This year, for the first time, I had the opportunity to attend the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Excellence Awards Breakfast.

Although I’d written about the awards last year and heard how excited all the winners were during my interviews, it wasn’t the same as feeling the tension in the room as Laura Stepanek, SDM’s editor, came closer and closer to reading off the name of the winner in each category, and it didn’t really match witnessing the smiles on the faces of the winners as they walked up to accept the trophies.

I think the same difference is true about the winners SDM profiles in “Raising the Bar” on page 44. Reading about the winners and catching a glimpse of what makes each of them outstanding is good, but it comes short of leaving the same impression as witnessing the calm in Jeffrey Karabinos’s voice (the 2009 CSAA Operator of the Year, Vector Security, West central station), as he takes a critical call.

“Operators are the human connection between the technology and the customers. When we have a panicked customer, we have the chance to convey that there is someone there who can help them — to let them know there is someone with them in their emergency,” Karabinos said when I spoke to him.

Likewise, witnessing all the hiring decisions, training alterations and operational adjustments James Riti (the 2009 CSAA Manager of the Year, DGA Security, New York) has made throughout the years to methodically build the tight-knit corporate culture in DGA’s central station would add a little more to understanding Riti’s management style.

Riti’s commitment to the team environment he’s been building shows in his reaction to winning the award, which didn’t escape Stanley Oppenheim, DGA Security’s founder and president.

“When his name [Riti’s] was announced, he recognized immediately that the award was only possible because of the hard work of the team and that the award was an award for every member of his team,” Oppenheim said.

It was probably just a little harder for Oppenheim to be able to recognize DGA Security’s now state-of-the-art, sleek central station when it stood gutted and full of drywall dust, ready for construction in the heart of Manhattan, but he did…and the company kept at it and followed its vision of a central station that could stand as the flagship of the company.

While it isn’t possible to capture many of those moments I’m talking about, we hope, in the upcoming pages, you’ll get a glimpse of what makes each of the winners so notable to the panel of judges…and you’ll come a little closer to seeing what makes them so excellent.