World Wide Security, a Garden City, N.Y.-based alarm company, was awarded the contract of bringing a decades old security and life-safety system into working order. The property was the summer home, turned museum, of William K. Vanderbilt II, located on the North Shore of Long Island and consisting of nine buildings scattered across some 43-acres, now called the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum.
Working with historic structures of national importance as well as non-profits can be a challenge but the added hurdle was the security and fire alarm system had not been working consistently, so there was little protection for this turn-of-the-century property. The other catch: no money in the budget for equipment.
Eagle’s Nest, listed on the U.S. National Registry of Historic Places, was the 24-room summer home of the Vanderbilts, constructed in stages from 1910 to 1936 and located in Centerport, N.Y. Planned by the same New York architectural firm that designed Grand Central Station, the home is a living example of a by-gone era and exemplifies the wealthy Gold Coast of Long Island during its heyday. The mansion sits on 43-acres overlooking the Long Island Sound and the property is comprised of a working planetarium, boathouse, seaplane hanger, marine museum, natural history habitats and other estate features. The project called for a working security and fire alarm system to protect this amazing historical gem while also monitoring visitors touring the grounds on a daily basis.
The project had technological and historical constraints associated with it as well as goals for optimizing existing equipment.
Getting history back to work
The system had not been operating to its capacity for some time, in fact there is speculation that it never worked correctly. A breakdown in communication between the former installer and the lack of desire to continue a labor-intensive relationship killed it for both parties. In initial meetings with contacts at the museum and the agency that awarded the contract, this point was brought up several times, “Can you get an old system online; will you service it; and will you also keep us up-to-date on any future repairs needed?” After consulting with our in-house technical department, we assured them we could.
The system inherited was a combination of Simplex, Bosch and NVT components; great manufacturers built to last, but World Wide is a Honeywell Authorized Dealer. We demonstrated we had the proper expertise on staff including factory-trained technicians with these systems, which gave us the ability to proceed. Working with non-profits there are many channels to work through, parties to work with, each having vested interest in the outcome and keeping within a very tight budget. Our approach was to leverage our technical expertise and project management experience as to not eat up the small amount of funding dedicated to getting this project done. An endeavor of this kind required skilled management to prevent waste.
The first step involved picking the right people to tackle the job who would systematically address each broken link in the chain. While it would have been easier to replace the system and start over, this was not what the contract called for.
Our first day involved crawling around 100-year-old underground passages to locate wires, create a working set of drawings and, utilizing satellite imaging and GPS mapping, create the guide needed to navigate the underground maze.
Hours went into deciphering what was connected to what.
Troubleshooting what we inherited, mapping wire from point A to point B and finding camera locations became very labor intensive. We also performed a great deal of site cleanup in the underground passageways, clearing them of mounds of rat droppings and other debris. The crew painstakingly cleaned every wire with a non-corrosive cleaner while also disinfecting floors around the existing equipment with bleach.