If you’re in a position of responsibility for or management of property protection systems and/or life safety systems, you face down a large number of varying hazards each and every day. On any given day, your risks include everything from human violence and theft, to natural disasters and structure fires. Prevention of and protection from these kinds of events probably occupy quite a bit of your time.
These threats are present in all facilities, businesses, and institutions; no matter the industry and no matter the environment, emergency situations and dangers must be prepared for, and ensuring that your facilities and organizations are fully equipped and capable of handling emergency events falls right onto your shoulders!
It’s a challenge to ensure that your facility has the right fire safety system in place and keep it fully functional, and it can also be demanding to maintain perimeter security, or administer the access control system, or manage and review the surveillance footage. But to do all these things at once, especially in the event of an emergency that affects multiple life safety systems within your facility, could really be difficult or even impossible.
But the safety and security of your organization depends on your ability to oversee all of these systems and effectively relay information immediately when a threat is posed. That weight on your shoulders may be more than a little anxiety-inducing, depending on the size and complexity of your organization and its facilities.
Technology, Automation, and Communication
Communication is one of the most important parts of handling an emergency within most facilities. If building occupants need to be evacuated, that should be communicated immediately. If occupants of only one building need to be evacuated, then your communication should also strive to inform or notify occupants of surrounding buildings to avoid a panic, which could cause additional injuries or damages. Meanwhile, whatever government protection agency is needed to handle the emergency should also be contacted immediately, and informed of the situation, so they can be in route to your location as quickly as possible with the appropriate equipment and manpower. Last but not least, it’s likely that others should be notified of the emergency event even if they are not physically at the facility at the time of the emergency, such as management, operators, administrators, and so on. To top it all off, this emergency communications structure becomes even more complex if your facility has multiple buildings, or if your organization has multiple facilities.
With the advanced technology available to us today, crucial information (including data and/or instructions) can be broadcast to the necessary occupants while the same or different information is simultaneously being distributed to other points of contact, regardless of their location anywhere in the world. No matter what individuals, groups, or organizations need to be reached in a specific emergency, modern technology can handle it all instantaneously!
What is an Integrated Life Safety System?
Your facility or organization likely has multiple life safety systems, and each one has a specific purpose. But if you were to integrate each of those systems, your anxiety about facility safety could be greatly reduced because of all the prevention, protection, and communications benefits you would gain.
You see, when maintenance, management, and control of multiple systems are brought together at a single point of administration, you’re able to activate the appropriate response and manage situations to return operations to normal. Additionally, your total awareness of your facility’s overall activity is heightened, greatly improving your capacity to pinpoint, diagnose, and analyze safety or security risks, sometimes before they become an active hazard.
Leveraging technology and intelligence to create a seamless integration between all of your life safety and security systems maximizes the performance of the system as a whole, making it more effective, more efficient, and therefore more cost effective; integrated safety and security systems provides sustainable long-term advantages (financial and otherwise) to any organization or facility.
How Do Integrated Life Safety Systems Work?
A fully-integrated life safety and security systems solution starts by selecting a platform that offers all of the features and functionalities that your facility needs and makes sense for the infrastructure of your organization. Choosing the right platform to manage all the data it will receive from each system will give you the ability to oversee and operate communications and response manually, or it will do some or all communications and response automatically, depending on how it is programmed to react to a given situation.
Since the platform is able to manage MANY systems of varying complexity seamlessly, you will want it to integrate with all of the tools, devices, and systems possible, including perimeter monitoring, intrusion alerts, access controls, video/audio surveillance, fire detection devices, fire alarms, fire protection/suppression devices, and emergency communications and notifications. Using your own customized emergency protocols, you can bring together many layers of automated communications, including things like fire alarms, verbal instruction/information via loudspeakers, outdoor/secondary speaker systems, text messages, emails, visual messaging devices, emergency call stations, panic buttons, silent alarms, and more.
In the event of an emergency or security threat, these communication solutions can give much-needed instructions to occupants regarding evacuation, relocation, or taking shelter. Automated emergency communications can be configured in any way you can imagine; they can deliver a generic message to affected areas, they can deliver specific messages for each individual area, and any, all, or some of the messages can be altered depending on the threat type, location, and the set of instructions that were initially programmed.
How Integrated Life Safety and Security Systems Can Benefit Your Facility or Organization
Safety and security integration and automation has a number of indirect benefits, but for the sake of tangibility, we’ll only list some of the direct benefits that can be realized:
More Data, Better Data, Accessible Data
Data holds many safety and security answers, and may even be a key to incident prevention in many ways. The more data your system provides you with, and the more accurate that data is, the more information you have at your disposal to possibly find, assess, and eliminate issues before they become a threat.
But what good is all the data in the world if accessing it is difficult, or if the interface for reviewing it isn’t user friendly? Ease of use is typically standard with integrated information management interfaces; many of them include touch-screens in conjunction with physical panel buttons, and many also include the functionality of built-in facility-wide messaging services, facility floor plans, real-time statuses for specific areas of the facility, and more.
Improved & Automated Protection
By integrating your security and safety systems, the functionality of all systems will be fully optimized and automated. Doors anywhere in the facility could be electronically activated to open and remain opened in the event of an evacuation, which is especially useful if the best evacuation route is through an access controlled area that needs to be wide open for the purpose of safety during an emergency.
A fully-integrated security system would be able to detect a perimeter breach, immediately notify law enforcement of the point of entry, sound audible alarms to hopefully scare away the intruder, turn on all emergency lighting making it harder for an intruder to hide, and isolate the relevant security footage from the correct cameras and email the video files to the head of security, the building manager, and the operations manager. If your facility has occupants 24/7, an interior voice message could simultaneously inform occupants about the possibility of an intruder, instruct them to take cover, and let them know the police are on their way. Also simultaneously, the system could lock down your facility’s most secure areas, such as server rooms or upper management offices, preventing access to anyone until after the threat has been resolved.
Reduced Operations Cost
Without a doubt, life safety and security systems integration has a positive long-term impact on operational costs in many ways. Of course, the automation of an integrated system reduces or eliminates the need for 24/7 on-site security personnel, which saves money as soon as the system is installed, but there are other savings as well. The ability for the safety and security systems to be accessed remotely means that multiple facilities could easily be managed by safety and/or security personnel in a central location, rather than requiring multiple iterations of this position for each site. Additionally, the remote access to system diagnostics, facility-wide two-way audio, and security cameras provide the opportunity for trained personnel to remotely assess happenings or activity at the facility to determine whether or not an emergency response is needed, which can reduce or eliminate false alarms, thereby reducing the loss of resources that result from a false alarm.
How Can I Get Integrated Life Safety and Security Solutions?
It’s easier than you might think! The important thing is that you contact someone who is experienced and NICET Certified, to ensure that the system being designed for your specifications meets all the required codes and standards, as well as to ensure that the safety and security plan designed for you is an accurate reflection of your needs and will work within your existing infrastructure.