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Posts Tagged ‘Office Security’

Could the SAFETY Act shield your organization from liability?

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.

Floods = fires? Sounds crazy, but it’s true

Spring and summer often mean severe weather in the Ohio Valley. In addition to the typical storms caused by weather fronts rolling in from the west, the remnants of tropical storms and hurricanes occasionally sweep up from the south. Both can bring deluges and flash flooding.

 

Flooding brings a particular set of safety risks. The National Fire Prevention Association offers these six tips for managing electrical risks brought on by storms:

• Keep in touch with local authorities, and be prepared to turn off utilities and propane tanks as instructed.
• Don’t ever drive into flooded areas, even if water is only a few inches deep. The current could be much stronger than you realize, and the water can conceal or distort hazards like holes and washed out roadways.
• Every downed wire is a live wire, whether you see sparks or not. Call the utility company immediately if you spot any downed wires in your area, and do not approach. Downed wires are a risk not only in flash flooding situations, but in storms with high winds.
• If you smell gas in your area, do not turn on any lights or equipment. Even the smallest spark could trigger an explosion.
• If your facility is flooded, don’t turn power back on until you it has been inspected – including equipment – and either been remediated or declared safe to operate.
• If you choose to use gas generators to power equipment, be sure to operate it safely. Carbon monoxide poisoning due to improper ventilation is a real risk. Operate generators outdoors only, well away from doors, windows and other openings and well away from air intake for HVAC systems.

Review these safety tips with your team, and be sure to add them to your emergency plans and procedures with other safety policies. All emergency plans should be reviewed annually and updated as necessary.

Fire safety systems should be reviewed and updated regularly, too. An updated, integrated system runs more efficiently and offers better protection. Interested in learning more about our fire systems? Call (800) 567-1180 for a consultation.

Are veterans at risk of becoming mass shooters?

The latest mass shooting – this one at a veterans’ home in California – touches on the usual concerns around workplace violence and violence in medical facilities.

This incident, however, raises a new concern: are veterans a risk for committing violence?

The shooter in the incident in Yountville, California was a veteran who had been part of the home’s program for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While his motives are currently unknown, he had recently been dismissed from the program. He returned to the facility armed, and took the lives of three staff members before taking his own.

While people with ties to the military have been involved in recent high-profile shootings, including the perpetrator in the mass shooting in the Ft. Lauderdale airport last January, and the shooter in the Sutherland Springs church shooting last September, statistics do not show an increased risk for veterans.
According to this report in the San Diego Union Tribune, several studies and data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics show no evidence that military veterans are more prone to lethal violence than others.

Even so, in the search for answers in the wake of traumatic events like mass shootings, some might seize on link together common factors such as military service to construct a narrative. In the case of veterans with PTSD, data doesn’t support the narrative that they are more likely to act out violently toward others.

How can facilities managers protect themselves, their employees and the people they serve? Some tips:

• Take any and all threats seriously. Communicate threats from former staff members, customers, clients and any others to the proper authorities.

• Develop policies and procedures that guide staff members on the steps to take in the event of an active shooter. Drill regularly.

• Design facilities with security in mind. Whether designing for initial construction or retrofitting an existing facility, ECT Services can help create spaces that are safer, more energy efficient and seamlessly connected.

Contact us at (800) 567-1180 today for a consultation.

Will processor chip vulnerabilities weaken your integrated building systems?

Shortly after the New Year, news broke world wide of potential weaknesses in the hardware that drives nearly every device on the planet from computers to smart phones. “Update everything now” dominated the news cycles for several days.

Now that the conversation has calmed a bit, facilities managers may be wondering, “What exactly was that all about, and how might it impact my integrated systems?” Here’s a high level explanation:

Last summer, researchers with Google and several universities discovered a new way hackers might be able to work their way around modern processors to gain access passwords and other sensitive information. One type of exploit was patchable, and patches were quickly developed and deployed.

The other approach is not so easily patchable, and will require a redesign of processors themselves. That will require years of research and work.
So, where does that leave the rest of the world? The situation may not be quite as dire or threatening as it seems. Keep in mind, these exploits were discovered by researchers. They are extremely novel approaches and will require a high level of expertise to develop attacks. To date, there’s no evidence that any attacks have been made using these weaknesses. Make no mistake, however, hackers are likely hard at work trying to figure out how to exploit these vulnerabilities, but right now security experts remain one step ahead with patches and other fixes.

Patches have already been pushed out, and longer term fixes will likely be ready by mid-year.

So what should you do in the meantime? The best thing to do is to make sure to implement all system updates in a timely fashion.

For our part, we have been vigorously researching the problem to determine if our customers’ integrated building systems will be impacted. Our goal is to bring you solid information and solutions that securely function and provide value.  We currently have no indication that these exploits have been used to obtain customer data, and we will continue to closely follow this situation.

ECT Services is dedicated to the safety and security of our customers.   As more information becomes available, we will continue to provide updates.   In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like further information, please contact us at (800) 567-1180. Thank you.

Can flu pose a security risk to your facility?

Flu activity is now widespread across much of the country, and hitting hard in the Ohio Valley. The strain going around this year seems to be particularly vicious and not included in the flu shot.

If it hasn’t already made its way through your staff, it probably will soon. Team members will be out sick or caring for sick family members. While having a team member out can be a challenge in terms of workload and project deadlines for the rest of the team, can it also pose a security risk?

Without proper planning and redundancies, yes. Being short staffed can lead to weaknesses in processes as overburdened staff members scramble to fill in gaps, especially if they are unfamiliar with systems or don’t have access to systems.

Here are some ideas for reducing the risk:

– Prevent the spread of the flu. The strongest weapon to combat the flu is simple hygiene. Make sure bathrooms are well stocked with handwashing supplies and cleaned and disinfected regularly. Post reminders in bathrooms and breakrooms about handwashing. Cleaning crews should also regularly wipe down light switch plates, door handles, counter tops, phones and any other surfaces that are touched frequently.

– Give clear guidance that those who are experiencing symptoms – fever, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea – should stay home. Support that by giving adequate sick days or allowing work to be made up later. Keeping sick workers out of the office is key to keeping the rest of the staff well.

– Cross train and document key roles. Make sure roles and basic duties are documented, and buddy up team members to cross train one another. Use regular staff meetings to give updates on key projects and issues so everyone has some familiarity with what other team members are doing, and can step in at a moment’s notice. Make it a practice to run emergency drills and review policies and procedures regularly, so staff members are always prepared.

– Where possible, allow work from home. If flu starts making its way through your staff, it might be best to allow team members to work from home to reduce their chances of being exposed. Consider flexible work policies when possible.

 

Security starts in the construction phase.

Strong security includes good integrated systems – video, indoor gunshot detection, alerts – backed up by well-thought out policies.

Those are great and crucial elements, but have you considered your physical space?

Good security planning starts in the construction of design phase. Some elements to consider:

Getting in, getting out. Are primary entrances and exits for each building located where employees have easy access to secure from the inside? In an emergency, employees should be able to quickly access doors and secure them from the inside.

What about secondary entrances and exits? Employees should also have access to secondary exits that lead into more secure interior spaces in the event of an emergency.

Safe rooms. Does your facility have one secure room large enough to accommodate several staff and guests in an emergency? Walls should be reinforced so bullets can’t pass through. Door frames and doors should be strong enough to take a battering and not cave in or break open.

Reliable communications. Safe rooms and other key areas should be equipped with landline phones that can be used for emergency calls. While mobile phones are ubiquitous, they might not be able to get a strong enough signal in some places to reach out in the event of an emergency.

Keeping an eye on things. Video camera placement is key. For all facilities, cameras should be trained on entrances and exits, high traffic areas and parking areas. For retail facilities, cameras might be positioned to keep an eye on merchandise and cash registers. Manufacturers and warehouses might need to keep an eye on loading docks. All camera placement should be well-thought out and well-documented in facility schematics.

Make space for the home team, and a traveling team, too. If on-site monitoring and security is in your plans, make sure the team is placed appropriately within the space. But don’t forget to include provisions for off-site, remote monitoring, too.

Need help designing and documenting your new build’s security features? We can help. Call us at (800) 567-1180 to discuss your goals.

Active shooters are a liability risk

If an active shooter targets your facility, will your insurance policy protect you against claims from victims?

It’s hard to tell.

Current insurance policies aren’t clear, and neither is case law. That leaves open the possibility that if an active shooter causes harm in your facility, you could be open to a lawsuit from victims, and your insurance provider might push back against covering you.
As a result, some carriers are now offering stand along active shooter policies, according to a post on InsuranceJournal.com.

One program cited in the article includes liability coverage for “lawsuits arising from harm caused by attacks using deadly weapons.” The program also features risk assessment and crisis management services, as well as event responders and post-event counseling services.
Insurers originally began by offering the coverage to educational institutions, but now the coverage is offered to all types, including hospitals, sporting venues, retailers, religious organizations and more.

Business and organizations should also consider including fully integrated shooter detection systems alongside other safety and comfort systems like fire detection and suppression systems and HVAC systems.

Shooter Detection System’s Guardian uses acoustic and infrared sensors to instantly identify gunshots inside a facility. The precise location of the gunshots is noted, and authorities are alerted immediately. Warnings are also instantly sent out to people in the facility and vicinity advising them to evacuate or take cover. Guardian gunshot detection can also be integrated with a number of other systems, including text alerts, incident management dashboards and building systems like door locks and video surveillance.

The instantaneous response significantly cuts response time and reduces the opportunity for human error.

Interested in learning more about the Guardian active shooter detection system? Register now for one of our Live Fire events to see a live demonstration, or call us at (800) 567-1180.

How are you preparing for the holiday season?

happy-holidays
If you are like most, the holidays mean special decorations and special gatherings. Here are a few tips that will help you keep celebrations the fun, safe and energy efficient:

1. Check lights for safety, making sure cords are free of frays. If you haven’t already, replace traditional strands with energy-efficient LED lights. Put lights on a timer or light sensor so you don’t have to remember to turn them on an off.

2. If you are decorating with live trees or trimmings, be sure to water daily and check for dryness. Keep candles at a safe distance, and have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case.

3. Double check that decorations aren’t interfering with security camera placement. Be sure decorations aren’t obstructing the view, or changing building usage patterns in a way that makes current placement ineffective, and make adjustments as necessary.

4. Will traffic in and out of your building will increase during the holidays, or will visitors be using different entrances or entering during different times of the day? Check those areas for trip and fall hazards, inadequate lighting or security issues.

5. Review emergency plans. Again, note and changes in building usage and adjust accordingly.

6. When planning holiday parties where alcohol will be served, be sure to provide taxi service so guests can be transported home safely.

3 ideas for getting on the road to recovery following a disaster

A week ago, the airwaves were filled with dire predictions of widespread destruction, as Hurricane Matthew churned across the Atlantic and through the Caribbean. Matthew struck Haiti with incredible intensity, then moved up the coast, dumping water up the East Coast as far north as Virginia.9845935_s

This week, people across the region are making their way back home and beginning the long process of recovery.

But for many business owners, there will be no recovery. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as many as 40 percent of small businesses never reopen following a disaster.

How can you beat the odds and keep your doors open if disaster strikes? Here are starting points:

Have a strong disaster recovery plan in place. At its most basic, a disaster recovery plan leads you to consider the types of man-made and natural disasters that might present a risk in your community, and identify ways you can remediate that risk. The Small Business Administration has a number of helpful planning tools available for businesses and organizations of every size here.

Partner with your insurance carrier before, during and after a disaster.  Regularly review your coverage with your insurance agent. Your insurance carrier also likely has a number of risk mitigation and planning tools available, too, that will help you in creating a disaster recovery plan. If your business is impacted by a disaster, call your insurance company right away for guidance.

Keep safety in mind when cleaning up. Cleaning up following a disaster presents its own unique set of challenges.   From downed power lines to displaced wildlife to mold, post-disaster cleanup must be handled with care. Get some tips for cleaning up here.

No surprises when it comes to active shooter drills

It’s not unusual for schools, businesses and other institutions to hold surprise emergency drills. One minute you’re sitting at your desk and the next you are trying to remember if that shrill alarm means take shelter or exit the building. Surprise drills are valuable in that they replicate a real-life emergency and help identify gaps in planning and training.

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When it comes to active shooter or armed assailant drills, however, organizers might just need to rethink the necessity of using the power of surprise to prepare.

A recent planned active shooter drill at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland caused alarm that resulted in a lockdown of the base when a report of gunmen – who were part of the drill – was called in to authorities. The person who made the call may not have been aware of the preplanned drill, and out of an abundance of caution authorities shut down the base until they could be certain that the gunmen spotted by the caller were indeed part of the exercise.

In another recent active shooter drill incident, a college student was accidentally shot by a pellet gun.

Plans for active shooter or armed assailant drills should always include full, clear communication with local authorities and all those who may become involved. Participants in drills should have the option of opting out at any time during the exercise if it becomes too physically or psychologically intense.

Check out more tips for planning a safe and effective active shooter drill.