Magazine

It’s Important to Know That What You Do is Significant

JVH

“The most important thing is that every night when I go home, I know that what we do is significant.” Sam Shanes sums up his philosophy. Emergency phones and intercoms make a difference? The Talk-A-Phone CEO backs up his claim.
“I was in the office of a security director in a major university,” Shanes said. “We were talking about false alarms from the emergency phones. ‘We don’t get many,’ he said. ‘The students know that the phone is their friend.’
“He then went on to tell me the story of a student who was pulled down an alley and was able to get to the emergency button on one of our phones that he had installed in the alley,” Shanes said. “The flashing light and voice of the security officer answering the call frightened the assailant away.”
Likewise the student who ran into a potential assailant in her shower ...
“You put emergency phones in the showers?” Shanes asked.
“‘Yep,’ the security director said, ‘and it gives the residents a feeling of security, and it works! That guy in the shower took off like a bat out of hell when it called security and the flashing started. We were able to respond immediately.’”
Shanes is head of a company started before WWII. Back then they made intercom equipment and phonographs. During the war, all the equipment was for the war effort (not a lot of phonographs) and when they reverted to commercial production afterwards, they dropped the record-playing business.
“It was a good decision,” said Shanes, “if you consider where records are today, or even four- and eight-track tape. We hit our niche and stuck with it.
“The key to emergency phones and intercoms in most environments is survivability,” he said. “Can it withstand the abuses? We were talking to the head of security in a particularly difficult area of New York City. His staff had approved the equipment technically, but he seemed unconvinced.
“He asked if we could bring it into his office. He then asked if he could hit it with a metal baseball bat. I was unsure, but had no choice.
“This was a big guy. He must have played ball in college. He took the bat and let fly. If he had hit a ball, it would have been in the left-field bleachers. He then asked if he could hit it again. And he did. It survived,” Shanes said.
“He told me later that this, frankly, had been his only concern. There are many different types of call boxes and intercoms designed for different uses. His facility was in one of the roughest parts in his city. He knew what he was up against.
“That confirmed to me that all the technology on Earth was of no value if the equipment couldn’t stand up to the environment where it was to be used.”
The future? Shanes said a part of it certainly is his company’s “WEBS” – Wide Area Emergency Broadcast System – and VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), and the power they bring to the world of communication.
“After the tragedies at Virginia Tech and Columbine and natural disasters like Katrina, and the flooding and tornadoes [this summer], cities and schools are looking for ways to instantly communicate with their staff and students,” Shanes said. “And they need to communicate through different devices, including loudspeakers, sirens and telephones. Systems that provide this ability will be on the leading edge in the upcoming years.
“My father, who taught me what I know about business, and a lot of what I know about life, was right,” Shanes said. “He told me that what we do makes a difference.
“You can be proud, my dad told me, every night when you go home, and you will feel a sense of personal reward. And I do.”

Article Abstract from October, 2007




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