In the security industry, there are best practices for assessing security needs, designing security system solutions, installing the systems, and integrating a security system with other building systems. But what are the best practices for security system maintenance and service?


According to Sam Docknevich, national service sales manager for the fire safety and security services group of Siemens Industry Inc., Buffalo Grove, Ill., the codification of best practices is finding its way into the market. For example, NFPA 730 is a premises security guide that provides guidance concerning what types of systems will provide appropriate protection for people, places and assets, while NFPA 731 is the standard for the installation of electronic premises security systems.


“This best practice for security system maintenance addresses testing devices and systems, maintaining individual parts of the system, including the great number of IP-enabled devices that are now on the market, and the repair of diagnosed problems, including software configuration and customization,” Docknevich said.


In fact, realizing that security systems are increasingly Internet-protocol-based network computer systems is in itself a best practice, according to Kurt Brinkman, principal of Intrepid Electronic Systems, Oakland, Calif.


“The growth of this technology is manifested in the number of IP-based surveillance systems being installed today, and these systems require technicians with higher levels of IT and IP expertise,” he said.


Regardless of the sophistication of the software involved in today’s security system, there are still physical devices involved that require basic maintenance: camera lenses need to be cleaned and properly focused, batteries need to be monitored and replaced, proper power quality and conditioning must be maintained to protect sensitive computer chips, and doors and door hardware need to be inspected to avoid mechanical failure.


In addition to ensuring that such items as camera cleaning and regular sensor and system testing is included in any service contract, it is important to include training security staff and other employees.


“Training employees to understand the system and how it is used creates value because the client doesn’t have to pay for additional training with every new hire when it’s included in the contract,” said James. E. McDonald, integrated system consultant for American Alarm & Communications Inc., Auburn, Mass.


The contractor’s role


According to Brinkman, one of the biggest challenges to the contractor’s role of ensuring that the entire security system is working properly—including the databases used in capturing and storing surveillance images—is the number of manufacturers and different technologies involved. He advises contractors to develop a separate maintenance division that fulfills the customer’s need for constant security system availability long after the installation is complete.


“With such diverse offerings on the market, it is better for the contractor to build its own expertise by training staff and getting the necessary certifications that demonstrate to customers that the contractor can perform the work in what is becoming a more service-based industry and economy,” he said. 


And, according to McDonald, contractors that offer maintenance contracts on the security systems they install will create value, improve client relationships and, because the contractor is already on-site, might also increase other project opportunities.


Docknevich, however, believes the contractor has more opportunity when partnering with system integrators and dealers on the design, installation and maintenance of security systems.


“The contractor can leverage its expertise by ensuring that the integrator’s designs are valid and by guiding the design and installation processes,” he said. 


And, for maintenance, the contractor could work with manufacturers to maintain the security system infrastructure (wiring, cabling, conduits and power), while the system integrator leverages its expertise through maintaining and optimizing the software.


“It’s a natural partnership that benefits both,” he said.


Emerging trends


Wireless technology is finding its way into security system applications because it is an easier-to-install and less-expensive solution.


“Wireless technology enables cameras to be placed in more out-of-the-way places or to be moved on demand. This makes it easier to scale the entire system,” Docknevich said.


Wireless technology doesn’t come without challenges, however. It requires the contractor to have employees who understand the range and frequency interference limitations of wireless technology and to be willing to invest in higher levels of technology education,” Brinkman said.


“However, because wireless technology reduces installation costs, it can enable the contractor to bid and win more projects,” he said.