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What alarm monitoring brings to business continuity

The tools can be used in residential, commercial and industrial applications, but consider these risk management factors first


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Recent events such as flooding in Calgary in July 2013, the ice storm and subsequent widespread power failures in Toronto this past December, and flooding in Manitoba this spring remind us of our vulnerability and that events such as this can quickly have a crippling effect on our personal lives and businesses if we are not prepared.  It is important to take steps now to mitigate the effect these things can have by protecting those elements we depend on so that we can be safe and survive.

When considering business continuity management and items requiring risk mitigation, an area not fully leveraged is the monitoring of operational infrastructure essential to your organization — those things needed for the delivery of products and services to customers. Monitored sensors and alarms can be used for:

  • Building and facility alarms:  intrusion, entry, open door, fire, smoke, flooding etc.
  • Power supplies:  commercial AC power, battery plants, rectifiers, back-up generators, UPS systems etc.
  • Network telecom and transport equipment:  switches, routers, SONET equipment, fibre optic equipment, microwave radios etc.
  • Environnemental conditions: temperature, humidity etc.

Wearing my “risk manager’s hat,” controls should be implemented to mitigate or eliminate risks.  This keeps auditors, insurers and stakeholders happy when it comes to knowing that you are practicing the due diligence necessary to protect your business.  To help define controls in this context, a formal definition of alarm monitoring would read something like this:

“Controls provide reasonable assurance that contingency plans exist to enable the business to respond to incidents and disruptions in order to continue operations at a level acceptable to critical business processes and infrastructure, including IT services.”

But before making the investment, organizations should undertake a thorough business risk assessment to learn about vulnerabilities that may exist that could impact the safety and security of staff as well as the infrastructure critical to the delivery of products and services to customers.  Your business depends on it and if you cannot deliver, your customers will find someone else who can!

A proper business risk assessment will identify a number of different threats that you may need to protect yourself from and business alarm monitoring technologies are a cost effective way to help lessen the impact when a negative event strikes.

Peace of mind is a natural outcome when your business has a monitored alarm system watching over it. The system will automatically detect abnormal conditions of commercial power, manufacturing/production equipment, information technology processing, fire, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors…24 hours a day, seven days a week.  You establish in advance the escalation protocols for various incidents which will include who is to be contacted – your own staff, skilled trades or law enforcement/emergency personnel — possibly saving valuable time before extensive damage disrupts your business.

Today’s alarm systems are designed and used in residential, commercial and industrial applications from access control (burglary and protection of assets), and notification to pending property damage, as well as health assurance for individuals with special needs.

Alarm monitoring uses a variety of system elements working individually or several devices functioning in concert for the sole purpose of early warning and advance notification of items important to you, your home or business.

These security elements can be hard wired or wireless and include:

  • Glass break sensors:  acoustic detectors  mounted in close proximity to glass panes that listen for sound frequencies associated with glass breaking
  • Water sensor for water heater or plumbing failures
  • Low temperature sensors monitoring heating failures by detecting temperature fluctuations
  • Heat detectors which can detect sudden increases in temperature
  • Sump pump sensors to help protect against the impact of a failure and excessive water levels
  • Panic buttons mounted almost anywhere allowing for prompt notification to the monitoring centre that emergency assistance is required, and
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

In addition to the system itself, which includes all of the above, they are often best used in conjunction with a monitoring service that is staffed to monitor your facility around the clock.

Some current technology features include remote security, which means you can arm, disarm or check the status of your security system from almost anywhere using most smartphones, computers or tablets. You can receive email alerts of events; video surveillance and capture can record and store video clips, take snapshots or have pictures emailed to you when there’s an event.

Not everyone’s security needs are the same.  Undertaking a security assessment, possibly with the assistance of a security consultant or service monitoring provider, is an important first step. A monitored system can also qualify for insurance premium discounts.

You cannot predict a threat or event that can impact your business negatively, but you can prepare for one.

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