November 02, 2012 By D. Craig MacCormack
The key to recovering from most life-altering events is being prepared for them in the first place. Such was most certainly the case for those in the crosshairs of Hurricane Sandy.
“You hope you’re not going to need it, but you have to be diligent about planning,” says Paul Cronin, senior VP at Atrion. The company saw about 10 percent of its customer base - mostly in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island - facing power outages and network connectivity problems in the wake of the so-called super storm.
“We have no option but to be ready. As much as we rely on our utilities, it’s still a pretty weak point for a lot of people and in a lot of places,” he says, calling the network “the fifth utility.”
Mid-Atlantic Control Systems, a consulting company that once worked as a systems integrator in residential and commercial spaces, has found itself exceptionally busy since Hurricane Sandy hit, with a handful of jobs carrying response times of 24 hours or less.
That means the Mid-Atlantic AV SWAT Team - an emergency response unit that includes a programmer, lead technician and rack fabricator - has been working overtime, says Glen Kaufman, director of systems integration. While the company prides itself on taking a process-driven approach to everything, that’s not always possible in the wake of a disaster.
“Deadlines don’t change for these projects, so when an integrator needs us, we need to be ready,” he says. Among the new work was a call from a customer in New Jersey who had a looming project deadline in Baltimore. “We have to be willing to step up as a partner.”
At Mid-Atlantic Control Systems, while their other teams are in the field, they always have an AV SWAT team at the ready for “On-Demand” service and support for integrators. They help integrators and project managers make tight deadlines, “rescue” jobs in distress, complete system programming, handle system commissioning and just get installations done.
Plan Ahead, Be Prepared
About 10 years ago, Atrion developed what they call a pandemic planning process, adding an incident management team in the last five years, says Cronin. Those teams cover various geographic areas as needed in widespread outages and include members of Atrion’s top-level management, he says.
Atrion, which recently became one of about 40 Managed Services Cisco Partners, talked to many of its East Coast clients in anticipation of Sandy’s arrival, talking to them about what to do in case of an outage and trying to help them anticipate where problems might arise and take precedence after the storm was over.
“We saw this was definitely going to be a devastating blow to some of our clients so we reached out to them up front,” Cronin says. Since the storm ended, Atrion has been helping clients with phone lines and finding power sources, among other tasks. Atrion has helped those with backup systems to switch to those to allow them in many cases to have uninterrupted service and help them reach out to utilities to alert them of damage.
“That allows our clients to communicate with their dealers and that’s an important piece of this too,” Cronin says.
Don’t Chase Ambulances
While certainly there are more customers who need help after a natural disaster, that doesn’t mean it’s the time for integrators or consultants to walk around with dollar signs in their eyes.