The installation of a self-storage security system is no small job. Systems consist of a diverse number and type of sophisticated components. The combination of these elements accomplishes the overall site-security plan. Establishing a “security philosophy” for the site will help you determine which components need to be installed, and how each piece will be tied together.
Choosing a Security Installer
The first question you need to ask yourself is if you or your staff have the knowledge and expertise to correctly install and set up the system. Nowadays you can find how-to instructions for just about anything on the Internet. Security systems are certainly part of this information overload.
A security-system installer needs to be an expert at welding, pulling wire, reading site plans, traffic control, wiring schemes, site design, ditch digging, computers, system setup and programming, concrete, gate construction, fencing, safety regulations, photography, elevators, etc. Now do you still think you can tackle installation in house?
Choosing the right installer with a proven track record and experience in the self-storage industry can make or break your ability to provide a secure, marketable store. It can mean the difference between a smooth-running operation or an ongoing maintenance issue.
Licensing requirements for installers vary from state to state. Even though a person may be licensed, it doesn’t guarantee the quality of the work. Portioning out pieces of the work to several installers is not advisable. Just because you know someone who builds gates doesn’t mean the gate will be built to fit, mounted or tied in correctly to the gate operator and access system.
The security installer should be involved during the planning stage, prior to finalizing your site design. The location of buildings, driveways, gates, parking and office all have an effect on security. The installer you choose will have valuable input on the location of these items, based on his experience with placing gates, keypads and cameras as well as office design. Bringing him in early will also allow better working relationships to develop with other contractors, such as the electrician, concrete provider and general contractor.
Your Security Gate
The location of the entry gate in relation to the office, storage buildings and street is the most important security consideration for the site. Unfortunately, in many cases, it’s one of the last things to be addressed. The gate location is influenced by three things: safety, the position of the office, and zoning. It needs to be far enough off the road to allow for the stacking of vehicles as they enter the property, particularly trucks or trailers.
Remember to allow enough room for the gate to operate. Different types of gates require corresponding clearances. Place the gate so the office and parking spaces are accessible without having to go through it. Local zoning requirements may dictate. If the gate is not properly located, even a perfect installation will not resolve traffic issues.
Installation of your security system begins from the ground up—literally. In fact, it begins below ground with conduit runs.
All underground electrical wiring, including the low-voltage security system, needs to be installed in PVC conduit. Electrical conduit is gray and available at most building-supply and hardware stores. Electrical fittings ensure wire is not nicked or damaged during installation. All joints should be connected using PVC glue. Conduit should be buried a minimum of 12 inches below grade.
Conduit needs are usually communicated between the security installer and electrician or general contractor. In general, electrical-conduit runs are going to the same place as the security system. Usually the electrician will lay the conduit for security because it’s more cost-effective and helps avoid the security installer cutting through the electrician’s conduit, and vice versa.
The two conduits may be laid in the same trench, but there needs to be at least 12 inches of separation. This eliminates the “noise” that can bleed through between high and low voltage. If this is not adhered to, the problems you may have later on would only be correctable by separating the lines, which is an expensive solution.
Once the PVC conduit comes out of the ground, it should connect to metal conduit; but it should be 6 to 12 inches above ground before converting. Installing PVC to a metal fitting below ground will allow water to seep into the conduit and cause problems later.
There are two types of metal conduit fittings: indoor and outdoor. Outdoor fittings may be used inside, but indoor fittings should never be used outdoors. The risk of water entering the conduit can cause shorts, wire deterioration and damage.
With long wire runs, junction boxes should be placed periodically. This allows for easier wire pulls and prevents the overstressing of wires. Metal conduit should be fastened or supported. When connecting to a moving or vibrating object such as a gate operator, flex conduit or fittings are required. Using a bender instead of 90-degree fittings makes for a smoother installation and lowers wire stress.
When it comes to conduit runs, more is better. The diameter is also important. Even if you’re not planning on having security throughout the buildings, it’s best to use a two-inch minimum. Undersized conduit and junction boxes will make the job difficult or impossible.
Keep in mind that cameras will require a “home run” back to the office from each location. Unused conduit should be capped during construction until needed. Leaving it exposed risks dirt, water, rocks and concrete, rendering it useless.
Wiring Your System
Wire is the lifeline of your security system. Manufacturers of security components and systems specify the wire size and type to be used for their products. Not following these specifications risks voiding the warranty, compromising the integrity of the system and costly re-wires later. Separate wire is needed for different security devices including keypads or readers, intercoms, cameras, and power and gate triggers.
When installing the intercom system, be sure to use the wire specified by the manufacturer. Also consider placement in general. Intercoms are more susceptible to noise or interference than other devices. Factors such as high-line wires in the area can cause static in the intercom. This holds true for lights in hallways as well. Be sure to ask and follow supplier recommendations. In some cases, it may be impossible to eliminate all static.
Cameras should be installed strategically throughout the property. The amount of coverage desired will dictate the number of cameras. Outdoor cameras should be mounted in an environmental enclosure with blower and heater.
Hallways should have cameras for security and safety reasons. If this is not possible, at least put cameras at each access point to hallways. Cameras in the office need not be mounted in enclosures. Keep in mind that each camera will have its own wire running back to the digital video recorder (DVR).
Use proper connectors to join and terminate wires. A good supplier will not only specify the type to use, but will provide them as part of an outfit.
Setting Up the System
Your security-installation professional should be the one who ties in the system devices and brings them operational. Cameras will connect to a DVR and should be programmed to record when there is motion in the field of view. Monitoring camera activity from another location is possible through this device. Your installer should be able to demonstrate how to review what has been previously recorded.
In the case of access and alarm systems, the manufacturer may do some of the programming. The operation may be customized based on how you run your site. Items to consider include:
- Access-hour time zones
- Access levels to different sections of the property
- Control of access doors
- Number of keypads
- Elevator and lighting control
- Individual unit numbers for door alarms
Once this information is provided to the supplier, it can be preset in the system. Of course, any changes or additions may be made later at the site. The gate and motor should be fully operational, with keypad or card-reader access system connected and working. The security installer also should supply a quality owner’s manual upon completion of the work.
Following these guidelines and manufacturers’ recommendations should result in a smooth running self-storage operation. Once completed, you may use your overall security strategy to market your development. Studies show that a fully functional security system attracts self-storage clients.
John Fogg has been involved in the self-storage industry since 1986. He has worked for Sentinel Systems Corp., a manufacturer of self-storage security systems, since 1993. He previously worked in upper management and operations for several self-storage companies. To reach him, call 800.456.9955, ext. 405; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.sentinelsystems.com.