Companies Adapt During Crippling Coronavirus Pandemic
The spread of COVID-19 coronavirus throughout the world has taken a toll that would have been unimaginable months ago. From quarantines and shelter-in-place orders — to school closings, business and restaurant closings, and travel bans — no one has been left unaffected, including security dealers and integrators. In the realm of the security industry, tradeshows and conferences have been postponed or canceled; manufacturers are forming new ways to market their products; and dealers are focusing on how to continue selling and operating in this challenging time.
One way in which a significant portion of the security industry has been impacted is the postponement of ISC West 2020, the largest security conference of the year. Originally scheduled for March 17-20 in Las Vegas, the show was postponed until July 20-22. And while all contracts for exhibit space will be rolled over for the July show, a number of companies have been taking matters into their own hands, thinking of creative ways to share what they had planned on announcing in March.
Axis Communications, for example, hosted its first virtual press breakfast. Titled “In Pursuit of Innovation: Big Developments in the Journey Toward a Smarter, Safer World,” the event took place on March 18.
“The importance of safety and security has never been more clear than during the crisis we are facing during the coronavirus,” said Fredrik Nilsson, vice president of the Americas, Axis Communications. “This pandemic has forced us to all reexamine how we live and how we work, including this press breakfast. Events like this show the strength of the security industry . . .”
Genetec announced a three-day digital conference — Connect’DX — to take place April 20-22. Designed to connect security professionals from around the world to Genetec experts, the agenda includes sessions on key trends and new technology; keynotes from industry leaders such as Genetec President Pierre Racz; product demos and Q&As with the product team; panel discussions; and free training sessions from the Genetec training department. Pre-register at info.genetec.com/ConnectDX.html.
DMP hosted a virtual trade show at six different times throughout the week of March 17, live streamed from DMP headquarters. Here, the DMP sales and product management team presented a long list of new products the company previously planned on debuting at ISC West.
Emergency24 hosted five unique webinars that showcase services and equipment. CHeKT, Alarm.com, WAVE Electronics, BluePoint Alert Solutions and M2M were all featured.
“ISC West is always a great show for us — we see many Emergency24 alarm contractors and meet new security professionals,” said Kevin Lehan, national sales and marketing manager of Emergency24. “Going into the show, we had goals to promote specific services, as well as the overall central station operations.”
And, Lehan said, the postponement of ISC West didn’t mean the message could wait. “Since we figured we’d tell people [what we planned on telling them at ISC West] during webinars, we acted quickly and the security industry has responded favorably,” he said.
Alula held a free, two-day virtual trade show on March 24 and March 26. The digital event offered a look at Alula’s new products and services that would have debuted at ISC West.
“We wanted this event to have some of the fun interactive elements of our trade show booth,” said Brad LaRock, vice president of marketing at Alula. “We still plan to be at ISC West in July, but this is a way we can keep in touch with our partners virtually and give them a sneak peek at some of the new products and interactive services we’re rolling out this year.”
Speco Technologies recently announced a virtual ISC West booth tour that can be taken any time at https://bit.ly/2UgDwy6. Security professionals can visit the kiosk of their choice covering different products such as SecureGuard, Ultra Intensifier, a-live, and others; or dealers can schedule a virtual appointment.
Arecont Vision Costar hosted a webinar to provide product updates and unveil new ConteraIP cameras that were going to be on display at ISC West.
SIA, ESA & TMA Issue Joint Statement
The Security Industry Association (SIA), the Electronic Security Association (ESA) and The Monitoring Association (TMA) issued a joint statement to their members on March 20, in an effort to keep industry professionals informed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It read, in part: “The rapid government response through executive action, regulatory changes and legislation at the local, state and federal levels to the COVID-19 virus is unprecedented. We stand together to assure all members, consumers and other stakeholders that this industry will continue to remain on the front lines as a vital partner in public safety.
“We understand member companies across the country are contending with executive and legislative action that potentially impacts electronic security and life safety businesses in thousands of jurisdictions across the country because of confusion over defining the essential services critical to the nation’s infrastructure.
“To that end, we wish to inform you of recently published guidelines from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security which provide ‘identification of essential critical infrastructure workers during COVID-19 response.’ While these guidelines are not a mandate to state and local jurisdictions, they do provide strategic guidance toward the unified effort to maintain the nation’s critical infrastructure, and as such we believe these guidelines serve an important role as communities respond with executive and legislative action. The list of ‘Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers’ identified by CISA and important to our industry includes:
- workers supporting communications systems and information technology used by law enforcement, public safety, medical, energy and other critical industries;
- maintenance of communications infrastructure, including privately owned and maintained communication systems supported by technicians, operators, call centers, wireline and wireless providers, cable service providers, satellite operations, undersea cable landing stations, internet exchange points and manufacturers and distributors of communications equipment;
- installation, maintenance and repair technicians that establish, support or repair service as needed;
- workers who support command centers, including, but not limited to network operations command centers, broadcast operations control centers and security operations command centers;
- data center operators, including system administrators, HVAC and electrical engineers, security personnel, IT managers, data transfer solutions engineers, software and hardware engineer, and database administrators; and
- dispatchers involved with service repair and restoration.”
Monitoring in the Time of COVID-19
All over the world right now, companies are scrambling to figure out how to accommodate the Center for Disease Control’s request for employees to work from home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For some, this is a relatively simple transition — they can bring their laptops home and work remotely. But for those working in monitoring centers, the transition to working from home isn’t easy.
Typically, monitoring is not allowed outside of the operating room in UL-listed central stations. But with the threat of COVID-19, UL is making exceptions.
“At UL, our driving mission is to help create safe living and working conditions for all of our constituencies,” news on The Monitoring Association (TMA) site reads. “This value shapes our standards and program policies. The emergence of the COVID-19 virus presents a new challenge, but by working together, we can find ways forward.”
UL released an initial draft of guidelines for call center employees now working from home, which you can read at https://tma.us/urgent-news-from-ul-for-monitoring-centers/. A work-issued computer, encrypted VPN, multifactor authentication every 24 hours, and proof of childcare are some of the requirements listed.
U.S.-based stations monitoring National Industrial Security System accounts still must get approval from a U.S. federal security agency to enable monitoring employees to work from home.
The Monitoring Center (TMC), a ULC-listed, CSAA 5 Diamond central station based in Oakville, Ontario, with customers across North America, is one example of a company that is taking advantage of the UL’s recent leniency. Jason Digioacchino, president of The Monitoring Center, said he started preparing for his employees — including those in the monitoring center — to start working from home on March 2. That preparation started with ordering double the workstations, and then asking TMC’s monitoring software provider, DICE Corporation, Bay City, Mich., how call center employees could fully operate from home. DICE has a disaster preparedness mode built into its system for scenarios — typically natural disasters — that force central station employees to work from home.
“Because our system works with the cloud, we can open it so users can work from home,” said Cliff Dice, president and CEO of DICE Corporation. “Normally we have restrictions so if you work at the central station and you go home and try to log in over the web, it doesn’t allow you to because you don’t have the central station’s IP. But in this case, we’re taking restrictions off. They’ll need an ID to log in, but we’ve opened the gates to let people in.” DICE is able to route not only the alarm signals to employees’ homes, but the phone calls — and the calls are recorded.
Twenty-seven central stations have asked DICE to remove these restrictions so their operators can work from home, and Dice expects these numbers to continue to increase. Typically, the company receives only one or two requests per month to turn off restrictions in disaster response.
“At this time, we encourage monitoring stations to make contingency plans for operating in environments where operators are not able to physically come together to monitor signals in a central station operating room,” UL’s statement read. “There is a meaningful risk that the rapid spread of COVID-19 could trigger governmental movement and assemble recommendations/controls that would preclude normal station operation.”
“When 9/11 happened, I didn’t really understand how much travel and security would change, but we all saw that it did,” Dice said. “Now, by the end of this week I assume we’ll have over 1,000 work-from-home requests, and instead of 12 central stations operating remotely, we might be pushing 30 to 40 companies. And I suspect that some of these owners are going to start to wonder what they have a building for. There’s going to be a small percentage of those that will go back to the way things were, but otherwise they’re going to see they found a way to cut costs. I think this is one of those life-changing events that will change the way we look at things for a long time.”
In addition to ISC West, other events have been postponed or canceled. In a March 12 email, PSA announced that it is “currently pursuing alternate dates” for PSA TEC 2020, which was originally scheduled for April 20-23 in Denver.
“We are closely following CDC guidelines, local and state public health authorities and the U.S. State Department/ Federal Government travel rules related to the COVID-19 virus,” the email, which was signed by PSA CEO Bill Bozeman, continued. “We value our relationships with all of you and are committed to continuing to be a strong partner. We hope all of you, as well as your families, remain healthy and safe.
The Pennsylvania Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (PBFAA) cancelled its 38th Annual Expo over fears surrounding the spread of coronavirus. The event was originally scheduled to take place April 29-30 at the Holiday Inn in Harrisburg/ Hershey - Grantville, Pa.
“As an association dedicated to safety and security, and after careful consideration with member companies and exhibitors regarding the health and safety of everyone involved, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the PBFAA Expo,” said Jim Bucciaglia, PBFAA president. “The decision was not reached lightly. We are asking members to join us in keeping the positive spirit of the Expo alive as we move forward together through this unprecedented situation.”