THE MAGAZINE

Digital Maps Draw Better Response

By Marta Roberts

While on night watch at a shopping mall, a new security officer for Global Security Concepts in Los Angeles, California, got a notice that the sprinkler system had gone off in one of the stores. After verifying that there was no fire and that the sprinkler had nevertheless been activated, the guard accessed an up-to-date floor plan on the company’s facility management system, which is accessible online. The floor plan showed the location of the shutoff valve for the sprinkler and the officer was able to quickly turn off the water, saving several stores thousands of dollars in damaged goods.

Before the information management system was installed earlier this year, an officer who was unfamiliar with the property would have been forced to wade through paper maps and manuals to find the shutoff valve.

“It was a big mess,” says Alex Udler, CEO of Global Security Concepts, a security officer provider specializing in retail and commercial security.

Last October, Udler began searching for an information management application that would help his officers better organize vital information contained in paper manuals throughout the client sites—including seven shopping malls and five office buildings throughout California.

Udler was looking for a product that could list all security aspects of his properties—from fire extinguishers to generators—in an easy-to-use graphic format, providing his officers with the resources necessary to get their jobs done quickly and efficiently. He also wanted a program that could be customized to suit his company’s needs, meaning that Global Security managers could make adjustments to the files at any moment.

After some initial investigations, Udler discovered SFW’s Controller Module. The product grants users fast and secure access to an organization’s critical security and safety information via a secure Internet Web site. The system is composed of various graphical interfaces, which include CAD drawings of a facility’s floor plan and maps of surrounding areas.

If one of Udler’s officers needed to locate an emergency shutoff, for example, he or she would simply open the digital rendition of the floor plan, and all security-related assets for the building would be identified with easy-to-recognize icons. The officer would be able to locate the shutoff and would also know how many feet were between the shutoff valve and the officer’s location, because the floor plan is based on CAD-rendered illustrations that are drawn to scale.

Additionally, Udler has the ability to include information on each of the assets. So, for example, if an officer needed to know how to operate the generator, he or she would locate the generator on the map and then click on the generator icon. Then, instructions on its operation that had been inputted by Udler would appear. That information could include instructional multimedia video.

“It’s very simple,” says Udler. “You see a map, you click on what you want, and it’s right in front of you.”

Access is password protected, and Udler can grant different levels of access to different employees. For example, security officers are only permitted to view data, but one manager at each site can add and remove assets such as fire extinguishers.

Udler says that local police and fire departments are also given access to the system, but they are only shown information that pertains to emergency situations. Representatives from Global Security Concepts met with these departments, gave them passwords, and taught them how to operate the system.

SFW does not charge the company for adding users. Instead, it charges a monthly hosting fee, which includes access for unlimited users. Most systems Udler evaluated before choosing SFW charged by user, which Udler says made those systems too costly.

Other systems also did not offer comparable services, he says. For example, unlike the Controller Module, most products did not allow the user to add or remove security assets as conditions merited.

This feature was key, Udler says, because in the retail environment, facilities are constantly changing. He wanted a system that could easily reflect those changes. As noted, one person at each of Udler’s facilities is given permission to alter the floor plans. If a new store is added in a mall, for example, the security manager can add or remove walls online by clicking and dragging a wall icon to the appropriate location on the floor plan. All the other applications evaluated required that the hosting company make any changes.

Udler liked the flexibility offered by the Controller and says his managers work hard to ensure that all security-related assets are included on the map. “We try to put everything on there that we can,” he says.

Another important feature of the product is that alerts can be programmed into the maps. For example, Udler says fire extinguishers have a lifespan of between one and two years, depending on the brand and the local code. Once the extinguisher expires, it must be replaced.

Udler has programmed the system so that if a fire extinguisher is up for replacement, the extinguisher will glow red on the floor plan (not green like the others) one month before the replacement date. Udler and his managers can also program the system to send an e-mail that alerts them to the need for replacement.

Once the replacement has occurred, the site manager will click on the extinguisher and program the next date for replacement. The extinguisher will then return to green on the floor plan.

Training staff to use the system was simple, Udler says. SFW sent representatives to each of his sites to perform the training. The Global Security Concepts staff picked up the system quickly, which Udler attributes to the system’s user-friendly graphical interface.

Because the system is Internet-based, there was no installation of hardware or software on the Global Security Concepts side. An Internet-ready computer is all that is required.

To get started, however, all paper-based information had to be computerized. In some cases, Global Security Concepts was able to supply the original CAD renderings for floor plans, which meant SFW simply uploaded the renderings to the server. In other cases, however, Global Security Concepts did not have the CAD renderings, and Udler was only able to supply diagrams of the property and photographs.

Because the interactive floor plans rely on the CAD renderings, SFW needed to create the CAD images. But this process was accomplished quickly, Udler says, and the resulting renderings were as accurate as if he had provided CADs.

In addition to the hosting fee, SFW requires a one-time installation fee, which includes installing the floor plans and, in some cases, creating the CAD files. The fee varies by site and is based on the level of work needed and the size of the facility.

At the beginning of each new project, Udler and SFW representatives meet with the owners of each site, who must approve the use of the CAD renderings. During this meeting, Udler makes sure they are comfortable with the way the system operates.

Udler is pleased with the product and has purchased other modules from SFW that complement the Controller and allow his officers to track and respond to incidents. “This is one of the products that allows me and my company to be more competitive and more organized than the other companies providing security services,” he says. n

(For more information: SFW Customer Service; phone: 310/277-8707; fax: 310/277-8709; e-mail: info@sfwllc.com)

—By Marta Roberts, staff editor for Security Management.

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