In the sixth interview of our #WomenofUP series for Women’s Month we profile Linda-Louise Meyer, Manager of the University’s Security Services control room. Her role is to take care of the safety of staff and students on UP campuses.
What exactly do you do at UP?
I am currently the Manager of the Security Services’ 24-hour Operational Management Centre (control room) at the Department of Security Services. The control room is responsible for the following:
- Effective managing of all operations on a 24-hour basis.
- Receiving and handling of all complaints (criminal, misconduct, medical, maintenance) on all the different campuses.
- Dissemination of information. For example, when an incident occurs, there are certain role players that have to be informed, the control room operators do this. If there is any unrest or situation on campus people phone the emergency numbers and we are responsible for giving the correct information.
- Activation of emergency services.
- Electronic systems: alarms, CCTV cameras, fire alarms. Facilities Management is in charge of maintaining the systems, we monitor them and report if they are faulty.
- Handling of crisis line calls.
- Administering of lost-and-found property.
- Reporting and handling of after-hours TuksRes maintenance issues.
Does your work spread across all campuses?
Security Services personnel are involved on all campuses of the University and thus our work is spread across all campuses. There are security officers on every campus and they are involved in the day-to-day safety of the campus they are posted at. The control room operators monitor the CCTV cameras of all campuses – and the alarms that we receive are from all campuses – thus our work is spread across all campuses.
Why did you choose this career?
I come from a police environment and was in the South African Police Service for 16 years. I first came to the University during 2007 as a senior investigation officer, investigating all criminal incidences and student misconduct. Two years ago, the post for manager at the control room was advertised and I decided to apply, as I am a single mother and the investigators work standby weeks, which is challenging. I wanted to spread my wings within the department and one can say that the career chose me. I was working with the control room operators. They manage all the calls received on the emergency lines, facilitate all incidents that are reported, monitor the CCTV cameras and alarms systems. During my time as an investigator I had a look into their world, but only after I became their manager could I fully comprehend what they do in the control room and how important their role is.
Linda-Louise Meyer and her colleagues
Are you responsible for the safety of staff and students on campus?
Yes, our department is responsible for safety on all campuses. In the control room the CCTV cameras are monitored on a 24-hour basis on all campuses, as well as the residences. All alarms – be it intruder, projector, fire, etc – are also activated on the alarm system and handled accordingly. When an alarm activates, a security officer is sent by the operators to the scene. For instance, a panic alarm is received at Thuto Building. The officer visits the scene and gives feedback – whether all is in order or if there is a real emergency. The relevant role players are then activated to the scene. The 24-hour numbers are also the first that the students/staff will phone in any emergency, be it criminal, medical, maintenance related or emotional. From the control room the relevant personnel are contacted to attend to the emergency. The control room is the “hub” of the University.
Is the safety and security of staff and students of utmost importance to you? Do you see them as family?
Yes, the safety and security of staff and students is of utmost importance to me. Our department is there to serve the UP community and keep everyone safe. This is a big task, but we do it with dedication and I am proud to be part of the department.
Please describe what a typical day at work is for you.
A typical day would cover the following:
- Checking that all the relevant reports are disseminated per protocol.
- Ensuring that electronic systems, e.g. CCTV and alarms, are functioning properly.
- Ensuring that incidents are handled correctly and professionally when received by the operators.
- Assisting with the viewing of CCTV footage when investigators are not available.
- Ensuring that the electronic occurrence book is functioning properly and entries are made correctly.
- Ensuring that all registers are up to date.
- Ensuring that lost and found property is administered correctly.
- Assisting with meetings/administration tasks requested by the Director.
- Handling any emergency that arises.
Is your work largely male-dominated and if so, how do you cope?
Yes it is, as this industry is everywhere. In the Security Department [at UP] there are approximately 600 officers working at different posts on the various campuses – only about 60 of them are female. My staff comprises of 10 male operators and one female operator working in the control room. During my time in the police services, that environment was also predominately male-dominated and it helped me to cope with the environment in the University. You have to be the best at what you do in order to make a success of your job. I believe that perseverance and a positive attitude will get you far in life.
What do you love about your job?
That I can make a difference in the life of another person and that I can help to make the UP space a better, safer place for all. During any emergency a person can panic, and to bring a little bit of calmness and friendliness to another person during that time makes it all worth the while. I am also privileged to be working with a great team of operators who really support me and are doing a splendid job. We are currently upgrading the electronic systems (CCTV and alarms) in the control room, and I am excited about this. We will be able to serve the UP community more effectively through [better] technology.
What advice would you give to young women about entering a male-dominated career?
Always be true to yourself, you are as beautiful as God made you, do not back off or feel invaluable because you are a woman. Be proud of who you are and show those men that you are just as good – or better – at doing the job. Be aware of the fact that you are in a male-dominated career, but never be scared of being yourself. Don’t compromise yourself by trying to fit into a man’s world, but grow a thick skin. Women are emotional beings, and that is okay, but being sensitive about everything that men say to you will wear you down. Empower yourself with the knowledge and training to do your job properly and listen to the advice of others who came before you. Always observe first before you act. Know that some days will be more difficult than others, but pick yourself up and face the world again.
Look out for more profiles of amazing #WomenofUP and read about those we have already featured as we celebrate Women's Month: