September 17th, 2018

September is National Preparedness Month, a time when families are encouraged to make plans for how they will survive fires, floods, tornados or other disasters.

Preparedness is not just for families, however. Business, schools and other organizations also need to have preparedness plans in place.

The ongoing, widespread disaster unfolding along the Mid-Atlantic coast is a stark reminder of why disaster preparedness matters. Hurricane Florence has dropped record amounts of rain already, with more still to come, and massive flooding is anticipated from the coast up into the Appalachian Mountains.

Think we’re safe from hurricanes in the Ohio Valley? It was ten years ago this month that remnants of Hurricane Ivan reformed over Kentucky and swept up the valley and wrought a path of destruction from Arkansas to Canada, including 75 mile per hour wind gusts in Louisville and Cincinnati. The storm downed trees and knocked power out for days throughout the region.
And hurricane season is far from being over. The season will peak in October.

Beyond natural disasters, fires and active shooter events are also a threat. Planning should extend beyond the event and protecting staff, customers and property from immediate harm to business continuity. How will you continue to operate or get back up and running as quickly as possible following a disaster? Proper planning should address all everything from the initial event to complete recovery.

How robust is your preparedness plan? This checklist from the National Fire Protection Association is a great place to start assessing your efforts. The NFPA is also offering this free guide for the development, implementation, assessment, and maintenance of disaster/emergency management and continuity of operations programs on its website.

Well-designed, well-maintained and well-documented integrated systems are key to running your business day to day and recovering in the aftermath of disaster. ECT Services offers more than 30 years of experience delivering design, development and service that keep facilities operating at peak safety and efficiency. Call us today at (800) 567-1180 for a consultation.

March 12th, 2018

Weren’t we shivering under a blanket of snow just a couple of weeks ago? Then temps became warmer, with sunshine abundant, and spring fever started setting in. Of course, then it snowed last night.

Spring will officially start on March 20. Between now and then we could see several inches of snow, afternoon highs in the 80s, tornadoes, floods and just about anything in between. If you have any doubts, just check your Facebook memories and you’ll probably see evidence of all of these weather conditions on this day over the last several years.

With spring on the way, now is the time to tackle some routine maintenance and seasonal tasks. Put these on your to-do list now:

Check outside lighting. Walk your parking areas and around the outside of your facility. Look for outside lighting that may have been damaged during snowy, icy weather. Look for light bulbs that have burned out and replace them.

Check landscaping. Flower beds, parking lot islands, sidewalks and lawn areas might have taken a beating when being plowed, scraped and salted this winter. Look for signs of damage and note needed repairs. Look for potholes in parking lots that need repair, and significant gaps or cracks in sidewalks that can cause slips and falls.

Check security cameras and alarms. Review the placement and condition of all inside and outside cameras. Inspect wiring, and check placement to be sure views haven’t shifted or otherwise been compromised.

Clean or change HVAC filters and schedule routine maintenance. Pollen is already flying, and more will be in the air soon. Cleaning or changing out filters is a must to keep allergen levels down inside your facility. Plus, the system is likely to have trapped a lot of debris over the winter months; cleaning or changing the filter is a must for keeping the system running at peak efficiency.

Review severe weather policies and procedures. Tornado season is already underway. Schedule a drill with your team and make sure they all know what to do in the case of severe weather. Update checklists and rosters, especially is you’ve welcomed new team members or made other personnel changes since your last drill.

If you’d like to know more about how you can optimize and integrate your building systems, call us at (800) 567-1180 for a consultation.

November 16th, 2017

The recent arrival of cooler temps dovetailed with the end of Daylight Savings Time, making it feel like the world suddenly went dark and cold and the same time. Is your business or organization still making the adjustment?

These tips will help you maximize energy efficiency during the winter months:

Contact your energy provider and ask if they will help you conduct an energy audit. Many providers provide free audits to customers.

Review your energy usage from last winter season and set targets. How much energy did you use? What was the average daily temp and other conditions? Setting a goal for reducing use might help you keep costs in check.

Check insulation. Make sure it is adequate to meet your needs. Check seals on all duct work to make sure it is sound and air isn’t leaking.

Schedule regular maintenance for your HVAC system to keep it running at peak efficiency. Be sure to change or clean filters, too. Dirty filters make systems worker harder and less efficiently.

Check all vents and returns to make sure they are clear of obstructions. Arrange furniture so air flow is maximized, and keep paper and other debris clear.
Look for leaky doors and windows and seal them. Use caulk and/or weather stripping to seal up energy-sucking gaps throughout your facility. Gaps around plumbing access, electrical outlets and lighting fixtures are often leaky, too. Seal them up and you’ll better maintain temps in your facility.

Use programmable thermostats to maintain temps. Set temps no higher than 67 degrees when your facility is occupied, and drop temps several degrees overnight or when facilities are not in use. You’ll realize substantial savings by dropping your thermostat just two degrees.

Limit the use of space heaters. Not only do they present a fire hazard, they use significant energy and make it difficult to regulate temperatures. Encourage layering clothes or wearing sweaters for personal comfort.

Maximize use of natural light. Open blinds and curtains to allow sunshine in during the day, and close them at night to retain heat.

Monitor lighting use. Use sensors or timers to turn lights on and off automatically. Switch to LED lighting wherever possible. Use smart power strips and sleep settings to operate office equipment efficiently.

Need help monitoring and integrating your HVAC and other key building systems? We can help. Call (800) 567-1180 to learn more.

August 10th, 2017

President Trump has proposed steep cuts to the budgets of agencies charged with protecting the environment, and has pledged to roll back regulations that he sees as barriers to business growth.

Proposals include  cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by one third, and significantly reducing staff. The cuts would deeply impact enforcement at both the state and federal level, and would end the Energy Star rating program.

President Trump also withdrew the United States from the Paris Accord, an agreement between dozens of countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to slow or reverse climate change.

How have businesses responded to the proposals and changes? Rather than cheering loudly, many have pledged to continue their environmentally-friendly efforts, according to a recent post by Energy Manager Today.

According to the post, “REI, Kohls and Netflix currently source 100% of their electricity usage through renewable energy, while Google recently announced it will meet its 100% renewable energy goal this year.”

Goldman Sachs, which is anticipating a surge in renewable energy growth in Europe, recently signed an agreement to purchase power from a wind farm in Pennsylvania.

Apple also plans to build a data center in Denmark run completely on renewable energy, according to the post.

Why do businesses remain committed to renewable energy and other environmentally conscious practices, even if government regulations relax and incentives evaporate? Here are two reasons:

Consumers are watching. Consumers are typically favorable towards environmentally-friendly practices, and many actively seek out companies which share their commitment. Companies benefit when their brand is seen as “green,” both in terms of brand perception and competitive advantage.

Long-term cost efficiencies. Over the long-term, energy saving and renewable energy options actually turn out to be less expensive to operate and maintain than less green, traditional options. Business save money by optimizing lighting systems, adding smart sensors and more.

Integrated systems play a significant role in energy efficiency. Interested in learning more about integrated systems? We can help. Call (800) 567-1180 to talk to us about your needs.

August 7th, 2017

On August 21, the United States will experience a solar eclipse. The path of totality where the sun will be completely eclipsed will cut a 70-mile wide swath from Oregon in the Pacific Northwest to Charleston, SC on the Southeast Atlantic coast.

The path will cut through West Kentucky, with the city of Hopkinsville serving as the epicenter of the eclipse. The point of greatest eclipse – where the sun, moon and earth align perfectly – will take place over Hopkinsville for two minutes and forty seconds at 2:24:41 pm ET on the day of the eclipse.

The last time the U.S. experienced an eclipse of this magnitude was nearly 100 years ago, in 1918.

The eclipse will be a scientific and educational boon, and it will certainly be an economic boon to the areas in the path of totality, particularly Hopkinsville.

What will the eclipse mean in terms of the power grid? Safety and security?

States that rely heavily on solar power will see a significant impact, according to a report in Energy Manager Today. California, North Carolina, Utah and Nevada are all expected to be impacted.

The effect of the eclipse will be the equivalent of shutting down several nuclear reactors at once, according to the report. Fortunately, most customers shouldn’t have any interruptions in service. Utilities have had plenty of time to prepare and test systems, and systems have multiple redundancies built in. That, coupled with the rolling nature of the event should mean the lights remain on even when it grows dark around mid-afternoon.

Communities in the path of totality are expecting significant infrastructure implications. Hopkinsville could more than double its population for the day. All those out of town visitors will rely on apps on their smartphones to navigate and communicate. The increased traffic will surely overwhelm cell towers. In anticipation, additional temporary cell towers are being added.

Traffic is also expected to be a problem, with last minute visitors clogging I-24 and the Pennyrile Parkway. The region doesn’t boast nearly enough beds to accommodate the influx of visitors, so temporary campgrounds are being set up in vacant fields and porta potties are being brought in to address sanitary concerns. Since the late August weather could be hot and steamy, cooling stations are being set up at key areas, too.

EMS responders are training, and officials are considering National Guard support as well.
The takeaway for businesses? Preparation and communication are key for remaining steady during significant events that are beyond your control. Coordination among businesses, government agencies and other partners is key.

July 25th, 2017

The dog days of summer have arrived, and with them peak energy use. Air conditioners are pumping at full blast, and energy managers are dreading next month’s power bill.

What can businesses do to conserve power and control costs? Here are a few simple tips:

 

  • Set the thermostat to 78 degrees while facilities are in use, and 80 or above when not in use.
  • Check all air filters and change as necessary. Service units regularly to make sure they are running at peak efficiency.
  • Install programmable thermostats to automatically adjust according to your desired settings.
  • Replace older equipment with newer, more energy-efficient models.
  • Check in with LG & E about possible rebates for new energy-efficient equipment. LG & E also offers a demand conservation program which may provide your business with modest monthly savings.
  • If you use an outside vendor to providing vending machines in your facility’s break room, check with them to see if the machines are Energy Star machines. If they are not, negotiate for an upgrade.
  • Replace all incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient CFL or LED bulbs.
  • Don’t forget outside lights. Put outside lights on timers or sensors, or make sure they are shut off during daylight hours.
  • Install motion sensors that automatically turn off lights when rooms are unoccupied.
  • Keep window shades/blinds drawn to block heat, or install screens or film to reflect bright sunlight.
  • Turn off and/or unplug equipment when not in use.
  • Consider flexible work arrangements where appropriate. If employees duties don’t require them to physically be in your office, why not have them work from home? Fewer workers in the office means less demand for lighting, cooling and power.
  • Maximize your landscaping to shade and shelter your building. An ocean of asphalt is not the most energy-efficient setting. A few well-placed trees can block the sun’s rays from heating up your facility.

April 12th, 2017

Spring is here, and several ECT Services partners have announced the launch of new products. Here’s a rundown of the latest:


HID Global announced the launch of HID Location Services. The new offering allows organizations to track its workforce in a facility. The real-time proximity-based services verify employee locations for use cases such as monitoring employee check in and check out, monitoring room occupancy, facility management, workforce optimization and more.
“HID Location Services extends HID’s leadership in physical access control with a cutting-edge Internet of Things offering for workforce optimization solutions that can be easily integrated into existing systems,” said Harm Radstaak, Vice President and Managing Director of Physical Access Control Solutions with HID Global in a company press release. “These new capabilities leverage the power of trusted identities to provide a new level of visibility for customers to better understand how buildings are used, help quickly find people in emergency situations, and deliver an extraordinary user experience.”
HID Location Services is off to a strong start, snagging the Most Valuable Product (MVP) award from Security Sales & Integration (SSI) magazine. HID Location Services also took top honors in the Security Industry Association (SIA) New Product Showcase competition in the category of Access Control Devices & Peripherals Wireless.
Bosch Security Systems also introduced a new line of intelligent IP cameras, all of which feature video analytics. The new MIC IP fusion 9000i camera also offers metadata fusion, which fuses the metadata of the camera’s built-in optical and thermal imager.
Bosch also introduced In-Store Analytics, a Cloud-based solution that uses intelligent Bosch IP panoramic cameras to give retailers insights on store traffic, according to a release from the company.
Axis Communications also recently announced new and updated product lines. The FA series of discreet indoor surveillance cameras includes the AXIS FA54 Main Unit, AXIS FA1105 Sensor Unit with a standard lens, AXIS FA1125 Sensor Unit with a pinhole lens and AXIS FA4115 Dome Sensor Unit with a varifocal lens. The series enables indoor surveillance of four closely situated areas using a single system system.
“By separating the sensor unit from the camera body, the sensor units can fit into tight spaces and blend in with the environment for unobtrusive surveillance. The pinhole sensor unit is especially useful at entrances for capturing people’s faces at eye level,” said Erik Mårtensson, Global Product Manager for Modular cameras at Axis Communications, in a company press release. “AXIS FA Series is really cost-efficient since it offers customers the possibility to cover multiple areas of a location with one high-performance camera system.”
Axis also added the indoor AXIS P1367 and outdoor AXIS P1367-E and AXIS P1368-E network cameras to its AXIS P13 fixed-box series.
Belimo also launched a new line of HVAC sensors, developed to seamlessly integrate into building automation systems. The sensors feature universal compact enclosure design, screwless snap covers and a detachable mounting plate.

March 21st, 2017

Two seemingly unrelated healthcare stories out this week suggest a common theme: integration.
In a story released during the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference & Exhibition 2017 earlier this week, ECT Services partner HID Global highlighted several key technology trends in the healthcare sector.


Among the trends were integrated systems that allow for secure, compliant dispensing of controlled substances; integrated systems that allow for trustworthy, secure, accurate tracking of people and resources; and integration of biometrics to verify patient and provider identity.
“Healthcare organizations are increasingly seeking to improve the physician, staff and patient experience by employing a combination of strong authentication and new IoT applications to address their challenges,” said Sheila Loy, Director, Healthcare Industry with HID Global in the release. “Trusted identities will simplify and connect all aspects of healthcare operations, from opening hospital doors, accessing healthcare records and e-prescribing of controlled substances, to how healthcare professionals interact with patients and log their activities.”
Did you catch that? Simplify and connect. Value and results for healthcare providers will by the ability of systems to communicate in a way that delivers a streamlined, secure experience for the patient and the provider.
Here’s the other story out this week that suggests integration is a key theme in healthcare: the latest edition of the Grumman/Butkus Hospital Energy and Water Benchmarking Survey reveals that overall fossil fuel usage in healthcare facilities continues to trend downward. Electricity usage and carbon footprint remain steady, however.
How can healthcare facilities make headway in driving down electricity usage and reduce their carbon footprint? The key might be stronger system integration.
According to this report from the Alliance to Save Energy, “systems-integrated intelligence can drive enhanced efficiencies, and thus energy savings – as well as lower carbon footprint in buildings” through analysis of consumption patterns and adjustments to the algorithms which control systems.
Want to learn more about systems integration and the possibilities for healthcare? Call us today at (800) 567-1180 or connect with us at the upcoming Healthcare Coalition Conference on September 26-28 at the Hyatt Regency Lexington Center in Lexington, Ky.

September 7th, 2016

By taking human eyes where it’s difficult for human bodies to go, tech gadgets are taking building maintenance to the next level.

Image: Lino Schmid & Moira Prati

Image: Lino Schmid & Moira Prati

Drones and smart glasses are two of the latest tech gadgets being deployed in new ways to help experts gather information and solve problems.

A story posted by Energy Manager Today highlights several cases where drones are being used to quickly and safely inspect facilities, something that’s often difficult or even impossible.

“A drone can inspect assets that are dangerous and/or difficult to reach — or completely inaccessible to humans. The fact that they are airborne avoids time-consuming preparations, such as building scaffolding to inspect walls. For energy managers, these devices can be used to conduct higher perspective inspections of rooftop assets or even the inside of equipment that have large cavities,” according to the author of the post.

Duke Energy and ConEnergy are both using drones to inspect boilers. Duke has also used drones to check solar panels and assess storm damage. Tremco Roofing and Building Maintenance uses drones to scan building roofs for leaks.

While drones are the eyes in the sky for some facility managers, others are turning to smart glasses to focus on solving problems.

An HVAC contractor in Tennessee is using smart glasses to connect technicians, expert support and customers. Lee Company technicians use smart glasses to transmit video feeds to customers and in-office support, improving communication and reducing the need to send additional personnel out to solve problems. The company credits the smart glasses with improving efficiency and customer satisfaction, as well as helping them overcome a labor shortage and attracting new talent.

July 14th, 2016

Good news on the energy efficiency front: even while the square footage of commercial buildings is on the rise, energy consumption is growing at a much slower rate.

Those are part of the findings from the 2012 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey released earlier this year. The research revealed that floorspace has increased 22 percent since 2003, and the total number of buildings has increased 14 percent, but energy use has increased just seven percent.

The average total energy used per square foot of commercial buildings showed a statistically significant decrease, from 91.0 thousand Btu per square foot to 80.0 thousand Btu per square foot.

What’s behind the slowdown in energy consumption? Authors of the study point to new building construction standards for energy efficiency, changes in building usage and construction in more temperate areas. Improvements in the energy efficiency of equipment are also lowering energy use.

Energy consumption for lighting and heating both dropped by 11 percent, according to the study.

Electricity usage steady despite increased use of electricity dependent equipment, while the natural gas consumption decreased due to improved efficiency standards and warmer winters.

The total amount of energy used for lighting has decreased 46 percent due to the increasing use of compact fluorescent and LED bulbs as replacements for lower efficiency incandescent bulbs. The trend is expected to continue. LEDs currently account for 15 percent of U.S. lightbulb sales, and are expected to account for half of all sales by 2020.

The Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey is a national sample survey conducted by the U.S. Energy Information Adminstration that collects information on the stock of U.S. commercial buildings, including their energy-related building characteristics and energy usage. The first CBECS was conducted in 1979; the latest was fielded starting in April 2013 to provide data for calendar year 2012.