Sarah Johnstone has been a neighbourhood coordinator at Thirteen Group for over eight years. Here she gives a snapshot of her day and describes how the lone working device she uses helps her to feel safe when working on her own in Middlesbrough.
To try and describe a typical day is difficult because one of the things I like about my job is that no two days are the same. One day I’ll be out inspecting properties, another I’ll be interviewing families who’ve applied for a new home and another day I could be responding to ASB complaints.
Although my job is very rewarding, there’s no denying that it can sometimes be tough, and on occasions I find myself faced with challenging behaviour where I need to be reactive and think quickly on my feet. Thankfully, these instances are rare, but it’s on days like those I’m reassured that I go out on every visit with a range of specialised security products.
We use a key fob-style device with built-in GPS from Orbis Protect. This is attached to our staff lanyards and slots into a moulded ID badge. We activate the ‘amber’ function on this device every time we visit a customer and this information can be used to identify our location. In the rare event we need to activate the SOS function, the call is monitored and recorded, and this information will be passed to the emergency services if necessary. Thankfully, I don’t need to use it often, but it does give me peace of mind.
A typical day will start at 8am. I arrive in the office, grab a coffee and catch up on emails and paperwork. I’ll then head out to visit customers in some of the 350 properties I look after in Middlesbrough. Before I leave, I’ll familiarise myself with whom I’m visiting, check their details on the system and see if there are any reasons why they shouldn’t be visited alone, in which case I’ll ask a colleague to come along with me. Even if we go out in pairs, we both make sure we use our devices.
While I’m visiting customers it’s also a good opportunity for me keep an eye open for any neighbourhood issues such as fly-tipping, minor damage to properties and graffiti.
We get 100s of applications for our properties. I get so much satisfaction from helping people who really need a home, find one. I enjoy showing prospective customers around our properties, but for my own safety I always have my device with me and switched on.
I’ll normally go back to the office at noon for a spot of lunch which also gives me the chance to catch up with some of my colleagues.
One part of the job we thankfully don’t have to do often is carry out evictions; we will only seek legal action as a last resort. We provide a wide range of tailored tenancy support services for customers and only if all attempts to help have been exhausted will we take this action. If it is necessary, I work alongside a fantastic team of professionals including the local police, partners and other colleagues to help make sure this goes as smoothly as possible.
Once again, my device is essential, and I will have already alerted Orbis before I arrive, activating the SOS function so I can speak to the call handler and inform them of what I am doing and ask them to keep the line open. They will monitor the call, and if anything escalates where my safety is compromised, they are ready to help and, again, will contact the emergency services and provide them with all the required information.
Late afternoon and the end of the day
Towards the end of the day, I might have an interview with a customer to discuss a tenancy issue, in one of our office meeting rooms. Where I am, all our rooms have CCTV and panic alarms, plus I can use my device during interviews too. It’s also useful for walking to and from my car and I like the fact I can activate it if I feel vulnerable, speak to someone and tell them when I am safely inside my vehicle.
Peace of mind
Over my eight-year career as a neighbourhood co-ordinator, I do think that being a lone worker has become safer than ever. Orbis’s discrete alarms really offer peace of mind and the alarm-receiving centre is so valuable. Knowing there’s someone at the end of the device to listen, able to locate me using GPS and can get the emergency services to me if needed, feels very comforting as a lone worker.
I’m passionate about safety, and I regularly attend training sessions for colleagues, sharing my experience and showing them how to use these safety products.
Being a lone worker has the potential to be challenging, but it’s encouraging to know that Thirteen ensures there are support systems in place for my safety and well-being.
Sarah Johnstone is a neighbourhood coordinator at Thirteen Group.