In Episode 4 of The Missions Critical Fire Protection Podcast, Lee Kaiser sits down with Jim O'Connell, National Business Development Director at ORR, to discuss his history and experience in the fire protection industry and the future of mission critical fire protection.
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Welcome to MCFP: Meet the Experts where ORR Protections' VP of Engineering, Lee, Kaiser, interviews
industry insiders on all things mission critical fire protection.
Lee Kaiser (00:20):
I'm here today with Jim O'Connell from ORR Protection. Jim you're a National Business Development
Manager focusing on telecommunications and data center markets. And we're really lucky to have you
today. So tell me, how did you get into fire protection? How'd you find yourself in that field?
Jim O'Connell (00:37):
I came out of school, Villanova, and started doing some interviews with different companies and so
forth. And I got an opportunity to interview with Honeywell. And Honeywell was doing a kind of a pilot
program on what they called hardwired systems representatives. They wanted first a sales guy, but with
some aptitude for electronics and also other types of, you know, aptitude. So I went through the testing
process and scored well, and I got into the fire alarm business where essentially I was trained for six
weeks in Minneapolis at their headquarters. The process was you sold the project. You designed it, you
drew it up. The mechanical drawing back then, not CAD. And then you went in the field and you
commissioned it. So it was really kind of interesting. We were very successful with it and it kind of led to
a lot of the success that I had for, you know, going forward and being able to design systems from a sales
Lee Kaiser (01:46):
I'm sure you've done a lot of projects through your career. Name one of your favorite projects. Does
anyone come to mind that was really fun to do?
Jim O'Connell (01:54):
Well, one that I wasn't really in my comfort zone on, but it's called the, the Tobin Performing Arts Center
in San Antonio, Texas. It was a project where we had some special applications that we had to do some
design build. So we got together with, you know, many of our operations people and our engineering
team and came up with a solution. Presented it to the customer team, a very large consulting engineer,
and we were accepted on the project. It wasn't really a cost project. It was just a, could we perform in
the timeframe and did we have the expertise to design and get it through the process of, you know, the
city and so forth, who San Antonio is a very large engineering, you know, HJ group and they're very
stringent. So it was an interesting project, but it was outside of what was my core, you know, centric
knowledge of fire alarm and large fire alarm systems. This was an application of specialty suppression
with Marioff, some other types of heat detection and in Vesda and so forth. Then it was, what I would
consider probably one of the true integration project that I hadn't done before.
Lee Kaiser (03:16):
Yeah. Well, admittedly, I spent a little time with you on that project then. That's one of my favorites too.
So what, are there any other projects that you can think of that you haven't done that you'd like to do in
your career? What's a dream project for you?
Jim O'Connell (03:30):
One of the things that I always liked once I understood the complexity of some of the newer systems and
now how they network together is a very large system that has, you know, high redundancies and
different types of high level networks and so forth. The voice communication systems. A lot of the
systems now with the ability to do emergency communications is always something that was, you know,
is it that special engineering piece, aside from the basics of the fire alarm system, to be able to engineer
or design that type of that system has always been, but on a large scale, you know, something that is in
effect of, you know, five, six buildings in campus environments and that type of thing.
Lee Kaiser (04:15):
And by the campus, it could be like university campus. So we think of, or maybe industrial campus.
Jim O'Connell (04:22):
Data centers. Industrial. Anything like that, that's multiple building with a centralized, you know, group
where they monitor all the facilities from a centralized command center and that type of thing. And
utilize all the high end equipment that's available on the market today
Lee Kaiser (04:36):
Sometimes we buy just the equipment that can get it done but there's lots of more out there.
Jim O'Connell (04:41):
Yeah. So the bells and whistles that are available.
Lee Kaiser (04:43):
It's nice to have the bells and whistles. So let me ask you, what, you know, of the technologies that we
use in fire protection, what do you feel like you're an expert in?
Jim O'Connell (04:53):
Well, certainly from a fire alarm standpoint, all of the functionality of all the equipment and the ability to
design it, but Vesda is probably one of the things that I really put a lot of time into, to understand and be
able to communicate effectively and educate a lot of our customers. So, cause they really don't
understand it and I've been able to flip some customers from all, "Oh boy, Vesda, that's tough stuff."
Well, in effect, if they understood, if it's put in correctly and it's programmed by the right personnel and
it's designed the right way, it's probably the best product on the market. There's no doubt. So, but that
and fire alarm, the basics of fire alarm and some of the larger type systems and networking capabilities, I
think are probably my strong suits, you know, but I've learned, I've learned a suppression business over
the years, to an extent.
Lee Kaiser (05:46):
Well Orr's a good place to learn the suppression business, for sure. What kind of applications do you feel
you're best at? You know, what applications do you know the most about?
Jim O'Connell (05:55):
Well, certainly, telecommunications. I've been involved in that market or that segment for most of my
career. I started with some high-tech mission critical type customers. One of my first customers that I
spent probably my first five years in the business was with General Electric in Philadelphia or Valley
Forge. And they were the engineering arm and where they built the first Moon rover that, you know,
drove around on the Moon. They had some high tech spaces and they were utilizing some pretty
extravagant type applications way back then, even as, you know, archaic as some of those systems were.
But, you know, telecommunications, you know, I've been dealing with AT&T for 35 years. So I've seen it
from, you know, high voltage systems, which are 220 volt DC powertronic systems to what we do
currently now today. So, you know, and the interesting part about telecommunications is they have a
little brotherhood. They all mirror each other, you know, they get together and, you know, agree on the
standards and that's the gospel, so to speak. And they all have a little bit of a variation to it, but it's
pretty much the same stuff. You know, and they worked together on the code developments. So they're
all, you know, in compliance and in agreement. So telecommunications I'd say is definitely my primary
area of expertise.
Lee Kaiser (07:21):
Well, Jim O'Connell, National Business Development Manager, thanks for spending a little time with me
today and we appreciate your expertise.
Jim O'Connell (07:28):
Speaker 1 (07:29):
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