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When Cops Interrupt Your Conference Call

July 21, 2014

Hey, Jared I need to be on a conference call tomorrow morning at 5:30. Will my visitor badge get me in at that time?

Sure, you’re badge is a universal badge. It will work just fine at 5:30 AM.

You’d think that would be simple, right? You didn’t detect anything ominous in that exchange did you? Neither did I.

I was visiting Richmond, VA for the opening of our new call center. As the IT project manager, I’d been working for months leading up to this day. We had one little issue to nail down. We had to send a license file daily to our client and we were still having issues with it (Not My First Rodeo.)

The file had to arrive by 5:00 AM Central Time. That was 6:00 AM Eastern Time. I set up a 5:30 meeting with my team members in Salt Lake City and India to guarantee we uploaded the file successfully. I was getting up at 4:30 to make my meeting, but the guys in Salt Lake were getting on the call at 3:30 AM. India was in the middle of the afternoon.

I arrived in plenty of time at our facility. Just like the local IT guy had said, the card reader turned a satisfying green when I scanned my card key. I pulled open the door and headed for the conference room where I was going to make the conference call from.

beep, beep, beep

That could not be a good sound. I looked at the display panel next to the door.

System Armed. You may now exit.

I knew what that was. Any possible confusion was removed 7 seconds later when the siren went off.

I had a class in high school called International Relations, or IR for short. One of the focuses for the semester was a trial of the Empress Dowager Cixi of China. The last of a long line of Chinese Emperors and Empresses.


My friend Kevin and I were assigned as defense attorneys. There were a couple kids who were prosecuting attorneys. Others were British sea captains, local merchants, even a Chinese prostitute. (Didn’t seem radical at the time, but not sure our teacher Mr. Kerrihard could get away with that today.) And of course, a student played the Empress.

The purpose of the lessons that stretched over several weeks was to force us to learn about 19th Century China. It was a fascinating exercise. The purpose of the trial was to put the dynasty on trial for actions that led to the subjugation of China by the European powers.

And that was the key to the issue. Kevin and I understood that we were defending not just the last Empress, but the entire dynasty. Our opposition didn’t understand that.

The results weren’t even close. The main prosecutor focused on the Empress and her actions. She showed how she was a corrupt official who essentially sold out her country for the promise of peace. Had the trial hinged solely on the actions of the Empress we would have lost. . .badly. But, we showed how previous emperors had been strong leaders who worked to keep their people safe. Sure there were some scoundrels, but there were also many good leaders.

Kevin and I won easily.

What’s this have to do with me standing in the lobby of our building in Richmond, VA with the burglar alarm blaring in my ear?


I stared at the burglar alarm panel and tried to will myself to learn the access code. No inspiration was forthcoming. I made my way to my conference room, just off the main lobby (where the alarm was located.) Closing the thick wooden door cut the sound down to simply loud from painfully loud.

911, please state the nature of your emergency.

Ah. . . I just set off my company burglar alarm.

What’s the address?

Yeah, I’m not exactly sure of the address. I’m from out of town and I don’t come to this building a lot. I think it’s Parham Road. It might be in Richmond.

Okay, I see it now. We’ve dispatched an officer. He should be there shortly.

In the meantime, I still had a conference call to do. I dialed into the conference call bridge a little before 5:30. I was the first one on the bridge. Out in the lobby, the alarm suddenly went silent. That was one thing at least.

I opened the conference room door and stepped out to check. . .and immediately set off the alarm again. Motion activated. Behind me I could hear people beeping into conference call.

Hey guys, thanks for joining us. Where are we at with the file?

I just emailed a copy to all of you. Rodney, check it for the right file name.

Looks good. Go ahead and upload it to the client FTP site. I need to step away from the phone for a minute. Be right back.

The alarm had timed out again. I hit the MUTE button on the phone and headed out to the front door where I could see a policeman standing. The alarm, of course went off again as soon as I set foot out of the conference room.

Are you Mr. Bliss?

Yes. Here’s my ID. I’m from out of town and they forgot to tell me about the alarm.

Okay, I’ll clear this alarm, but by law I have to come out every time the alarm company calls us. If I have to come back it’s going to be considered negligence and there will be a fine. You should call your monitoring company.

Sure. Thanks.

I retreated back through the earsplitting alarm to the relative quite of my conference room.

Rodney? Rodney, are you there?

Yeah, I’m back. How’d the upload go?

The file successfully uploaded.

Great. I’ll inform the client and let you know if there’s an issue. Bye.

I hung up the phone and started writing an email letting our client know the file was on their site. As I was writing the phone rang.

Mr. Bliss? This is the 911 dispatcher. I see that you met with our officer?

Yeah, he was really nice. He suggested I call our alarm company. I unfortunately don’t have that number.

Well, we can give you the phone number that your alarm company called us from.


Fortunately, I was able to convince the alarm company that I wasn’t breaking into the building. Apparently not a lot of thieves call the cops on themselves. I still didn’t have a code to turn off the alarm. And while it was silent again in the lobby, I hid in the conference room, waiting to see people walking past the frosted glass.

Here’s an email that I sent to Jared later that morning.


My card worked perfectly this morning. Thank you.

Do you know what else works at 5:30 AM?

The burglar alarm.

Oh. . .and cops. The local cops are also working at 5:30 AM.

I used my one phone call to call my mother. Never called Mom from jail as a teenager. Didn’t want to miss the opportunity!

Actually, I’m in a conference room kind of hesitant to open any doors for fear of I’ll set off the sirens again.

Thanks for the heads up on the alarm. . .thanks a lot.


In my high school IR class, Kevin and I won because we understood that we needed to address more than just the current Empress. She might be the focus of the current discussion, but we needed to understand that to answer the current question, we had to look at what else was involved.

A perspective I wish my coworker had when I asked “Will my badge let me in at 5:30 AM?”

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children and one grandchild.

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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