Brett Emmins, Innotec.

In this month’s interview John Adams speaks with Innotec service technician, Brett Emmins, about the life of a security tech during Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdown.

JA: Have you and the other Innotec technicians been busier or less busy since the outbreak of COVID-19?

BE: It’s been pretty stable – we have seen a slight slowdown in larger project-based works but the service work is still going well.

JA: How has the spirit of the team been over the last 3 months – is the crew pulling together?

BE: From a spirit perspective it’s been great as the entire Innotec Security team has been very supportive and has been assisting all the techs (and I’m not just saying that because the bosses will read it).

JA: What’s been the biggest challenge of a COVID-19 lockdown from your work perspective?

BE: There are things that have been a real test for us all. From my own experience it has been difficult as people seem to be wanting to not meet face-to-face. People are obviously wanting more distance and being cautious (which is a good thing). We also now have some new paperwork and procedures that we need to do before entering a site.

Entering and leaving sites that have increased restrictions, the limited number of people working in an area and also in high rise sites, the lift restrictions and social distancing challenges have added time to the process of getting where you need to be, plus each client has their own individual Covid-19 restrictions that are tailored to that individual site.

JA: What has system commissioning been like over the last 3 months – are you able to do some of it hands-on, or is some, or part of that process, now remote?

BE: We have always done remote programming where possible, so we were pretty used to doing it this way – it’s something that has increased. However, there are times and tasks that can only be handled in person onsite. However, we ensure all the requirements for Covid-19 are taken into consideration and adhered to – we seem to have been pretty successful with these strategies.

JA: Have you found some facilities – like universities – offer better access during lockdown?

BE: Yes, for sure. Most commercial buildings, public places/venues have improved all their lockdown procedures and implemented new lockdown instructions and we have assisted numerous clients with implementing this, be it with access control, CCTV and alarm systems.

JA: Are end users requesting the addition of different functionalities – no touch access and remote management, video analytics proximity detection, contact tracing modules in management systems – as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak?

BE: I am not in sales but just being on site and speaking to clients we have noticed that people are replacing or requesting quotes for touchless exit/entry points. Our sales director Rob Rosa confirmed that the request for contact tracing through access control, touchless (no-touch) equipment together with VMS analytics to assist in contact tracing, has increased.

JA: What about ‘touch’ solutions – fingerprint biometrics and exit buttons for instance – has COVID impacted on these from your perspective?

BE: Again I can see just from the experience on sites where I have done service work that people are more hesitant to touch things and are using elbows, cards or other stuff to touch buttons like lifts, etc, so I believe the technologies you mention are less attractive options their hesitancy to touch common devices explains why people are asking for touchless solutions.

JA: Do you think many of the systems you were already installing are in some ways ideal for organisations needing to handle remote security and automation around their sites?

BE: Most of the clients we deal with have pretty new technology in their sites and have already been configured for remote connection and we have been doing this for quite a while now. For example, we have always done a fair bit of remote maintenance given many of our clients have pretty smart systems at their locations.

We do this because it saves customers from continually having techs attend sites but there are certain clients and also certain issues that cannot be fixed without attending the site. To be honest, we haven’t seen a huge change in this area, but I feel things will start to lean towards remote maintenance wherever possible thanks to COVID-19.

JA: Have any interesting installation situations cropped up during the COVID crisis so far, or has it been more business as usual with masks?

BE: It’s been an interesting time, but I haven’t really had any work situations which would be described as interesting. Pretty used to working with masks anyway, given when we work on certain areas, we need to wear numerous PPE, so for us it’s sort of normal apart from being in a pandemic. The remote work is ongoing.

JA: What’s the protocol with sharing tools – has this been an issue or is it down to common sense?

BE: We all have our own individual tools which we wipe down and continually clean onsite and offsite. We don’t need to share tools but if we need to get specialist equipment, then we need to ensure it is cleaned and wiped down with sanitizing liquid, which our bosses have supplied ample of.

JA: What’s the key to working successfully with clients during COVID lockdown?

BE: Innotec has been pretty proactive and the bosses have been very stringent with rules, policies and implementation of Government legislation and recommendations. We immediately introduced dedicated SWMS for Covid-19, cleaning of equipment and offices, etc. Clients have been great as well in understanding that these are not usual times but as long as we demonstrate that we are doing the right things (and we are) then they are comfortable with us being on their premises and doing work.

JA: What advice would you give installers on how to handle COVID-19 challenges based on your own experience?

BE: Just consider everyone else around you and do the right things. Continually wash hands, sanitize, social distance, cough in your elbow, wear a mask, if you feel unwell don’t go to work or on any site and just do all the basic 101. Seriously, it’s not that hard – just continually think about your safety and that of all the people you are in contact with.