Two Ottawa men have combined their expertise and resources to create an emergency response portal (ERP) that has the potential to become an international standard for owners and managers of buildings across all sectors.
Mark Macy has headed Security.ca Corporation for 31 years and Brian Roberts has been in commercial property management for more than 25, and their complementary knowledge led them to form Emergency Response Portal Corp.
They’ve applied for a patent for their ERP, which provides property owners and managers with immediate access to key information and live feeds from web-connected cameras for their properties. It also gives them the ability to grant remote access to trusted third parties, including first responders, to reduce “call-to-close” times and potentially save lives and reduce property losses when crisis situations develop.
“We believe that the portal is going to become must-have technology for property owners so they can better prepare themselves for emergencies,” said Roberts, who’s also managing partner of EPIC Realty Partners (Ottawa) Inc. and a former president of Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Ottawa.
Properties registered in ERP
Property managers register their properties in ERP and upload key contact and emergency response data through an encrypted pathway to a secure database. They’re prompted by the system to update and validate their information on a periodic basis to maintain its integrity. Roberts stressed it’s designed to be “extremely user-friendly” and new features can easily be added to accommodate property owners’ needs.
The ERP’s software is located in the cloud and provides key information related to all enrolled properties, including emergency contacts, building access codes, floor and fire plans, remote access to cameras, critical building information and more. The technology is hardware-neutral and authorized personnel are able to access the data remotely and in real time from computers, tablets and smartphones.
“There are some features that we envision assisting the single-family residential market and there are things that we can do with the portal that will be able to better safeguard people in homes, but the primary market is multi-residential, institutional, commercial office, retail, schools, hospitals and things of that nature,” said Roberts.
The ERP generates an incident-specific, alphanumeric code that gives first responders 12-hour access to all property data. It’s connected to cameras, but not digital recorders.
“Security and privacy have always been utmost top of mind for us while developing this, and we didn’t want the portal to be used as a forensic tool,” said Roberts. “We wanted it to be used in real time for emergency use only.”
EMS able to broadcast alerts
Police, fire and paramedic officials have the ability to broadcast alerts to ERP-connected property managers during an emergency when time is of the essence. Property managers can then quickly relay the alerts to their tenants and floor wardens.
Property owners can also grant ERP access to plumbers, electricians and other tradespeople working in a building who may need access to information. The provider decides how long the data is made available.
“The property owner is the decision-maker as to who sees what,” said Roberts. “The client may decide not to allow trusted third parties to use the portal and may use it with internal staff only. It’s very adaptable and flexible that way.”
Considering the potential cost savings the ERP can provide, its price seems relatively reasonable. Each property has a one-time activation fee equivalent to one cent per square foot, with a floor of $750 and a ceiling of $10,000. The same charge and minimum and maximum parameters apply to an ongoing annual fee that may be paid in monthly or quarterly installments. The activation and annual fees for multi-residential properties are $10 per rental unit.
Macy and Roberts have spent more than two years and “quite a bit of money” researching and developing the ERP and, while they’re the company’s only two employees, they work with engineers who are helping design the system and Roberts said they have the ability to ramp up quickly with staff when demand warrants it.
The company launched the ERP commercially in early November and has a couple of clients so far. Roberts is confident that number will grow quickly after the ERP was well-received at a Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group workshop in Ottawa last month that was attended by police, fire and paramedic chiefs from across Canada.
“A physical demonstration literally floors people because it’s just so powerful to see it actually working,” said Roberts.
The ERP has been accepted into the Build in Canada Innovation Program, which helps companies bridge the pre-commercialization gap by procuring and testing late stage innovative goods and services within the federal government before taking them to market. Testing should be completed by the spring and, if it’s successful as expected, the company will be approved as a vendor to the federal government.
“We want by the end of 2015 to have the majority of Canadian property owners using it and, within a couple of years of that, to have a vast majority of the properties that they own using it,” said Roberts, who envisions the ERP being used in buildings in major American cities by the end of 2015 followed by further international expansion.