‘While You Were Sleeping’: Command center at USAA monitors threats, warns employees around the world

Unified Command Center at local campus keeps watch 24 hours a day

Workers at USAA's Unified Command Center keep employees safe from all kinds of threats.

SAN ANTONIO – A bank of television monitors stretches across the entire wall at the front of a secured room.

There, on more than a dozen screens, is everything from local news to worldwide weather maps.

In the early morning hours one recent day, only four eyes were keeping watch on them all.

Scott Simmons and Rene Martinez work on the overnight shift at the Unified Command Center on the campus of USAA.

As Senior Incident Manager and Incident Manager 1, respectively, their jobs involve watching over the world, looking for any signs of trouble.

“Any type of police activity, fire activity, any other threats that may come through such as HazMat incidents,” said Simmons. “We monitor, detect, assess and respond to any local, national or global incidents that may affect our members, our facilities.”

They work in a room with others who, simultaneously, are watching for security or maintenance troubles involving their facilities.

UCC staff monitors everything from building security to global emergencies in one center (KSAT 12 News)

‘You just never know what you’re going to deal with’

Together, they all are the eyes and ears of the organization which offers banking and insurance services to military members, veterans and their families.

“You just never know what you’re going to deal with, so you just have to be on your toes and expect the unexpected,” Martinez said.

At the first sign of any threats, they identify which USAA offices around the globe may be in a danger zone, then send out alerts to all employees who may be impacted.

They know exactly where to reach those workers, even when they’re traveling.

In the middle of the night, some of the biggest dangers have come courtesy of Mother Nature.

Simmons recalls one night when he helped to keep a San Antonio employee safe as a tornado bore down on his home.

He said his alert woke up that man just in time.

“About 20 seconds later, the roof caved in and a big beam impaled itself right into the bed where he was lying,” Simmons said.

Both he and Martinez served time in the military themselves.

They say their previous experience prepared them for the jobs they do now.

While staying alert is critical, they say it’s not always easy to do on the overnight shift.

Simmons occasionally relies on coffee, while Martinez says his go-to is exercise.

“We do get time, you know, to go for a walk, to go to the gym. Just to, kind of, keep that blood flowing,” Martinez said.

Thanks to the work they do, they also keep thousands of people safe.

About the Authors:

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

Tim has been a photojournalist and video editor at KSAT since 1998. He came to San Antonio from Lubbock, where he worked in TV and earned his bachelor's degree in Electronic Media and Communication from Texas Tech University. Tim has won a handful of awards and has earned a master's in Strategic Communication and Innovation from Tech as well.