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Facilities Focused

University Business, Oct 2010

When developing and refining a business continuity plan, "you have to look beyond voice and data," urges Bryan Mehaffey, vice president of technology at Ave Maria University (Fla.). "You have to think about facilities and life safety." Campus buildings and the equipment they contain are worth millions of dollars and shouldn't be forgotten once students, faculty, and staff are safe.

A scenario Mehaffey suggests is the HVAC system not recovering after a power outage. "The building is sitting there for days before the authorities let you back in," he suggests. "You have all that humidity, mold, and water damage because you didn't know your system didn't turn on." To prevent this from happening on the Ave Maria campus, Mehaffey has worked with Cisco, Johnson Controls, and Honeywell to develop an automated system that allows remote monitoring and control. "I can control it from my iPhone," he says. "I can adjust temperatures, start and stop engines, and create reports all remotely." The only downside: It's hard for Mehaffey to go on vacation.

Although Mehaffey knowingly built the capability into his system, facilities managers might have these benefits without realizing it. Leaders at George Mason University (Va.) worked with Siemens to upgrade their facilities system and added remote monitoring independent of their business continuity plan. Those features came into play during snowstorms in December 2009 when the campus was closed for a week. "We hadn't realized the piece of mind coming from being able to monitor the system," says CIO Joy Hughes. "The residential students had a ball. They were fed and warm."