Recent Winter Storms Highlight Need to Plan for All Contingencies in an Emergency
While Kings III regularly responds to emergency situations, recent winter storms (including record low temps, power outages, and water issues) in Texas have highlighted the impact of poor planning. An immediate consequence we see with power outages is elevator entrapments. As a matter of fact, here at Kings III, during the “once in a 100-year” storm, we experienced a one-day 46% increase in the number of entrapment calls we received. Been living under a rock and don’t quite get all the fuss? Let me paint you a picture.
While it doesn’t happen very often, snow isn’t an anomaly in this region of the country either. In this case, the problem wasn’t the snow but rather the week-long record-breaking low temps. The week of the storm, temperatures stayed below freezing and dropped as low as -2°. We know, our friends in the Northern half of the country are asking, “What’s the big deal?” Well, in Texas, February temperatures usually only range from about 40°- 60°. It’s not that the people couldn’t withstand the colder weather, it’s that our infrastructure was not equipped to handle it. So, the company that manages the Texas power grid started “rolling blackouts” in order to manage energy use. I won’t get into all the ugly aftermath, but we now know that we were less than five minutes away from a complete blackout that could have taken months to restore.
So what happens when almost the entire state of Texas loses power? And how does an emergency communications company located in that state (and who serves customers nationwide) continue to operate under these conditions? Well, it takes a lot of forethought, planning, and care.
Find out how to improve safety and reduce costs at your property
Our best-in-class emergency phone + monitoring solutions provide peace of mind and are backed by decades of expertiseLearn More
2022 ELLIES WINNER
Best Supplier -
Preparedness – How did we ensure we were up and running?
It starts with our IT department. They plan, prepare, and test redundancies on all the perfect weather days (and some not so perfect) to help ensure we can make it through times like this. They are dedicated to ensuring our essential work can continue regardless of Mother Nature’s current mood. And boy was she in a mood that week! We too experienced the same power issues as everyone else, but we were able to carry on as usual when it came to emergency response for our customers. The difference? The groundwork and forethought to determine we should have not just one but two backup generators, and we needed both of them. When the power goes out we have seamlessly available uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) that support operations until the primary generator is up and running. It is an automatic process and usually takes about 10 seconds to transition. These systems are tested every week (under load) to ensure we are ready. Even when the first generator experienced a failure during the storm, the transition to the second generator was trivial and automatic.
Redundancies continue into our server and network infrastructure (servers, network switches, data circuits, and phone lines) where faults and failures can be resolved without a loss of service. Even without a storm, power outages are a very real and common occurrence and can be caused by a number of issues, including equipment malfunction and damage or interference from wildlife. That is why in addition to two generators we have an auxiliary Emergency Dispatch Center (EDC) facility.
Our backup call center is an offsite location fully equipped with all the necessary phone and computer systems. Not far from our main facility but on a separate power grid and phone line system helping to ensure that if one location goes down, the other will remain active. Fortunately, it did not come to that, this time. But it’s there if and when we need it.
Download our free guide >> Building Your Emergency Action Plan
People – How do we ensure we’re staffed in times like these?
But everyone at Kings III knows the real MVPs work in our Emergency Dispatch Center (EDC). It goes without saying that our operators hold critical positions in the company and their dedication shows, especially in times like these. Since emergencies happen at all hours on any given day, planning for contingencies is what we do, and that week called for utilizing all our contingency plans.
Despite experiencing power outages and burst pipes in their own homes, our operators were there to answer your calls 24/7. To that end, and to help alleviate additional burdens, our EDC management team made sure individual needs were met. This included mapping out where everyone lived and personally driving team members to and from the office if someone did not feel comfortable driving on their own as well as booking hotel rooms near the office for those who lived too far to safely drive back and forth. It sounds simple– but remember, we are still in the middle of a pandemic and hotels were experiencing the same issues as everyone else, making vacancies scarce. Efforts also included preplanning meals and grocery shopping to make sure operators did not have to leave the dispatch center once they arrived for their shift. Not as easy a task as one might think when nearly all restaurants were closed and grocery store shelves were empty. There were also a few trips to the neighborhood Whataburger (a well-known Texas staple) who not only managed to stay open but stocked.
They braved the lousy conditions and did it because they knew you needed them. Remember, on that Monday alone, we saw a 46% increase in entrapments as many of our customers were losing power while they had tenants traveling in their elevators. And given the unreliable nature of the outages, we continued to experience a 12-15% increase in entrapment calls over the rest of the week while managing to beat our 10-second speed-to-answer goal. That’s impressive, especially when you consider that even though total call volume was down, each individual call took longer to handle.
That week, especially as maintenance, police, and fire departments were on overload and elevator contractors were oftentimes unreachable, each call took more time and extra care to find someone who was able to help. Establishing a call list is one of the first things we do with a new customer. A call list is simply that, who do they want us to call when someone is entrapped in an elevator on their property. But what do you do when none of their contacts answer the phone? This isn’t just limited to a widespread outage, so there is a protocol for that too.
You’ve heard it said, “it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark” or maybe that “plans are nothing, planning is everything”. That week in February, because of all the planning and forethought we were there, taking your call when you needed us most. Interested in learning more about our emergency phone solutions? Contact us here.
Winter-Proof Your Elevators
When elevators break down or work improperly, especially during inclement weather, we are reminded of their vital importance. Pay attention to the following items, especially in winter weather, to help keep your elevators running safely and smoothly.
Kings III Makes The Dallas Morning News Top 100 Places to Work List Becoming a 3x Winner
We're honored to be recognized by our employees and The Dallas Morning News by making the daily newspaper’s Top 100 Places to Work list for the 3rd year in a row, falling in at 28th in the midsize companies category.
Best Practices for Using Video Surveillance on Your Property
Video surveillance is a common life safety tool for property managers. In fact, the latest elevator safety codes show how it can even be an essential component of emergency response for those with a disability. Here are some best practices to keep in mind when adding video surveillance to your security mix.
Saving Labor and Service Costs During Inflation
We simply can’t ignore the elephant in the room: inflation is causing unprecedented rises in prices. Learn how turnkey solutions with maintenance included can be your saving grace as a property manager.
How Your Life Safety Devices are Impacted by Landline Technology Phaseout
In our space, there’s been a lot of chatter about FCC Order 10-72a1 and how it is impacting copper/analog/plain old telephone service (POTS) phone lines. With this comes deteriorating service and significantly higher phone line costs. Learn your best options for addressing this with your emergency phones.
May is Building Safety Month
Building Safety Month is an international campaign celebrated in May to raise awareness about building safety. Learn more about what you can do to further the initiative here in this blog post.
What You Need to Know About IBC 2021 Elevator Phone Code Requirements
While it’s been over a year since IBC 2021 was released, many are still familiarizing themselves with the elevator phone code requirements and how to navigate them, as significant accessibility changes have been made. We’re here to help clear that up for you.
Property Safety for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Tenants
Although, of course, those with hearing loss or deafness can continue to live independent and productive lives, there are unique needs and accommodations associated with them, and it is in your best interest as a property manager to keep their safety in mind. Here are some considerations to make when helping to protect your deaf/hard-of-hearing tenants.
How To Deter Illegal Activity On Your Property
Here, we list the most common types of illegal activities that take place on multifamily residential properties and how you can sniff them out. Finally, we detail the steps you can take once you discover the illegal activity while reducing the chance of harm to you and other tenants.