One of the most critical responsibilities for building owners and managers is life safety. Not only is the United States the most litigious society in the modern world, but skyrocketing insurance premiums add to the pressure for building owner and facility managers to keep their employees and their building occupants safe. Being prepared is the first, second and third rule. Preparedness requires a program of ongoing training and periodic testing.

Converged technology, intelligent buildings and a host of other labels denote a bold new approach to describing the interlocking systems that serve the modern building. Like an outstretched hand, each digit represents a critical infrastructure system: power, control, communications, security and life safety.

Over the last two decades, we have seen many forward-thinking electrical contractors add a special services group to install telecommunications and data cabling. They have enjoyed a significant addition to their revenue stream.

In the last decade, a new set of opportunities has developed for savvy electrical contractors. Security and life safety systems are a hot growth service sector. Both have experienced double digit growth since Sept. 11, 2001. Security and life safety systems were once almost exclusively the private hunting ground of specialty contractors, but no more. Internet protocol-controlled systems have been widely accepted, and electrical contractors are rapidly increasing their share of this new bounty. One major electrical contractor told us that, in addition to the expanding revenue steam, these services are bringing the customer closer to the contractor, in many cases eliminating the “bid job” and replacing it with exclusive design/build jobs.

In the banking world, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) spells out the security requirements. No guessing in this area. It’s all in “FDIC Rules and Regulations Part 326: the Minimum Security Devices and Procedures and the Bank Secrecy Act.” This gives a baseline for bank’s minimum-security requirements. Of course, most banks go above and beyond the minimums because security affects customers and employees when it relates to the physical structure of the bank.

In retail, security is motivated by the amount of losses that occur each year. Retailers continue to be plagued by theft from shoplifters and dishonest employees.

Shoplifting and employee theft losses totaled more than $6 billion in just 23 retail companies in 2006. Only 2 percent of those losses resulted in apprehension and recovery, according to the 19th Annual Retail Theft Survey conducted by Jack L. Hayes International, a leading loss prevention/inventory shrinkage control consulting firm. According to Hayes, for every one dollar recovered, $50.59 is lost to retail theft.

The survey reported on more than 530,000 apprehensions taking place in the 23 large retail companies, representing 14,118 stores with combined 2006 annual sales in excess of $537 billion. Some of the major results from this survey follow:

  •  Total dollar recoveries from both shoplifters and dishonest employees exceeded $116 million.
  •  Survey participants apprehended 66,507 dishonest employees in 2006.

Security should not be considered optional.

“Retail theft not only affects the bottom line,” said Joe LaRocca, the National Retail Federation’s vice president of loss prevention. “When criminals steal from retailers, consumers pay higher prices, the safety of innocent employees can be compromised, and shoppers looking for popular merchandise often cannot find it. Retailers will continue to invest in new technologies to prevent and prosecute crimes.”

Retail theft is a greater problem than many people realize. Losses are driving consumer prices higher, hurting our economy and even forcing some retailers to close stores or go out of business. Those retailers who continue to invest in theft-prevention systems and give the area of loss prevention the focus and attention it deserves will keep one step ahead of thieves. More retailers are discovering the full service electrical contractor addresses all five critical infrastructures.

This trend is causing many specialty contractors to notice electrical contractors capturing more market share of an area that they once treated as their private hunting ground. Competition is good! But that’s just my opinion.

BISBEE is with Communication Planning Corp., a telecom and datacom design/build firm. He provides a free monthly summary of industry news on www.wireville.com.