I think the healthiest thing I can do now is to just continue to accompany her to the occasional late night alarm incidents, and let her do her thing without making her feel like shit or pouting.

IF and when SHE gets sick enough of it happening, then I'll suggest some of the awesome ideas everyone has offered.

Am I on the right track?
posted by Hellafiles at 12:25 PM on November 11, 2011 [8 favorites]

Yes, you are.
posted by Shouraku at 12:31 PM on November 11, 2011

I think the healthiest thing I can do now is to just continue to accompany her to the occasional late night alarm incidents, and let her do her thing without making her feel like shit or pouting.

Absolutely. The thing is, even if these calls don't bother her, or maybe they bother her a teeny bit, but not enough to worry about, if you continue to make them an issue, they will eventually begin to bother her, if for no other reason than each new call means Hellafiles is in a crappy mood. Why would you want to make her job worse for her?
posted by Rock Steady at 12:53 PM on November 11, 2011

So yeah, their system is broken.

If all the alarm company does is call your wife, she, not being a superheroine, is in no position to go stop a crime in progress. Either:

a) They need a better alarm company that responds by dispatching someone of their own or calling the police (it sounds like in this case they did call the police, but only b/c your wife didn't pick up??)


b) Your wife's company needs to employ a qualified security guard, either on call or physically at the building at night.

In a situation where it's *not* a false alarm, I'm not sure what your wife is meant to do when she gets there, and if it's always a false alarm, why have someone on call to respond to the alarm>
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:10 PM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Anyone who says he's out of line is absolutely nuts, and apparently can't read - the police are NOT automatically dispatched unless they are unable to find an employee to respond in time. It's not sexist to say that it's probably not a good idea for a 100lb person of ANY sex to be responding to a crime in progress - that's a job for the police. I would really love for someone to explain to me how responding to a crime completely unprepared for altercation is sexist - feel free to MeMail me. The condescension is far stronger from the various MeFi'ers responding, making baseless assumptions about the psychology of the OP and the SOP of the alarm company.

And guess what - both husbands and wives get to have opinions about their significant others possibly driving drunk to respond to a potential crime in progress - for very little pay!

Say she gets to the day care center and there are armed men there stripping copper wires out of the walls - what does she do then?
posted by speedgraphic at 2:48 PM on November 11, 2011 [8 favorites]

regardless of it's appropriate, or safe, or not is virtually moot at this point.

I wouldn't go this far. I think it's absolutely fair to say, "I'm not comfortable with you doing X because I think it's dangerous." Where you seem to be overstepping is in blowing past your wife's statements that she doesn't mind responding to these calls--you can ask that she do so in a safe way (i.e., after the police check things out), or suggest an alternate security setup for her to pitch to her manager--you could even say, "Please, honey, for my sanity, because I think this is dangerous and I worry about you, can you--as a favor to me--work out a different way of doing things with your company so that you never have to go there alone at night again, whether or not the police are already there?"

In a healthy, non-abusive, non-manipulative relationship, it's always ok to ask your spouse to make a different choice to accommodate you. But it's not ok to dismiss what she says or presume that she should agree with the logic behind your request.
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:07 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is a business we are talking about, right? A profit generating enterprise, of which your wife is a salaried employee who does not share directly in the profits... And yet I get the feeling from your updates she feels almost like this is a favor she is doing for a friend. Do I have that correct?

Your wife sounds lovely, but she's got the wrong idea.

I would not want my husband going out in the middle of the night to deal with something that is clearly a police/security issue. So, no. You are not on the right track.

Seriously. This is a safety issue. And an employment issue, too.

Your wife can not safely handle these alarm situations without your help, and you are not an employee of the business she works for. Might you gently get her to perceive this distinction? Because somehow you have become this business' defacto unpaid armed security force, and along with the risk to her personal safety, this is so so not right.

Like I said, I think it may be your approach! Pouting isn't the way to go here, but a serious conversation about this situation is in order.


Btw, I'm sure this business carries liability insurance, and I bet having your wife address alarm trips without police or security assistance would be against the policy requirements.


Being married myself, I can easily see how bringing this up in the wrong way with your wife makes it seem like you might be picking on her personally vs. pointing out that her employer is fully responsible to provide adequate compensation and a safe working environment at all times.

Also that her employer is getting you, an armed security person, for free*. If her employer is a aware of your late-night participation but hasn't - oh fuck that! I can't even parse how it is OK for Them to have your wife, their employee, out answering a possible bugularly alarm at an isolated office park at Three Fucking AM without proper security, forget that they are using you. I. Just. Can't.

I hope you guys find a way to discuss this. I bet she feels torn between her loyalty to them and to you. The difference here, I think, is thus far they haven't been willing to do anything to insure her safety. Maybe this is just an oversight, but she must address this issue with them, instead of what she has been doing, which is allowing herself and you to pick up their burdens. Again. This is business. That just isn't right.

Sadly, when people put loyalty to "the company" above their well-being, including safe working conditions and fair compensation, it can be very difficult to discuss. When someone is deep in this mind-set, their pride and self-image is deeply wrapped up in the equation, and it is really really hard for someone taking their job/role so personally to admit they need to take (pro)action. Some people have a hard time standing up for themselves.

If this issue didn't include a reasonable safety concern and a significant burden* to you both, I'd say you could let your wife work it out on her own. But there is a considerable safety and liability concern, plus financial compensation concerns for your wife (possibly underpaid) and you (currently a unpaid defacto employee.) I think you owe it to your wife and future family to address this responsibly as a couple.

Be gentle withe your wife. She really believes she is doing the right thing here. Re-thinking the situation through might not be so easy for her at first. Good luck!

(*I'm leaving the gun thing out of it, but DUDE! What about if you are on one of these alarm calls and you must shoot someone?? Police are trained for that. They have unions and legal represenation, they get counseling after a trauma like that...I mean, that's A LOT of risk you are taking on. What if someone sues you after a shooting on this business' property? Will their lawyers represent you? Ok, I'll stop... But you get the gist...)

(and I strongly disagree with any suggestion that includes say, remote cameras, but doesn't include security or police protection for your wife. )
posted by jbenben at 3:54 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seems to me that if an alarm goes off, a security guard (or guards) from the security company that monitors the alarm should be attending the site. Why does your wife need to get involved at all? Oh hang on, let me guess - cheap arse business owner getting the employees (ie your wife) to do something for free rather than pay extra for a proper security service.

This would piss me off too. I would also be worried about the security aspect. If the roles were reversed, and your wife was writing the question about you, I'd still be worried.

Time for your wife (who after all, is the manager of this facility) to 1) gently inform the cleaners that if they set the alarm off again, it might be time to renegotiate their contract(!!); and 2) encourage the owner of the company to employ an alarm company that responds to alarms.
posted by humpy at 6:02 AM on November 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Maybe talk to the alarm company about their policies? When I worked in this kind of dispatch, when a business (as opposed to residential) alarm went off, we called the police FIRST - THEN called our on-call contact person. That seems like the sensible approach to me, why isn't THIS alarm company doing it? The only answer I can think of is that some police forces have adopted policies where they don't first-respond to burglar alarms due to the extremely high number of false alarms. It's seen as a waste of time and resources (for the hundreds of alarms I dealt with, only two were actual burglars/fire).

But as others have said, man or woman, cage fighter or beauty queen, sending a civilian to "check it out" in the dead of night seems both dangerous and pointless. That's no policy.

Humpy, I don't know if any security alarm companies have employed "guards" that check out alarms. Ours didn't and I've never heard of this.

And as a sidebar, yes indeed there were some companies whose alarms go off ALL THE TIME. We monitored a McDonald's where the morning employees would trip the alarm at least twice a week trying to open the damn place. *$&%(!
posted by mreleganza at 7:54 AM on November 12, 2011

Seems to me that if an alarm goes off, a security guard (or guards) from the security company that monitors the alarm should be attending the site.

That's not how it works. Alarm companies monitor remotely and are often not only not nearby, but in different states than the properties they alarm.
posted by Miko at 7:55 AM on November 12, 2011

I think it's great that you've decided to work on respecting your wife's career choices, but I completely agree-- asking her to investigate a potential crime BEFORE calling the police is crazy. I would never be okay with this, or with a boyfriend or loved one doing this. Checking in after they've surveyed the scene seems fine, though, especially since she's okay with it.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:18 PM on November 12, 2011

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