EVERY ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR has at one time or another thought about ways to expand his or her business. Sometimes the day-to-day drill of operating a business keeps an electrical contractor from differentiating itself from the competition. One way to start is to investigate developing a security division.

The professional contractor knows that regardless of what business opportunities exist, a thorough investigation of what it will take to participate in that business is necessary before actually accepting any projects.

In my opinion, the contractor must first investigate whether or not any codes or standards exist that may prove to be both a guide and a marketing help as they enter the market as well as any licensing requirements. The hospitality industry serves as an example here but the principles apply to most other occupancies.

NFPA standards

Two documents apply to security systems: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 730-2006, Guide for Premises Security and NFPA 731-2006, Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems.

As with any new venture, you first need to know how to develop a security plan for a client, and you must understand—as with other specialty systems such as fire alarm or telecommunications systems—there are specific concepts you and your sales team must know to both look professional and close the sale.

NFPA 730 has a wealth of information to enable a professional contractor to learn the necessary concepts. The systems of interest for the lodging industry in NFPA 730 include interior security systems and electronic perimeter protection. Interior security includes intrusion security systems (commonly called burglar alarms), video surveillance and electronic access control systems.

Generally speaking, the typical hotel needs these systems to protect both its assets and its guests. The video surveillance systems will primarily protect the guests and the access
control systems will protect both the guests and the hotel’s
assets. A security system will be in place to primarily protect the assets of the hotel.

According to NFPA 730, “Intrusion detection systems are intended to sound alarms or alert response personnel of an actual or attempted intrusion into an area. Intrusion detection systems are used to detect intrusion. Some are intended for exterior (outdoor or unconditioned area) protection, and some are suitable only for indoor installations.”

The guide suggests six items to consider when planning an intrusion-detection system:

  1. Sensitivity or criticality of the operation
  2. Facility vulnerability to damage, interruption, alteration or other harm
  3. Sensitivity or value of the information or property stored within or at the facility
  4. Location of facility and accessibility to intruders
  5. Other forms of protection in place or available
  6. Law enforcement or responder capability

Where the telephone lines enter the building, their vulnerability or accessibility should also be reviewed to ensure that the communication off premises will not be compromised. An assessment of the location of the facility should include the environment surrounding the building and whether or not those attempting unauthorized access will have natural cover to protect themselves.

Your salesperson should conduct a complete security vulnerability analysis (SVA) to ensure that the amount and types of security systems coverage is appropriate. NFPA 730 defines an SVA as a “technique for assessing the current status of an organization’s threat exposures, security features and preparedness and can be used in developing and strengthening both security and safety layers of protection.”

To understand how to conduct an SVA, the guide provides a recommended seven-step procedure:

Step 1: Formation of team
Step 2: Organization/facility characterization
Step 3: Threat assessment
Step 4: Threat vulnerability analysis
Step 5: Define specific security countermeasures
Step 6: Assess risk reduction
Step 7: Document findings and track implementation

NFPA 730 also recommends: “The installation of intrusion detection system components is very important, and attention should be given to NFPA 731, Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems, and the manufacturer’s specifications. Individual sensors are designed to respond to specific stimuli that indicate the presence of an intruder or an attempt to gain entry into a protected area. Similarly, switch sensors must be mounted so that they detect the actual opening of a door or window, but at the same time, the manner of installation should not make them prone to nuisance tripping. Conditions that can cause nuisance tripping include vibrations from a truck passing, wind rattling doors or windows, flickering lights, electromagnetic interference from a mobile radio, or a thunderstorm, can trigger some detectors.”

NFPA 730-2006 also provides specific guidance for access control systems for a lodging facility: “Although open to the general public, a lodging facility is a private property. Management should monitor and, when appropriate, control the access of persons onto the premises. The following should be considered:

  1. Building access should be limited to authorized users only.
  2. All exterior entrances into the facility, other than the lobby entrance, should be equipped with automatic door closers and locks.
  3. A program should exist to ensure that, during night time hours, all remote and/or unattended entrances are locked. This should not conflict with fire and emergency exit requirements.
  4. Exterior hinge pins on doors should be secured against removal.
  5. All exterior entrances into the facility should be illuminated.
  6. Remote or unattended exterior entrances into the facility should be monitored or recorded by a video surveillance system” (Chapter 14).

Special attention should be paid to item five. All exterior entrances into the facility should be illuminated, as it may change the originally specified lighting fixture requirements made by the architect. In many cases, the architect did not have the lighting fixtures or systems (specifically the common areas and exterior locations) designed with security in mind. This will also provide an opportunity to add to the contractor’s original quote and obviously to his or her bottom line.

Once the contractor decides on the approach to the systems needed to meet the goals of the SVA, then he or she should ensure they have an understanding of the installation requirements of NFPA 731-2006.

For instance, Chapter 5 of the standard requires that “all means of interconnecting wiring connections between a control unit, keypads, power supplies and accessories to the control unit shall be monitored for the integrity of the interconnecting conductors or equivalent path so that the occurrence of a single open in the installation conductors or other signaling channels and their restoration to normal shall be automatically indicated within 90 seconds.”

The standard also requires that the wiring to all initiating devices of an intrusion detection system be monitored for integrity so that the presence of an off-normal condition is automatically indicated to the user upon arming of the system.

Almost all intrusion detection security systems have an exit/entry delay to avoid false alarms from simply using the system. However, to ensure that the system maintains its security features and reliability, the delay circuit that allows entry into a protected premises must be limited to only those initiating devices, such as door contacts installed on entry doors and interior sensors, which must be bypassed to allow access to the mechanism that places the system in a disarmed state. The standard also limits the maximum time interval between the opening of an entry door and reaching the mechanism used to disarm the system to no greater than one-half of the entry delay time programmed for the system, and this delay is limited to 240 seconds maximum.

The standard has requirements for access control and video surveillance systems that will help to ensure that a contractor both follows the installation requirements of the manufacturer and those of the standard.

What the professional contractor must always do to be sure that he or she is serving the safety needs of the public is to investigate the proper methods and use the proper materials when installing these types of systems. The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee for the electrical industry (NJATC) has representation on the NFPA 730/731 Technical Committee and also has training available to help the professional contractor understand the nuances of these systems. Take advantage of all that is available to ensure a profitable and professional entry into the security market.

MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a co-editor of the current National Fire Alarm Code Handbook. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. and is located at the Warwick, R.I., office.