Protect Your Building Against Disaster With Environmental Monitoring

Environmental monitoring can detect emergencies and allow buildings to communicate with their operators, preventing minor issues from becoming disasters.

By Danielle Myers

More than 40% of businesses close their doors after a disaster. For those that remain open, only 29% remain operating after two years. From retail stores to schools to hospitals, facilities have products, people, property and expensive technology to protect when disaster strikes… but often times, by the time facility managers are made aware of disasters, the damage is already done. Disasters go beyond repairing the structural damage left to the facility, as operational days are lost and revenue and services are typically halted for the duration of the repair. Additionally, many facilities lose inventory or even lives when disasters strike.

Environmental Monitoring
(Photo provided by Status Solutions / Geben Communication)

But what if facility managers could catch disasters in the act and alert the proper individuals to keep the damage contained or even prevent it from happening?

In short, with the help of environmental monitoring technology, they can. From environmental incidents to building fires to everyday mundane malfunctions that turn into emergencies, different environmental monitoring technologies can help to detect and diffuse specific emergency situations, allowing buildings to communicate with their operators early to stop a minor issue from turning into a disaster that closes the facility or halts operations. This approach can save time, money, and ensure peace of mind for building operators.

Temperature Monitoring

Temperature monitoring is especially useful in improving health and safety compliance, specifically for facilities that carry inventory, such as hospitals storing organs and skin grafts, schools storing school lunches, or grocery stores storing food products. Setting temperature monitoring sensors to desired intervals can run periodic checks, detecting average building temperature over time in specific building areas. Collecting this data with a monitoring system designed to integrate with multiple inputs/sensors will allow for detection of an abnormality through comparison to tracked temperature trends.

This sort of monitoring improves health and safety compliance. For example, if a freezer unit malfunctions overnight in a grocery store and is not detected until the morning, tens of thousands of dollars in inventory would be lost and a product shortage would occur. If sensors were installed, they could detect which unit was malfunctioning and send an alert to the store manager in real-time to make sure to solve the problem before the inventory spoiled.

Pressure And Water Level Monitoring

Water entering a facility is rarely a good sign, and it is often one of the quietest culprits of facility damage. Leaks happen most often in hard to see places, such as behind drywall, and leave lasting mold damage that carry a hefty price tag for repairs. Whether it is a burst pipe or water entering from outside the facility, humidity, pressure and water level monitoring can help detect leaks and flooding early in facilities. Through a system of pressure sensors, environmental monitoring can detect pressure inside pipes in hard to reach locations where traditional monitoring may not be available. When pressure increases, sensors will alert operators, allowing them to address frozen pipes before a burst occurs.

Humidity and water level monitoring sensors also allow for detection of water that enters the facility from weather outside. When a flood or a severe storm contributes to moisture in the building, sensors can pick up on elevated humidity and water levels in the facility, alerting facility managers that the building is compromised with water and pinpointing exactly which area of the facility is at risk.

Lastly, in facilities experiencing all four seasons, winter presents a new host of potential issues. In colder conditions, pipes have the potential to freeze as temperatures drop which can cause hazardous conditions. For example, consider a school having frozen pipes that burst over winter break or even Friday evening, the result would be flooding that is not detected until Monday morning or when classes resume. By the time the disaster is realized, the damage could be severe enough to shut down the facility for weeks, resulting in compromised learning for students, pressure on school district administrators and thousands of dollars in damage for repairs. With the right sensory technology and monitoring solution, water damage can be contained and minimized, maximizing a facility’s resources.

Air Quality Monitoring

Air quality is typically an invisible and odorless threat, and without implementing sensors to detect changes, facility operators could be putting lives at risk. Beyond basic smoke detector systems that will trigger alarms in the entire facility when a fire sparks, air quality, temperature and smoke sensors can alert individuals of a fire in the facility and pinpoint the exact location of the issue to ensure containment. Beyond simply detecting a live fire, there are preventative features offered by environmental monitoring technologies.

Air quality sensors detect elevated carbon monoxide levels, making sure to alert a fire department directly of a gas leak in advance that could trigger an explosion. Technology can help to track maintenance timelines as well, making sure that filters in heating systems are replaced on time to eliminate additional fire hazards before a mishap has the chance to occur.

So the emergency has been detected. Now what?

Sensors exist to monitor just about anything in any environment. If all of your sensors and environmental controls are monitored with an alerting platform, then real-time alerts will be generated if a system fails, a sudden change occurs, or a hazardous substance is detected. When a sudden change is detected, these sensors can send automated alerts to the right individuals’ personal devices, ensuring managers can formulate an action plan before damage is so great that it dismantles building operation.

Sensors in the monitoring technology are connected to an interface that spans across the facility’s structure, allowing the sensors to communicate a specific location of an incident to building operators to ensure quick troubleshooting.Environmental Monitoring

Danielle Myers is the general manager of Status Solutions, a risk management and situational awareness technology company.