June 28, 2019
By Bill Maginas
Safety and security are challenges for facilities of all sizes, and is a multilayered effort requiring careful assessment and understanding of the ‘what-if’ scenarios that could impact one’s business. In a new construction or remodel, it is imperative to have plans in place to ensure threats are detected early, and operations can spring back from the unexpected, while minimizing downtime and financial impact. While all businesses are held to safety standards through codes and requirements, it is often challenging to determine the opportunity to revamp and upgrade these technologies. A new construction or retrofit can present the opportunity to upgrade safety systems and technologies to help make a building smarter, safer, and more connected.
Safety planning is not a one-size-fits-all approach for every business, yet keeping an advanced, integrated safety and security strategy in mind when designing, constructing, and optimizing a building for use is critical. Organizations are seeing more value in bringing security and fire- and life-safety components together in a comprehensive, connected plan to best protect the infrastructure. Taking the time to evaluate the safety plan prior to taking on a new construction project or a retrofit can help ensure security and fire- and life-safety technologies are integrated to better protect the facility.
Defining needs for a customized approach
Determining exactly what the facility or business may require is the first step toward becoming prepared and, ultimately, building an all-encompassing plan for safety and security. It is essential to understand the specific facility’s points of vulnerability and how those should fit into a safety strategy. Some questions worth asking to help jumpstart this process include:
After considering these questions, one can develop a list covering the most likely threats—and the worst-case scenarios—for the specific infrastructure to determine the building systems and technologies that need to be updated, integrated, or replaced. This prioritized approach can also help with selecting the right partner, services, solutions, or products to match the facility’s specific safety needs.
At the core, safety solutions and technologies should perform seamlessly and without interruption to provide the groundwork for a safe, continuous, and successful operation. To support this, managed security services could be a key component to consider when designing a safety strategy. From real-time alerts to live video look-ins, remote security management can deliver information no matter where one is and assist facility managers in responding to unexpected events or disable alarms even when offsite. Outsourcing access control or video surveillance operations can also help free up resources to focus on other business priorities, but can still provide the peace of mind that the facility’s security needs are met.
In addition to a strong security plan tailored to the business’s unique needs, fire- and life-safety technologies must be top of mind for security professionals and building managers. An integrated fire- and life-safety plan can help organizations of all kinds stay compliant with codes such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101, Life Safety Code, and NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, while helping to provide a safe environment for building occupants. Connecting smoke detection, air sampling, suppression, and alarms allows facility managers to monitor and control the technologies from a single platform.
Additionally, it is important to keep in mind the specific needs of a facility when implementing a connected fire- and life-safety plan. For example, a government building may house a data centre requiring another layer of protection. In this instance, beyond keeping people safe in the event of a fire, detection solutions need to be able to handle information technology (IT)-specific needs, like safeguarding servers, to ensure minimal disruption if equipment is overheated or damaged.
Safety advantages of integrated security technologies
During an emergency event, disjointed technologies and solutions can be inefficient. Disparate technologies and systems typically do not communicate with each other to identify potential problems, and attempts to cobble them together can prove more complicated and error-prone than a truly integrated approach. These gaps in communication can expose a facility to vulnerabilities in the most critical moments where timing is everything to ensure safety. This is why a new construction project or retrofit initiative is an ideal time to consider the options and implement a fully integrated security strategy that can then be layered in with other building systems and fire- and life-safety technologies. By sharing information between technologies, an integrated strategy can help to improve response time in the event of an emergency and reduce false alarms with the ability to disrupt operations.
Apart from improving the overall safety of the organization, another key benefit of an integrated approach to security is centralized management of the facility’s data, which can improve efficiencies and convenience. The converging systems and technologies on a unified building automation system can provide a sole source of truth for operational data across the facility and allow building managers to analyze it more holistically. Otherwise, one would likely need to deal with disjointed fragments housing their own data separately and require facility managers to enter different programs to compile the information that one typically wants to find quickly.
To determine how to best integrate across all building systems, it is recommended to begin with existing security systems. For instance, a facility’s security capabilities may already limit the number of entry points into the building or a specified area. Now, one can consider integrating existing access control technology with video surveillance to strengthen those security efforts. For instance, pairing live video surveillance with access control can quickly deny entry throughout the facility and initiate a lockdown mode if there are unauthorized personnel in the building. Plus, by logging 24/7 video footage, one can gain an instant record of all activity in the event of unexpected intrusion which can allow managers to quickly share information with emergency personnel if needed. Further, this level of integration can grant owners and managers the ability to analyze daily happenings to help streamline a facility’s overall safety planning. Integrated, multifaceted security solutions that communicate real-time information when it matters the most will help one to react quickly and flexibly to protect people and assets, while minimizing disruption whenever possible.
Layer on connected fire and life safety systems
After protecting the facility against unexpected security threats, the next step is to connect fire- and life-safety technologies to a strong security foundation to bring an operationally smarter, safer facility within reach.
Tying security and fire and life safety together is another layer toward keeping building occupants and assets safer and for running the facility more smoothly. For example, alarms and mass communication are a fundamentally important part of every facility and can be automatically trigged as soon as an emergency or intruder is detected. With an additional layer of security, one can target specific areas of the building with customized messages and communicate the safest next step for occupants. Meanwhile, an access control solution can initiate a lockdown or restrict access to the area of the facility under threat. From monitoring and detection to notification and restricted access, security and fire and life safety systems can work together to help minimize harm in an emergency situation and get building occupants to safety as quickly as possible.
Below are a few examples of how these once separate systems can work in tandem to improve the entire safety strategy for your building.
HVAC and fire systems
Connecting HVAC and fire systems to simultaneously work to detect potential smoke can provide an added layer of fire protection and a dual-authentication of smoke presence in a certain area. Additionally, the building can scale up or down on heat detection sensitivity, based on sensor data on which areas of the building are most populated, or may have certain machines running at high volumes at that moment.
Connected lighting can improve surveillance and security and, in the event of an evacuation, it can even help to highlight the path to safer spaces or exits from the structure.
Bringing it all together
Combining the integrated safety technologies to an all-encompassing building strategy is a chance to take operations to a more holistic level that can help improve building outcomes, and match up with the environmental and technological goals of the facility itself. From HVAC and security to lighting and building controls, connected building technologies ‘speaking’ to each other are a chance to draw more value from the entirety of the facility, beyond what any of those single systems can offer on their own. With these centrally managed building systems, one can achieve a connected and communicative building ramping up operational efficiencies, while enhancing safety and security efforts.
Connected building systems can not only improve safety, but also help achieve a project’s sustainability goals. For instance, a connected, real-time video surveillance can determine which areas of the facility are most populated. Then, it can be programmed to ‘tell’ the HVAC and lighting controls to adjust down on power use, saving energy until the area is more populated and requires more comfortable temperature and light settings. All of this can be done while still ensuring cooling and lighting requirements are met for the building’s specific needs.
As challenging as it is to juggle the many facets of today’s connected building operations, taking advantage of a construction or remodel project to implement safety strategies supporting security and fire and life safety efforts are imperative to becoming and staying future-ready. Security and safety technology innovations will shift and improve in the coming years, and building operators who try and stay ahead of this curve will continue to see value in truly integrated, comprehensive, multilayered safety solutions connecting several building systems. In the 24-7 effort to achieve resiliency and protect building occupants, a connected building is truly a safer one.
Bill Maginas is the president of Johnson Controls Canadian business where he is responsible for the company’s long-term growth strategy. In this position, Maginas is focused on a breadth of technologies in the security, fire, and life safety, and HVAC industries. Prior to joining Johnson Controls, Maginas spent 17 years at Honeywell in a variety of roles, including leading the company’s building solution business in Canada and managing the high-growth regions, such as Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.
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