July 31st, 2019

Serious budget pressures are now threatening school safety.

In recent weeks, officials with the city of Louisville have announced that they may have to reduce the number of officers available to offer security services to schools, including school resource officers and crossing guards. The announcements have raised alarms among staff, students and parents who are concerned that the reductions and reallocations will place students at risk.

While short-term measures aimed at covering gaps have been put in place, long-term budget pressures remain. That means schools may need to get more creative when it comes to meeting safety and security needs.

The answer to some needs may be in leveraging technology, and at least one company is offering to help schools apply for grants to meet needs. Avigilon, a Motorola company, is offering grant research, grant alert notices and expert grant application reviews to schools applying for grants to enhance video security.

How can video enhance safety and security? Here are a few ideas:

Extend the reach of staff and school safety officers. Video enables staff and school safety officers to keep their eyes on all areas of school facilities and grounds and get help where it is needed most quickly and accurately. Monitors can quickly assess issues and offer the appropriate interventions if necessary.

Integrate with other systems. Video can be integrated with other systems for a more seamless, comprehensive approach. Integrations can include access control, public address systems/two-way communication, gunshot detection, fire detection and more.

Study traffic patterns and identify opportunities for improvement. Video can offer a birds-eye view – literally – of high-congestion indoor and outdoor areas that when coupled with artificial intelligence and other tools can help administrators gain insights into process and facility improvements.

Interested in learning more about how you might be able to leverage technology to enhance school safety and security? ECT Services has deep expertise and an innovative approach. Call us at 502-567-1180 for a free onsite consultation.

July 23rd, 2019

Cincinnati. Louisville. Saint Louis.

What do all of these cities have in common?

They all grew on the banks of mighty rivers. These cities are among the oldest in the United States, and sprang up because rivers are important highways for transporting goods and people.

A portion of The Ohio River

Along these cities, you’ll find massive, historic old warehouses. While some of these buildings are still being used the way the were originally intended, more still are finding new life as office, retail and living spaces. The buildings are being renovated and reimagined in exciting new ways.

For almost all, that means adding in modern requirements while maintaining the original character. In the Ohio Valley, heat and humidity are a significant issue much of the year, and good cooling options are a must.

Contractors are increasingly turning to variable refrigerant (VR) systems as a solution when retrofitting old buildings. Why? These systems don’t require bulky ductwork, saving valuable space in design and construction. Instead of ductwork that moves cooled air, VR systems rely on smaller pipes that move coolant through buildings.

The challenge in multi-tenant arrangements is in determining usage by each tenant. When Hitachi encountered this problem, they turned to ECT Services account manager Mike Fisher for an innovative solution. Within weeks, Mike had created VR Tenant, a solution for monitoring energy usage on a unit by unit basis.

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.

If you are renovating a historic building and are considering VRF as a solution, call (800) 567-1180 today for a consultation.

July 17th, 2019

Fifty years ago this month, Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Putting a man on the moon stands out as one of the most audacious acts of achievement ever attempted by humans. The moon landing was the pinnacle of a period of amazing innovation. America’s space program inspired generations to dream big, take risks and innovate new ways to solve problems.

But while the moon landing was a fantastic success, it was built on previous failures and challenges. Innovation happens when there’s a problem to be solved.

The successful mission of Apollo 11 was preceded by a nearly endless string of challenges, ranging from engineering problems to be solved to budget pressures to competition from the Soviet Union. The greatest failure of all was the loss of the entire Apollo 1 crew in a cabin fire during testing for that mission.

After that disastrous mission, the American space program could have folded. Leaders might have retreated, concluding that the goal was out of reach or too risky. But they instead persevered, deciding that “failure is not an option.”

Innovation is one of our greatest strengths at ECT Services. Here’s how we approach innovation:

  1. Keep the customer first. Customers trust us to help them solve problems because we’ve invested in building genuine relationships with them.

  2. Know the tools you have at your disposal. In an iconic scene from the movie Apollo 13, the mission control team on the ground scrambles to figure out a way to fix the air ventilation system on the space capsule when the ship becomes disabled tens of thousands of miles into space. One of the engineers dumps a seemingly random pile of objects onto a table before his team. The objects represent all the resources astronauts have aboard their disabled ship. The engineer sets forth the challenge: “We have to find a way to make this fit into the hole for this, using nothing but that.”

    The engineers set to work, and come up with an epic kludge that includes the cover off the flight manual. The contraption works, and the astronauts are saved.

    Innovation begins with the resources at hand. Our VR Tenant solution is a great example of innovation that started with a deep understanding of the equipment at hand and how it works.

  3. Stay focused on the goal. President John F. Kennedy set forth a clear, compelling goal: Get a man to the moon, and bring him back safely. The goals for our customers are different – achieve greater efficiency, keep this building secure – but they are just as important to our customers, and to us. It may not be landing on the moon, but it matters greatly to a child waiting at home that their parent returns safely from work each day. It matters greatly that we leave behind a cleaner planet because we helped maximize a facility’s energy efficiency. It matters greatly that works of art are preserved for posterity because we created a system that carefully controls their climate.

Need a strong partner to help you overcome a challenge and reach a goal? We can help. Call (800) 567-1180 for a consultation today.

July 15th, 2019

In most offices – ours included – the coffee maker is standard operating equipment, and the biggest hazard it poses is running empty before the caffeine-dependent among us are fully awake.

But this recent post caught our attention and raised our awareness about the threat posed by IoT (internet of things) connected devices. The pros at Professional Security Magazine put their skills to work hacking a “smart” coffee machine.

A smart coffee machine may sound fairly innocuous, but it’s not. The risks of a compromised device stretch far beyond a subpar cup of morning joe. Compromised connected devices can open up networks and all devices associated with a network to all manner of risk.

In 2016, hackers were able to launch a DDoS attack that took down sites like Twitter, Spotify, Reddit and more by infiltrating and compromising networks through connected devices like DVRs, baby monitors and IP cameras.

Let’s go back to that coffee pot.

The white hat hackers at Professional Security Magazine were able to manipulate the coffee machine itself to do some fairly annoying and perhaps even dangerous things.

“We infiltrated the coffee maker via Wi-Fi, then set up malicious software updates that made the coffee maker do unexpected and potentially dangerous things. We made the burner overheat, potentially starting a fire. We made scalding water pour onto the burner. We even made the coffee maker send ransomware messages demanding payment,” they said in the post.

But the hacking had more serious and sinister implications. The compromised coffee machine was now a gateway to the network. Hackers would be able to see emails and payment information on purchases made online. They would be able get into security systems, see video cameras, and muck around in other sensitive places.

The proliferation and utility of IoT devices means they are here to stay. At ECT Services, we certainly believe in the power and potential of integrated systems.

So what can you do to safeguard your home and business? Here are a few tips:

Keep connections minimal. Only network and connect to the internet when necessary, and in those circumstances work to minimize exposure and secure connections. If a device needs internet access, understand how it needs to be accessed and take steps to protect remote access channels. One example would be to require use of VPN type services.

Don’t reuse passwords.  Especially on your network or wireless router. Remove or disable default accounts if possible and always change default account passwords using strong password standards. Use two factor authentication if a product or service allows.

Know what’s connected. Understand all the devices connected to your network, and why they must be connected. Keep an inventory and audit regularly.

At ECT Services, we approached smart devices very carefully and custom tailor solutions to meet your security needs. Contact us today at (800) 567-1180 for a consultation about your building security and integration.

July 2nd, 2019

This week, a new law takes effect that will allow eligible Kentuckians to carry a concealed firearm without a permit.

Even under the new law, however, concealed weapons are still not allowed in police stations, law enforcement offices, jails and courthouses; federal offices; or private businesses that have posted signs banning guns.

How might this effect your facility? If your facility is open to the public, it may mean that customers, vendors, and other members of the public are carrying concealed weapons in your facility. It may also mean that employees are carrying concealed weapons, too.

You may choose to allow concealed carrying of weapons in your facility, or you may choose to ban them.

What should you consider when making that decision?

Check the legal requirements in your state and municipality. Your attorney should be able to help you identify any applicable law. If you are seeking to restrict the carrying of weapons in your facility, most states require signage and other clear communication, such as mention in an employee handbook. Some states also specify that employees are allowed to carry weapons in their personal vehicles under certain restrictions.

If employees have shared opinions with you about why they do or do not want weapons banned in your facilities, seek to understand their point of view. Consider your company culture carefully, and whether or not such actions would disrupt your staff. Gun ownership, possession and restrictions are hot button issues in the United States, and many people have strong opinions on either side of the issue. Most people simply want a respectful hearing of their concerns.

Check in with your insurance company about any decisions that might impact coverage. Do your current practices expose you to risk? How would changes to your current practices impact your risk exposure?

Review all policies and procedures to make sure they align. If you decide to change your practices related to concealed weapons in your facility, make sure those changes are clearly and adequately communicated in your signage, employee handbook and other applicable documentation.

June 19th, 2019

Kentucky has taken significant steps towards implementing some of the changes mandated in the school safety legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year.

This week, Ben Wilcox was named Kentucky school security marshal, a role created by the School Safety and Resiliency Act, which passed in March 2019. The legislation was crafted in the wake of a deadly school shooting in Marshall County in January 2018. Wilcox, who will be headquartered at Eastern Kentucky University’s Department of Criminal Justice Training Center, will oversee the work of two compliance supervisors, 12 compliance officers and one program coordinator. The team will offer guidance and accountability to school districts across the state as they seek to comply with the law’s other mandates.

In addition to creating Wilcox’s and other roles, the act also urges schools to hire resource officers and work with local law enforcement agencies to develop safety policies and track violent incidents.

Districts are also encouraged to make upgrades to facilities to make them more secure. All schools must restrict access before July 1, 2022, and buildings and renovations/expansions must comply with new safety guidelines.

How can ECT Services help schools achieve compliance and improve safety and security for students, faculty, staff and families? Here are a few ways we are able to support these efforts:

Access control. ECT Services partners with HID, the worldwide leader in access control. HID solutions are robust and feature strong integration capabilities.

Automatic shot detection. 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, limiting a shooter’s movement and/or keeping potential targets out of harm’s way. Guardian has been successfully integrated into security solutions in several school districts around the country.

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

May 28th, 2019

Were it not for Keanon Lowe, we might have been reading very different headlines last week.

Lowe, a former wide receiver for the University of Oregon, tackled and disarmed a student who entered a classroom at Parkrose High School in Portland, Oregon, wielding a shotgun. Lowe is a football and track and field coach for the school.

“When I signed up to be a Security Guard, Football and Track & Field Coach for Parkrose High School, I did so to guide and coach young people whose shoes I had once been in. I had no idea, that I would one day have to put my life on the line like I did yesterday for my students,” said in a tweet following the incident.

But what was once unimaginable – staff, students and teachers being forced to confront gunmen in schools – is now depressingly commonplace. In recent weeks, students have been shot and killed confronting gunmen on two different campuses.

Kendrick Castillo, and 18-year-old just days from graduation, lunged at shooters on the campus of STEM School Highlands Ranch in suburban Denver, Colorado on May 7. His quick action may have saved the lives of others, but it cost him his own.

A 21-year-old man named Riley Howell was forced to make the same split-second decision when a gunman opened fire at UNC Charlotte on April 30. Howell was also killed, but is credited with saving others by taking down the gunman.

These recent incidents have ignited complicated conversations around current active shooter response protocol – run, hide, fight – and about the demands placed on students, teachers and staff to make life and death decisions.

While we grapple with these questions, it’s important to investigate ways to make campuses as safer.   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, limiting a shooter’s movement and/or keeping potential targets out of harm’s way.

Given the commonplace nature of gun violence in our country, I believe we are rapidly moving to  place where gunshot detection systems should be considered as standard safety equipment in a facility, much like fire detection and suppression systems.

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

April 26th, 2019

Are you getting the most out of your building systems?

If you are not integrating your systems using a JACE controller, or if your JACE controller is not properly configured to take maximize efficiency, you might be missing out on some powerful opportunities to save resources.

A JACE is a control box that pulls together all of your facility’s systems – HVAC, security, electrical and more – and gets them to communicate with each other. Imagine it as a conference room with all the key stakeholders at the table. The JACE gives these key “stakeholders” a place to get together and an agenda to follow.

Keeping the conference room image in mind, here’s what ECT Services can do:

Set up your “conference room.” If you don’t have a JACE controller set up, we can do that for you. That doesn’t mean installing a new HVAC or other building system; a JACE controller works with your existing systems. If you already have a JACE set up, we can work with that, too.

Get all the “key stakeholders” to the table. ECT Services can bring all of your building systems into the JACE controller and get them connected. Getting the systems to the table and getting them to talk to one another is key – most systems are programmable and can be automated or controlled remotely, but the real power comes from getting systems to talk to one another. Just as with human interaction, communication is key. We can help you review all of the tools you use to run your business and determine which systems must talk to one another to accomplish your goals.

We help you “set the agenda” get all the key stakeholders engaged to accomplish it. Once systems are all in one place and have a way to talk to one another, we tune them for maximum efficiency to your specifications. We help you establish key performance indicators that will help you determine whether or not building systems are meeting your goals.

Need help getting all your systems fully integrated? Call us for a consultation today at (800) 567-1180.

April 16th, 2019

Security goes far beyond regulating who can enter and exit your facility.

As the world grow increasingly complex and more and more of our interactions take place online, controlling access to cyberspace has become at least as important as controlling physical space. Consumers are more aware than ever of privacy concerns, and regulators are enacting rules aimed at protecting their digital lives.

Organizations, particularly those in heavily regulated industries like finance and healthcare, have struggled to keep up. In most cases, they have cobbled together a patchwork of access systems that determine who can go where in both physical facilities and online networks. Those systems are often not integrated, which makes maintenance far from seamless.

HID is hoping its new cloud-based authentication service will help organizations take a big step forward in building and maintaining fully integrated, seamless identity and access management systems.

HID Authentication Service offers multi-factor authentication for users across the entire organization, from users who require only minimal access to those who must have access to the most sensitive areas and records. HID Authentication Services integrates with existing platforms seamlessly using APIs. Reports are centrally gathered, making auditing for compliance issues much simpler.

“HID Global continues its move toward cloud solutions with the addition of new IAM services, expanding the offering with a unifying technology platform for our millions of users,” Brad arvis, vice president and managing director of Identity & Access Management Solutions (IAMS) with HID Global, said in a company press release.  “HID is among the only IAM solution providers that can offer authentication for high security use cases all the way down to basic enterprise multifactor authentication. With this breadth of solutions, we believe that organizations in regulated markets, in particular, will gain the most significant benefits from the HID Authentication Service.”

Interested in reviewing your access and authentication requirements? Call ECT Services for a consultation.

March 26th, 2019

An active shooter drill for staff members at an elementary school in Indiana drew fire recently when it was revealed that teachers were shot with Airsoft guns as part of the training.

Members of local law enforcement who were conducting the training shot four teachers “execution style” in the course of the training. The shots raised welts and drew blood on some of the teachers.

The Indiana State Teachers’ Union decried the training tactics and called for changes, but the White County Sheriff’s Office defended the approach.

“The training was meant to be realistic — to show what happens if you don’t act,” Sheriff Bill Brooks said following the training.

But is there actually a knowledge gap for teachers? Do they not know what may happen if they fail to act in a real, live active shooter event? That’s doubtful, given ample evidence. Nearly every significant active mass shooting event at a school has included teachers and staff members rushing to protect children. Teachers fully understand the need to act, and act quickly.

Inflicting unnecessary trauma on teachers, staff and children during training events may actually be a greater risk to safety in the long term, and the learning environment in the short term.

A recent story that appeared on MarketWatch claims that no studies exist that demonstrate that more realistic active shooter training is more effective.

A segment produced on an episode of This American Life last year suggested that realistic active shooter drills may actually negatively impact preparation. Participants in drills were so traumatized that they forgot critical response steps, such as calling police.

Drills and actual active shooter events both reveal the same thing: trauma negatively impacts humans’ ability to consistently respond in a way that is both timely and effective. While drills and training are still important, they are not likely to overcome that.

Instead of putting all of the onus to respond on teachers, staff and students, a better approach may be to integrate systems that automatically detect and respond to gun shots, much like fire detection systems automatically detect and respond to the threat of fire.  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, limiting a shooter’s movement and/or keeping potential targets out of harm’s way.

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