NEW YORK — As Hurricane Sandy wrought massive storm surges and lethal winds along the northeast on Oct. 29, members of the region’s electronic security community were among those facing the brunt of the super storm’s wrath.
Installing security contractors struggled to remain operational in the face of epic flooding, extended blackouts, a bombardment of false alarm signals, as well as fuel shortages and long lines at gas stations that prevented service vehicles from being deployed. A nor’easter that dumped up to 10 inches of snow following Sandy’s onslaught only added further strain. In the initial aftermath, many dealers’ businesses were all but paralyzed for a week for more.
“It was a crazy seven days to say the least,” says Rich Trevelise, president of Reliable Safety Systems in Lakewood, N.J.
The hurricane’s impact rippled throughout the security industry. Organizers of ISC East were forced to postpone the event after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency. However, organizers remained resolute in hosting the show and worked feverishly to reschedule it in late November at the Javits Center in New York City.
The industry’s benevolence was also on display as recovery efforts quickly got underway. Honeywell, which manufactures first-responder protective gear, donated turnouts, footwear, gloves, hoods and helmets totaling $600,000. “Honeywell employees work and live in these communities, these are our own hometowns and we feel a sense of responsibility to support the first responders there,” says Honeywell Chairman and CEO Dave Cote.
With corporate facilities located in the Tri-State area, Honeywell also tapped into its humanitarian relief fund (HHRF) to provide cash assistance for food, clothing and shelter for its own workers who were temporarily displaced.
Among other security firms to step up in support of its community was SecureWatch 24 (SW24). Its new Fusion Centre in Moonachie, N.J. — a 25,000-square-foot state-of-the-art central station — was one the few buildings not damaged in the area after Hackensack River floodwaters inundated Moonachie and the neighboring boroughs of Little Ferry and Carlstadt.
The company had recently backed up all of its servers in Texas and was weeks away from making the Fusion Centre fully operational when the hurricane hit. With its triple redundant infrastructure, including electrical and communications systems, SW24 was able to power up the facility and relocate the Moonachie Police Department and city administrators, whose buildings were destroyed in the flooding.
“Our UL standards had ensured our facility was going to be operational at a level even we didn’t anticipate,” Des Smith, SW24’s founder and president, tells SSI. “Generators were up and running. The fiber lines were holding, even though the entire region was in the dark. We wanted to provide them a place to stage. We knew without emergency communications, everybody was in trouble.”
The Fusion Centre even played host to Gov. Chris Christie and other state officials, who toured the facility and held a news conference in the parking lot on Nov. 1. At press time, city officials and police were still utilizing the Fusion Centre — an employee shower and locker room is currently serving as the Moonachie PD armory — as they wait for temporary trailers to be erected at another location.
Many installing security and monitoring providers began preparing for the eventual chaos before Sandy was due to slam the region. As the storm raced northward, dealers were snatching up batteries and other necessary supplies at their local distribution branches.
“I got a load of batteries in but it wasn’t enough. We never thought it would be the disaster that it was,” Joe Bertuccio, vice president of Alarm-Tech Security Systems Inc. in Hauppauge, N.Y., tells SSI. “The day the hurricane hit, we went to ADI and bought what they could give us. There were a lot of alarm companies out buying batteries. We even called to other states and they shipped to us overnight. We were lucky.”
Alarm-Tech, which operates its own central station, staffed its facility around the clock with additional employees to handle a spike in alarm signals, as well as technicians to deliver batteries.
“A lot of customers were down in Florida so we had to call them, but nobody was here to open the door for us. We are still replacing batteries. We are still running test signals from our central station,” Bertuccio says.