Voice Alarm Costs Securitas $US517M

♦ Voice Alarm Costs Securitas $US517M – a Securitas security officer’s failure to activate a building’s in-unit voice alarm is set to cost Securitas $517 million as part of a settlement worth more than $1 billion announced recently.

The settlement will be split among over 2 dozen defendants who sued on charges of negligence, wrongful death, and personal injury after 98 people died when an oceanfront tower condominium, Champlain Towers South, partially collapsed in the middle of the night.

The collapse was arguably the result of chronic deferred maintenance around water ingression that led to significant structural failure – a situation that had been highlighted by a structural engineer more than 3 years before the event.

According to the lawsuit, the security officer on duty during the night of the event called 911 around 10 minutes before the collapse but didn’t activate the building’s in-unit voice alarm, which instructs residents to evacuate.

The ruling highlights the importance of training – a Securitas manager said the company had not trained all its security officers how to use the system to alert residents to evacuate and, as a result, it was not activated the night of the collapse, according to the Miami Herald.

At the same time, there’s a valid argument that an attempt to evacuate hundreds of mostly older people via a handful of lifts in only 10 minutes at 1.22am may have made the loss of life even worse. Public address and voice alarm systems were never designed to facilitate crash evacuations in residential towers with limited lift and fire stair capacities.

That Securitas was held accountable for more than half the cost of the suit, despite not being materially responsible for a collapse resulting from deferred maintenance, underlines the risk facing large organisations that provide security and safety services, the importance of the security function, as well the vital need for full on-site training of every security officer.

America’s National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) announced on June 30 that it is launching a full technical investigation of the collapse under the authority of the National Construction Safety Team (NCST) Act – the investigation is expected to take years.

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