Fire & Security Industries: Offering a Holistic Strategy to Building Owners

While the pandemic has presented new challenges, it has been a perfect example of how the industry can learn and adapt.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact on the fire and security industries and the sectors’ respective customers, with buildings shut down or kept minimally occupied for months at a time. As a result, many security providers and integrators have been unable to service customers’ fire detection and security systems, leaving businesses and organizations across the country behind on maintenance and inspections.

As the pandemic continues to abate across the United States, the industry can expect a busy few months as they pick up where they left off and move forward, facing new challenges and opportunities in the process.

New regulations and processes to support unprecedented times

When the pandemic first struck and stay-at-home orders were issued, fire systems technicians were in a difficult position; even though the work they do could be lifesaving in an emergency, they could not access their customers’ buildings to perform maintenance or inspections because they were not considered essential workers.

Even if customers employed remote monitoring capabilities, technicians could not enter monitoring centers due to new work-from-home orders, meaning any signals or alarms were not being received.

Luckily, the industry learns and pivots fast. Regulations were quickly altered to allow any fire alarm or signals to bypass remote monitoring centers and be sent directly to technicians’ home devices, allowing them to rapidly and safely respond. In addition, new legislature is being created in the U.S. to officially designate fire alarm technicians as essential workers.

While the pandemic has certainly presented new challenges, it has been a perfect example of how the industry can learn and adapt. And because of these changes, the fire industry is now better prepared for whatever lies ahead.

Innovation in heat and smoke detection technologies

In addition to new regulations, the fire industry is moving forward with new heat and smoke detection solutions. As the materials used in home and office furnishings have changed, traditional detection technologies are no longer accurate. Where the average egress time was 22 minutes 20 years ago, today it is three to five minutes due to new synthetic furniture materials that burn faster and give off hazardous gas.

To address the changing nature of fires, the industry is pushing forward with new artificial intelligence (AI) technology that can identify and respond to specific types of smoke, alerting occupants quicker to allow them to evacuate or take appropriate action.

The industry is also taking a stand against nuisance alarms. With 50% of residential smoke alarms caused by cooking smoke, and with people removing their alarms as a result, detection devices must be immune to cooking odors. This has led to a rise in multisensor devices, including photoelectric, carbon monoxide (CO), wavelength differentiation and more. When combined with AI capabilities, the modern fire-detection device is smarter than ever.

A new perspective for the industry

As security providers and integrators consider their customers’ buildings from a security standpoint, it is clear that a holistic approach is crucial to creating positive outcomes. Fire detection devices are a vital part of overall security, and when connected with other solutions, can transform how the industry provides service.

For instance, when fire alarms and smoke detectors are integrated with video cameras, they can activate cameras to zero in on the source of the alarm, providing first responders with more information when they arrive at the scene. Integrations like these are valuable and even lifesaving to customers, all for a minimal amount of money.

To remain competitive, security providers and integrators must be able to offer this holistic security strategy to building owners, rather than just a collection of generic disparate devices.

A lasting impact of the pandemic has been the rise of the healthy building, and fire and security will play a big part in that transformation. By providing comprehensive and connected safety to customers, security providers and integrators can create secure and healthy buildings that are truly ready for anything.

securityRodger Reiswig is Vice President of Industry Relations at Johnson Controls.

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