Rules of Security Installation

Chester A. Gilliam Comments
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Rules of Security InstallationAvoiding pitfalls and making the most of gates, access, alarms and cameras

By Chester A. Gilliam

These days, self-storage facilities are quite different from those built 10 or 15 years ago. As they have evolved into state-of-the-art facilities offering much more than simple storage, their security needs, too, have progressed. Security systems require more planning and specialized equipment than ever before. Gone are the days of an architect drawing a line on the blueprints and calling it a gate. Also gone are days of waiting until the last few weeks of construction to choose your security vendor and system installer.

The biggest pitfall of installation is poor planning. Developers spend months determining just the unit mix, laying out plans and selecting buildings with little attention to security needs. Security must be accommodated from the beginning, as site layout can play a big part in how well a system functions. For example, if the gate is not placed properly on the site plans, you could end up with a layout that does not work well for traffic flow and creates operational problems.

It is imperative to include as part of your design team people experienced in the planning and installation of storage-specific security systems. You need professionals who can take an honest look at your site needs and budget, and devise the best system for your particular site.

General Installion Requirements

There are four major areas to consider when it comes to security installation: gates, access control, door alarms and video surveillance. Each has its own set of problems with respect to installation, operation and maintenance. However, there are some issues that seem more commonplace than others. First, let’s look at general rules for proper installation:

  • Use professional assistance in selecting security systems.
  • Plan your site for security. Place buildings on the outside perimeter instead of using fencing.
  • Incorporate your security system when considering your budget.
  • Allow time for the installation of the security system. Much of the equipment cannot be installed until the site or buildings are complete. Prepare in advance by getting your installer involved in the beginning. Follow time lines, and keep your installer informed of schedule changes as they occur.
  • All exposed wires should be enclosed in conduit or otherwise protected.
  • All wires and conduit should be secured to the building.
  • Conduit size and location is critical in the planning stage. Look for what you want now and what you may want to add later in the way of equipment.
  • Avoid running wires through buildings. It is better to lay conduit than to run wires through units.
  • Place conduit on the outside of buildings. This may not look as clean, but it makes for a better installation.
  • Never place security equipment inside units. You must be able to access it for service.
  • Plan for all the items you need to plug into electrical outlets. Get your installer’s input on how many outlets to use and where they should be located.
  • Allow room and mounting options for equipment.

Security Gates

Design is everything, and gate placement is one of the most important and misunderstood security-system components. The entry gate must be in the right position to allow for the correct flow of traffic while providing admission to the office and controlling access to the site. This sounds like a lot to consider; but if you look at your plans and think about who will be using the gate, as well as the types of vehicles it will have to accommodate, you can minimize problem areas.

Here are some basic rules to follow for gate installation:

  • Gates should be between 16 and 20 feet in length.
  • Avoid using a track on the ground. It will cause problems sooner or later.
  • Use a commercial-grade gate operator. Operators are rated as to duty cycle, gate length and gate weight.
  • Follow UL 325 standards. This sets the criteria for the gate and related safety equipment.
  • Allow for the size and length of various vehicles. Visitors should not block traffic when entering the site.
  • Install a pedestrian gate.
  • Keep the gate area as flat as possible. Avoid deep Vs or grade changes in the gate area.
  • Ensure the gate has plenty of room to open.
  • Choose a proven gate design that will work well in your specific environment. Try to avoid a swing-gate system.
  • Check with the fire department to see what it will require in terms of gate size and how it will open the gate in times of emergency. Chances are, planning and zoning did not get its input on your security system; and it is your responsibility to make sure you are in compliance with local requirements. Life safety always has the last say.

Access Control

Where there is a gate, there will be an access system. Keypad placement is critical to your traffic flow. Placing keypads on the wrong line can turn a good gate design bad. While the standard for keypad placement is between 15 and 20 feet from the gate, sometimes it is necessary to place it closer or farther to assist traffic flow or control who has the right of way through the gate.

Keypad placement can look good on a blueprint and yet not work so well in the field. When deciding keypad and gate positions, it’s a good idea to look at the lay of the land. Examine the site and study how the gate and access system will look and feel when being used—where your buildings are, and the approach to the entry and exit keypads. Also consider what protection can be given to the keypads while they are being used.

General rules to follow for access-control installation include:

  • If possible, place keypads between 15 and 20 feet from the gate.
  • Always place bollards around keypads for protection.
  • Keep the approach to keypads in a straight line with the gate. Avoid placing them on curves or at a right angle to the gate.
  • Keep keypads in line with the edge of the gate opening. This properly aligns the tenant as he enters the premises.

Alarm Systems

This is one of the most dramatic areas of change in the storage industry. Alarm systems have become more stable and reliable, offering true tenant protection. While they have evolved, they have also become a requirement in getting and keeping customers.

The biggest problem with an alarm system is it is has to be installed correctly. You need an installation company with self-storage experience. A general alarm-installation company or electrical contractor is not a good choice. There are numerous differences between a standard burglar-alarm system and a self-storage system. This makes it imperative to hire someone qualified. Most systems on the market are very stable and reliable as far as the equipment goes. However, a bad or even marginal install can cause you problems from the start.

Here are some rules for alarm-system installation:

  • Get a competent installation company to do the work, one that has experience with the system you have chosen.
  • Make sure the correct wire is used. Type, size and number of conductors are outlined in the manuals provided by the manufacturer.
  • Wires should be protected and secured in place with tie wraps. Tie wraps should be secured to the building with screws.
  • Use a switch designed for self-storage and make sure it is properly installed. This will greatly reduce the event of false alarms.
  • Multiplexers or door-status boards should be mounted to be protected from tenant activity, never inside a unit.
  • Grommets and edge protection should be used where wires go through or over wall partitions and red iron.
  • Avoid putting equipment in a rentable unit. All equipment should be readily accessible for service and inspection.

Video Surveillance

The video industry epitomizes the phase “Change is constant.” With the introduction of the computer into the camera industry, we have seen changes at an unprecedented rate. And while these changes are wide in scope, they have simplified the installation and maintenance of CCTV systems.

Camera placement is the critical element, not only for what you are going to see, but performance. Cameras placed looking toward the sun or into shadows are going to have bad sight sometime during the day if not all of the time. Those placed where there are no gutters on buildings can be displaced during heavy snows, as can cameras exposed to areas of high wind or vibration. Choosing the right camera for the environment can make a big difference in performance.

Some rules to follow when installing surveillance cameras are:

  • Choose a camera that has back-light compensation and low-light visibility.
  • Mount all cameras on a stable part of the building.
  • All exterior cameras should be designed for outdoor use. Most will require a housing with a heater and blower.
  • Never point cameras into the sun’s path.
  • All cameras should have an auto-iris lens, even indoor ones.
  • Color cameras give better recognition in daylight, while black-and-white cameras give better resolution at night or in low-light conditions.
  • Cameras should be focused in the evening or at night.
  • Make sure you have adequate wire size and power supplies for your camera system. Allow for outdoor enclosures.
  • Power supplies should be fused and located in one area for maintenance.
  • Place monitors away from glare areas, where they can be seen by tenants and used by managers.
  • Understand how the camera system works before you sign off on installation the job. Make sure the cameras are recording.
  • Do not use pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras unless you are going to have someone to control them. You can install three to four fixed cameras for the price of one PTZ camera.

More than ever before, self-storage security systems require more planning and a better understanding of what you want to achieve. The average cost for security has risen dramatically; and it is no longer practical to avoid planning for your system during the planning stages of your project. Security is often the last system put into a project, and owners often neglect to reserve ample time or funds for proper installation.

When budgets get tight, the security system is often one of the first things cut or reduced. Ironically, one of the first things prospective tenants inquire about is security! Planning for your security needs in the beginning will avoid problems at the end of your project.

Chester A. Gilliam has been involved in selfstorage security for the past 20 years. He now works for Wizard Works Security Systems Inc., a Littleton, Colo.-based provider of access systems, individual door alarms, gates, fencing, management software, surveillance cameras, perimeter security, sales, installation and service for the self- storage industry. He can be reached at wizard-works@att.net.

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