You’ve seen the certification logo before, the bold, circular ETL Mark in red, but are you familiar with Intertek, the company behind the ETL Mark? Intertek has been in business for 127 years, utilizing a network of more than 1,000 laboratories in more than 100 countries to offer testing, inspection and certification services, and its ETL Listed Mark serves as proof of product compliance to U.S. standards. SDM talked with Tom Connaughton, global director of life safety and security services, about Intertek’s role in the life safety and security industry.
SDM: Can you describe Intertek and the services it provides to the life safety and security industry?
Connaughton: Standards outlined by organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are constantly evolving to ensure consumers are protected. To gain market access, manufacturers must provide code officials with evidence that their products have been properly tested and comply with these current safety requirements. Nationally Recognized Testing Labs (NRTLs) like Intertek help manufacturers clear a path to market by providing third-party testing and certification for products in numerous industries such as life safety and security, building products, lighting, home appliances and electronics, and personal protective equipment. NRTLs work together with code officials to ensure the safety of products and ultimately help keep people safe.
SDM: You maintain that the ETL Mark is the fastest growing certification mark in North America. How did Intertek enter the life safety and security industry?
Connaughton: It was a natural progression for us to enter the space in 2005. We took a look at our different businesses and thought it would be in the best interest of our customers to take a look at the life safety and security space. At that time Intertek had been involved in multiple different areas such as personal protective equipment (firefighter gear, police vests, things along those lines), traditional access control, CCTV, emergency signaling, and more, but nothing was really bundled together.
The decision was prompted as well by the industry coming to us and asking for help. Very simply there was really only one primary service organization at the time, which was Underwriters Laboratories (UL). When there's one organization, you are subject to their rules, to their bureaucracy, to the way that they want to conduct business. But when there's competition it provides people with an opportunity to make a choice. If I'm doing well you can stay with me. If I'm not doing well or you are not pleased with my level of service, it's always good to have a choice whichever way it goes. Intertek offers the industry a choice.
SDM: Obviously UL has well-established, widespread recognition. What are you doing to educate the end user side as far as architects or specifiers or even Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) about Intertek and what the symbol stands for?
Connaughton: It's a great question. I guess the short answer is that we are doing everything that we can. We are speaking with industry publications, attending and sponsoring various trade shows; a good example is the ISC West show this year where our certification mark was on the cover of the program. We are becoming more active. Another good example is our participation in industry organizations and committees. We have seen a tremendous amount of momentum over the last 12 to 14 months. I think that's because people realize we are not going anywhere. We are here to help, we are here to support, and we’re doing a darn good job at it.
SDM: Speaking of ‘darn good job’ – you have a 24-hour turn-around time for the delivery of alarm system description certificates. How?
Connaughton: Yes, one of the areas that we were really able to take an innovative step forward was in the delivery of the actual alarm system description certificate, which the integrator provides back to either the fire marshal or the insurer, so that they can either underwrite the property or issue the certificate of occupancy.
Other models could take eight weeks to turn those certificates around. So while we were building our program we were able to utilize modern day technology and software, and today we average a 24-hour turn-around time on our certificates, which can be accessed remotely by any terminal or laptop through a security network and password, and the installer can actually generate that alarm description certificate and submit it directly from the job site.
Our online Alarm System Certification portal, http://alarmdirect.intertek.com, helps manage the workload, providing clean, electronic submissions that create clarity and greater visibility into certificate progress. Automatic email notifications create immediate awareness of completed and available certificates.
There are no faxes, which mean there's less human intervention as far as misinterpreting what is actually handwritten on a document, so the accuracy of the document as well is also enhanced significantly because it's all being done electronically. So those are just some of the value added services that we have brought to the industry, and we continue to strive to improve.
SDM: What else are you working on today?
Connaughton: We have actually also been working into the video detection industry, specifically outside of the classic CCTV model. We are looking at technology where, if an alarm is triggered, a 10-second video clip is transmitted from a device to a central station or to an operator so that they can actually see what is occurring in that facility and understand if it's a false alarm, or if, in fact, something is occurring.
Video isn't full proof, but if it's two o’clock in the morning and somebody is at a construction site with a crowbar and a pair of bolt cutters, the odds are they are not there to start their day. The odds are they are there to do something that people don't want them to do. So this video verification I strongly feel is going to be a real revolution to the industry. It's something Intertek is extremely excited to be a part of.
Secondly, Intertek recently launched a new microsite – PartnershipInSafety.com – which is an educational resource specially designed for state fire marshals, building inspectors, electrical inspectors and other AHJs. Like AHJs, Intertek is committed to doing its part to help protect people and property from harm. In order to help AHJs better understand the important role NRTLs play in enhancing product safety, Intertek is providing a wealth of useful information in one easy-to-navigate place. The site will continue to be updated with resources and tools to help AHJs educate other members of their professional communities.