Heeding trend pays dividends for Great Lakes

Company says lesson is: Be prepared to integrate fire and mass notification
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Thursday, February 3, 2011

BUFFALO, N.Y.—Being ahead of the mass notification curve  has paid off for Great Lakes Building Systems, helping it win contracts worth about $850,000, according to company president John Wojdan.

He said that the 10-year-old company, which is based here and is a Notifier Engineered Systems Co. affiliate and a certified Honeywell Commercial Security Systems dealer, realized over the past few years that “the fire guys … would be the leaders in mass notification because our systems are extremely robust and all our systems are supervised to comply with the national fire codes.”

So the company of about 25 employees geared up for that trend. Then they got a job about a year ago with Moog, a worldwide aerospace designer and manufacturer headquartered in nearby East Aurora, N.Y., to upgrade the fire alarm system in a 300,000-square-foot plant.

Great Lakes noticed that the huge plant had only a telephone system, which didn’t always work, to alert people of a fire or other emergency, Wojdan said. So he said his company suggested tying a mass notification system in with the fire alarm system they were installing.

Great Lakes ended up installing a Notifier by Honeywell system in plant 11 with REACT Systems mass notification software, he said.

Moog was so pleased with the

$300,000 job that it has led to more, Wojdan said. This year, Great Lakes is expecting to get more than a half a million dollars to complete similar jobs in two more Moog plants, he said.

“I guess the lesson to be learned in our business is that the true integration of systems is now happening, and those guys that are poised and ready to do that kind of work are going to not just survive but thrive in our industry,” Wojdan said.

He said the system installed at plant 11 is “true integration with fire and mass notification.” He described how it works: “What this software product does is it takes a signal from our fire systems or their medical emergency buttons and broadcasts it out to cell phones. So in the event of an emergency, they would get not only their speaker strobes blaring at the plant, but every guy that’s on the fire brigade would get a cell phone text message, and he would get his cell phone ringing and a voice stating, ‘Fire alarm in plant 11.’ And if he is sitting at his PC … he’ll get a red screen pop up on his PC stating, ‘Fire alarm in plant 11.’”

Wojdan is co-owner of Great Lakes with his business partner, William Blanchard.

As SSN reported in April, the two are former Simplex employees who decided in 2001 to start their own company after Tyco acquired Simplex, Wojdan said.

He said Great Lakes, which does fire and security systems as well as fire suppression, stands out because it guarantees a response time of four hours to its customers. He said the company now has about 900 customers in the commercial, industrial, educational and health care verticals, and opened a satellite office in Rochester last year.

In its Buffalo headquarters, Great Lakes also has a demonstration training center, where the company holds lunch and learn sessions for customers on the latest products. That’s how the company sold Moog on the products installed at the plant, Wojdan said.

“We like to say we’ve got a perfect record as far as closing a job when we bring people in here (to the demonstration facility),” he said.