December 5th, 2018

The Ohio Valley skipped right over fall and went straight to winter, it would seem. Aside from being unpleasant to go from 80-degree afternoons one week to 30-degree highs the next, such rapid shifts posed a threat to business continuity.

The ice storm that rolled through the region recently might not have wreaked the havoc it did if it had showed up in, say, January rather than mid-November. Why? Many trees were still holding on to most of their leaves. Ice clung to the leaves, weighing down the limbs and causing them to break off. The crashing limbs and trees took out power lines across the region, and left tens of thousands without power. It took as much as four days for power to be restored to some.

The early ice storm was a wake up call. Is your facility ready for unexpected weather events? Here’s how you can prepare:

Stock up now on surface treatment supplies. Make sure you have the proper equipment and chemicals available for treating parking lots and walkways. And don’t forget the inside of your facility, too – melting snow and ice tracked in through door ways can create a slip and fall hazard. Be ready with the necessary tools to keep those areas clean and dry, too.

Inspect shrubs, trees and roofs. Keep foliage trimmed back so it doesn’t hang over power lines or roofs. Check roofs for potential trouble spots, and make sure gutters and drainage systems are clear and functioning properly.

Take care of routine HVAC system maintenance. Evaluate performance and replace any filters or worn parts as needed to maintain efficient performance.

Review business continuity plans. If your business loses power, do you have a back up plan? If key personnel lose power at home are unable to get to work, do you have a back up plan? Now is the time to document and cross train to ensure smooth functioning.

Need help reviewing the safety and security of your facility? We can help. Call (800) 567-1180 for a consultation.

November 29th, 2018

ECT Services has long been the region’s leader for building integration. As the IoT revolution has gotten underway, we’ve been the go-to source for connecting smart HVAC systems; integrating fire suppression systems; and linking building access, communication, video surveillance and even sophisticated acoustic shot detection systems. All of these integrations put valuable information and insights into the hands of facilities managers.

The integrations result in expanded capabilities and increased efficiencies. Buildings become safer and more efficient. We’ve made it possible for a whole community of systems to talk to each other to create a better environment for the people that inhabit the buildings they power.

So, it seems logical to ask, “What will join the next conversation next?”

The answer may be, “A vacuum cleaner!”

A recent post on Energy Manager Today suggests that cleaning may be the next big area of opportunity for driving efficiencies from insights gathered via IoT. It’s already possibility to remotely monitor performance and use of equipment. Managers can tell whether or not a tool – a vacuum, for instance – is operating efficiently or requires servicing. They can monitor how long, where and by whom a tool is being used. Those insights could lead to more efficient usage, driving down maintenance and energy costs.

The next logical step is to move beyond reacting to being proactive. Integrated systems could detect increased activity in a building – perhaps due to ramping up staff – and anticipate greater usage of cleaning equipment. Rather than wait for a breakdown, the system could use predictive modeling to anticipate a more frequent need for routine maintenance, and automatically schedule accordingly.

Integrated systems could also see changes in building usage and adjust cleaning schedules accordingly. Areas that have seen little or no use could be scheduled for a simple check, while areas that have seen increased usage could be flagged for extra attention.

Cleaning is just one possible area for innovation in the smart buildings of the present and future. Whatever the next wave of building integration looks like, ECT Services has the experience and capabilities to maximize opportunities and drive the value. Interested in learning more? Call ECT Services at (800) 567-1180 today.

November 27th, 2018

When it comes to fire safety, fire alarms and sprinkler systems are the first pieces of safety equipment that come to mind.

But could the humble door actually be key to slowing or preventing the spread of a fire and saving lives?

The UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, a non-profit which studies and trains both firefighters and the general public on fire safety, kicked off a campaign this year encouraging people to close their bedroom doors before turning in at night. Closed doors depress oxygen flow, which starves fire and slows its progress. Slowing a fire down gives occupants time to escape and gives fire crews more time to arrive on scene and fight the fire.

That same thinking translates from residential applications to office buildings, hospitals, schools and other public spaces. Facilities managers and building owners should think carefully about door placement, and how strategic door placement and use can slow or block fire progress and prevent loss.

The issue is especially urgent for hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers where moving patients may take more time or might even be impossible. In those cases, specially designed fire doors must be in place so buildings can be compartmentalized and occupants can shelter in place if necessary until the fire is suppressed.

Fire doors must be inspected at least twice a year. Fire doors are deceptively complicated, and even small defects can threaten their integrity and heighten risk, so inspections should be carried out by someone trained to recognize and correct any defect or misuse of the door.

Door monitoring can be integrated along with all other building systems such as security video, fire alarms and suppression systems and more. Maintaining awareness of these key systems all in one place provides key insights that can help identify and reduce risks.

Interested in learning more about integrating building systems? ECT Services can help. Call (800) 567-1180 for a consultation today.

November 12th, 2018

Innovation brings new challenges, and it takes experienced, creative minds to come up with new solutions.

Experience and creativity are exactly what ECT Services Account Manager Mike Fisher brought to the table when Hitachi needed a solution to monitor energy for tenants in a building complex. Mike put his engineering background to work and within two weeks created VR Tenant, a solution for monitoring energy usage on a unit by unit basis.

Hitachi’s problem was this: older air conditioning systems move chilled air through a building via a series of large ducts. Newer, more space efficient systems move refrigerant through a building through a series of smaller pipes. While the newer systems are more efficient, it didn’t offer a way to monitor energy use and bill back tenants for their usage. It’s also difficult to track possible refrigerant leakage, which could pose a hazard to tenants.

Mike’s solution includes both hardware and software that ties into the variable refrigerant system to gather data and calculate data. A “head end” gathers all data and performs the detailed calculations, and energy measurement devices in each unit of the building measures and monitors usage. Units are determined by the building owner/manager, and the configuration is flexible.

Installation is flexible and fairly simple. Mechanical engineers can install the hardware, and ECT services handles set up and configuration of the software.

The VR Tenant system can be installed as new variable refrigerant systems are installed, or retrofitted into existing installations. VR Tenant is compatible with a wide range of variable refrigerant systems, too.

The development and deployment of the VR Tenant system demonstrates our deep understanding of building systems and integration, our excellence as a collaborative partner, and our ability to innovate.

Do you have a building system integration challenge to solve? We can help. Call (800) 567-1180 today for a consultation.

October 18th, 2018

This week’s episode of This American Life, a long-running public radio program that explores a different theme each week, featured stories on mass shootings. One of the segments featured took a closer look at the lessons learned in the wake of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last February.

The school had undergone intensive active shooter training just weeks before the event that took the lives of 17 students and teachers. As I listened to the segment, a few insights surfaced for me:

  1. One of the lessons learned from previous school shooting was the importance of locking doors and securing areas. At Sandy Hook, the gunman tried two classroom doors and found them locked. The third classroom door he tried was not. He entered that classroom.

“I will not be the third door,” teacher Melissa Falkowski told her students during the active shooter training at Stoneman Douglas.

The Guardian indoor shot detection system offered by Shooter Detection Services uses acoustic and infrared sensors – no bigger and no more obtrusive than smoke detectors — to automatically detect and instantly report shots fired. Guardian can integrate with systems to automatically lock doors the moment a shot is detected. That quick action can limit a shooter’s movement, and also limit the movements of potential targets, keeping them out of harm’s way.

  1. Hyper realistic drills yielded worse performance, underscoring what we already know: humans don’t perform perfectly in high-stress situations. Some schools have used surprise drills featuring “gunmen” with blanks. As you might anticipate, the drills can be extremely traumatizing to faculty, staff and students.

In surprise drills with blanks, participants were so traumatized they forgot key steps like calling the police. Guardian eliminates such critical errors by automatically notifying police the moment that a shot is detected.

  1. Other alarms can add to confusion. During the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, dust from acoustical tiles hit by the first few bullets tripped the fire alarms, sending students and teachers pouring out into the hallways where they were exposed to the shooter. Emergency plans had accounted for multiple conflicting alarms – a fire alarm and an active shooter alert – with instruction to ignore a fire alarm and always pay attention to the active shooter alert. But the fire alarm was triggered instantaneously, while the active shooter alert was not.

Would the outcome have been different if acoustic shot detection had triggered an alarm for an active shooter first, rather than an alarm for a fire drill?

Interested in learning more about Guardian? Call (800) 567-1180 for a consultation.

October 5th, 2018

Trusted identity solutions provider HID Global recently snagged two awards for new products from Security Today magazine, according to press releases from the company.
Security Today recognized HID’s SAFE™ Analytics solution as its most noteworthy new product for Big Data Security Analysis in 2018. The HID SAFE Analytics solution employs predictive analytics for assessing risks associated with identities in the system. The solution monitors for activities such as tailgating and badge fishing and behaviors such as erratic movement and unusual timing. A risk score is calculated for each activity or behavior, and customized mitigation responses are recommended.

“We are excited to receive this award for a solution that takes customers beyond a purely reactive security stance to one where they can identify and prevent breaches before they occur,” said Julian Lovelock, Vice President, Identity & Access Management Solutions (IAMS) with HID Global. “The critical knowledge and actionable insights our solution delivers give organizations high-value tools for averting security issues.”

HID’s Lumidigm® V400-BX Series multispectral imaging fingerprint sensor was also recognized by Security Today as the New Product of the Year in the Access Control–Biometrics category.

The Lumidigm V400-BX sensor delivers end-point security with biometric authentication in a device that combines multispectral fingerprint technology with on-device encryption, tamper detection and response capabilities. The sensors work for normal, wet, dry or damaged fingers, across a wide range of conditions, and can detect fake fingerprints.

Use cases include user enrollment and verification in enterprise access control applications, especially in financial and other regulated industries.

“This award recognizes key Lumidigm V400-BX sensor capabilities, with superior biometric performance and the first ISO/IEC 30107-3 certified fingerprint sensor to reject faked or stolen fingerprints.  The sensor’s robust, end-to-end encryption and anti-tamper technology processes billions of transactions annually to prevent misuse by fraudsters, while correctly authenticating legitimate users,” said Michael Chaudoin, Vice President of Product Management and Marketing, Extended Access Technologies business unit with HID Global, in a press release.  “We are proud to receive this affirmation of our fingerprint sensor offering and validation of the crucial role biometrics plays in securing enterprise networks and other logical access applications.”
ECT Services is proud to partner with innovated industry leaders like HID Global.

Does your facility need a strong access control solution? Call (800) 567-1180 for a consultation today.

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.

August 29th, 2018

It may seem like little has changed in communities impacted by last year’s deadly spate of school shootings, but that may not be the case.

Many called for “hardening” schools against future attacks with enhanced security processes and systems, and school districts across Texas are acting on recommendations to include active shooter detection systems to school facilities.

“We are experiencing a clear trend upwards in the K-12 school market, especially in Texas,” said Christopher Swanger, Senior Vice President of Sales for Shooter Detection Services, which markets The Guardian. “Texas schools are prioritizing funds for school safety and they see the value of our zero false alert system to empower students, staff and law enforcement to respond. Would you send your children to school without fire alarms? Schools are now looking at active shooter detection in the same way.”
The Houston area witnessed its own deadly school shooting on May 18 when a student entered an art classroom and began firing. He killed eight students and two teachers and wounded thirteen others, including school security personnel.

Just two weeks after, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a report which included a recommendation that Texas schools install active shooter alarm systems as part of structural improvements aimed at “hardening” schools.

While calls for hardening schools stokes fears that schools would become less welcoming fortresses, active shooter alert systems are a relatively unobtrusive option.

The Guardian indoor shot detection offered by Shooter Detection Services uses acoustic and infrared sensors – no bigger and no more obtrusive than smoke detectors — to automatically detect and instantly report shots fired. The highly-accurate automated response eliminates reliance on human response during high-pressure, stressful and physically dangerous situations.

Guardian can also integrate with a variety of other systems to show live video feed and floor mapping during an event, so shooters can be accurately tracked even from off site. Door locks can be triggered that trap a shooter in a particular area.

Guardian also can be integrated with communication systems to send out mass notifications via social media, audio systems, computer monitors, telephones, mobile devices and fire alarms systems.
This video demonstrates the basics of the system. Interested in learning more? Please click here.

August 17th, 2018

Europe has spent most of the summer broiling in the grip of a sustained, record-breaking heatwave. Temps have soared into the 90s and stayed there in places that usually only see high temps in the 70s, like Sweden and the British Isles. Northern Ireland and Wales just recorded the hottest June on record, while Sweden logged its hottest July in 260 years.

The region is generally ill-equipped to deal with sustained high temperatures, as most facilities don’t include air conditioning systems. The heat has caused sickening algae blooms to choke water ways, and has sparked deadly wildfires.

The heatwave covers more of Europe and includes more intense temperature readings than previous heatwaves, and is considered by many to be a harbinger of things to come thanks to global climate change.

Kentucky, Ohio and surrounding states have endured their share of heat waves over the years, but that doesn’t mean heat should be taken lightly. Sustained heat waves can be deadly events and deserve the same thoughtful preparation as other disasters.

What can you do to be prepared for a heat wave? Suggestions from Ready.gov align with best practices for energy efficiency, and can be scaled for office or other large facility settings. Ideas include:

  • Cover windows with light and heat blocking drapes or shades during daylight hours. Consider using reflective material that reflects heat back outside. The window covers will keep out the heat and keep rooms from heating up.
  • Add weather stripping to doors and windows to minimize air leakage. Weather stripping will keep hot air out, and cool air in.
  • Add insulation in attic and other areas to keep cool air in and hot air out.
  • Use attic fans to clear out hot air. Don’t use electric fans in high temps; while they might provide some sense of comfort, they don’t actually reduce body temperature and could result in heat illness.
  • Insulate around window air conditioning units.
  • Encourage hydration and cooling off periods for workers who must be outside in the heat. Know the signs of heat related illness, and monitor closely for symptoms. Wear loose, light-weight, light colored clothing.
  • Keep on top of routine maintenance for all HVAC and other cooling equipment. Keep filters fresh and monitor for efficiency.

Have questions about how integrated systems can help you keep an eye on energy efficiency, and spot early signs of trouble? Call me at (800) 567-1180 for a consultation.

 

August 1st, 2018

It’s a nightmare scenario.

A lone gunman holes up in your facility and uses it to stage a horrifying attack on the public, killing scores of people and striking terror in the hearts of the entire nation.

In the aftermath of the event as the public begins to sort out what happened, questions begin to arise about your organization. Should you have done more to prevent the attack? Were your safety and security measures adequate?

Experiencing the attack was agonizing, but those questions are even worse. Did you miss something key in planning? Would another system or tool have stopped the unthinkable from happening? Could you have foreseen this and prevented it?

Is your facility now liable for the loss and injury of so many innocent people at the hands of a terrorist?
The SAFETY Act might hold some answers to both issues:

1.) how can organizations evaluate their efforts to safeguard their facilities against terrorist attacks and

2.) how can organizations protect themselves against legal action in the event that those efforts fail to stop a terrorist attack.

According to a recent article posted on LATimes.com, the SAFETY Act allows companies to seek verification from the Department of Homeland Security that their security products and services are useful. If approved, the verification can limit the liability in the event the company is sued after an attack.

A quick scan of the SAFETY Act list of approved technologies reveals that not only have products received designations, but office parks, entertainment venues and public park systems have received designations, too, for their policies and procedures.

Even if you are not pursuing verification from the Department of Homeland Security for your facility, it’s worth your time to peruse the list and note the product vendors represented there. It’s a good starting place for considering vendors to enhance the safety and security of your facility.

You’ll see that our partner Shooter Detection Systems, LLC is listed there for their Guardian active shooter detection system. Guardian instantly detects gunshots inside a facility, pinpoints the location and notifies authorities, cutting response time significantly.

Want to know more about making your facility safer and more secure? Contact us at (800) 567-1180 to start the conversation.