Selling Security Lighting: The Bright Protector

Security is a hot topic, thanks to the burst of millennium warnings. And, it's a hot opportunity to sell security lighting products. The turn of the century brought security discussions to television and newspaper front pages. Awareness of physical security and the need to prepare is at an all-time high. Criminals love the dark, and facilities managers know it. Security lighting discourages intruders by putting them in the spotlight. That's the only function of a security lighting system. A well-designed system can be a powerful crime deterrent. It requires a combination of planning, technology, and common sense. "Eternal vigilance" helps also, but is less necessary if the lighting is good. While security lighting's specific purpose is to increase personal and property security, it is usually an integral part of a facility's overall lighting system-and the overall security system of fences, doors, locks, gates, and electronic surveillance. It often includes fixtures intended primarily for other purposes such as decoration and safety. Nevertheless, in designing, selecting, and installing a security lighting system, or evaluating its effectiveness, the lighting must be viewed solely from its contribution to enhancing security. Simply having lights in the parking lot is not enough. Too often, it requires a break-in to alert a property owner that lighting intended primarily for other purposes, is inadequate for security. Herein lies a sales opportunity for distributors to build on the enhanced awareness of security, and a chance to provide valuable assistance to your customers by providing security lighting recommendations and products. Good security lighting deters crime by: - Making detection seem likely to intruders - Increasing the range of search by guards and/or surveillance cameras - Limiting an intruder's view of security personnel or devices - Aiding in locating intruders for apprehension Most security lighting is exterior, to thwart unauthorized entry, and should not be confused with emergency lighting, which is usually indoors, to assist in crisis evacuation. Evaluating a security lighting system Effective security lighting will depend on the site and the level of security that is required. For example, inspection of the underside of vehicles entering the secure area requires luminaires in the road surface. You can suggest to your customers that they consider the ambient brightness of the surrounding area. Their security lighting should exceed, or at least match, that of the area. If lights in the area are turned off at some time during the night, as nearby businesses close, it increases the impact of the security lighting because the lighted property will stand out in the dark. However, the security lighting will also call attention to the site, so the overall security lighting must be bright enough to deter intruders. After-dark lighting of the entire area is the recommended deterrent to intrusion, as it makes the likelihood of detection appear more likely. The shape of the site must be considered. If the secure area is open, area lighting is required. If the site is filled with buildings, large equipment, railcars, etc., then floodlighting of these obstructions is recommended. It is best to light the entire site, if possible, to eliminate dark spots that could be used for surreptitious approach. Areas with a high degree of obstruction, or movable obstructions, such as shipping containers at a port facility, or trucks in a parking lot, require lighting that is placed to avoid shadows. Luminaires mounted on very high poles (to reduce the length of shadows) and installing at least two light sources should be considered, to illuminate all locations in the area. Large open spaces, such as storage areas, can be lighted with floodlighting or road lighting mounted on poles of at least 30 feet in height (which also reduces vandalism aimed at darkening the site). The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) suggests, as a rule of thumb, that a ratio of average to minimum illuminance of 8:1 be achieved, with a foot-candle range of 0.5 to 2. Remember, the greater the ambient light level, the higher the illuminance must be in the secure area, so that it is brighter than its surroundings. If a site contains a building with a restricted amount of open space around it, security lighting can be provided by illuminating the building, with the surrounding area lit by light reflecting off the building surfaces. Fixtures can be mounted on the building or on nearby poles or structures. The entire building exterior should be illuminated, including all doors and windows and the roof. Such lighting, of course, shows off the building at night. While it may be tempting to use the floodlighting to dramatically accent the structure's architecture, the primary purpose of the lighting is security, and that means no dark spots to achieve dramatic effect. When floodlighting a building's exterior, it is wise to avoid distracting light pollution caused by the fixtures shining through windows into work areas. This is particularly important if the building has personnel working at night (or could have in the future), or if it has tenants with work schedules that are not under the control of the building owner. If a facility has a gatehouse, it should be lighted to provide the guards with adequate light in the surrounding area, without brightly illuminating the interior, so intruders will not be able to determine the number of guards, or if the gatehouse is manned at all. Task lighting in the gatehouse should be much lower than in the outside area, and dimmable. While more expensive to operate, quartz floodlights in the gate area will provide bright light and accurate color rendering for identifying the true colors of vehicles, clothing and documents. Choosing the right security lighting products There are lighting products specifically applicable for security, such as motion-activated and dusk-to-dawn floodlights, cold weather, and vandal-resistant fixtures, and instant restrike luminaires. Other fixtures, such as cutoff luminaires with their unique design, can be effective in security applications because they restrict light trespass outside of the secure areas. This allows for bright lighting of the secure area without spreading distracting light to adjoining properties. The energy costs of floodlighting the entire perimeter of large facilities dictates that High-Intensity Discharge (HID) fixtures be used for security lighting. Dusk-to-dawn fixtures with light sensors save energy via automatic shut off at dawn, while ensuring that the lights are on during periods of darkness. Motion-activated floodlights are energy-efficient, and provide the added element of surprise. They can be deployed at low-traffic locations, where illumination is infrequently required. In addition to startling an intruder, the sudden lighting of the area can alert guards and provide lighting for investigating the intrusion. Very sensitive motion-activated floodlights are available with features that eliminate false triggering and "sneak-by" when the fixtures are high-mounted to be out of the reach of intruders. They should usually be deployed to augment other security lighting. Security lighting fixtures should also be protected. Placing them high on buildings or poles will shield the fixtures and lamps from vandals or darkening during an attempted intrusion. Installing luminaires with vandal-resistant glass or wire shields will reduce damage. Instant restrike circuits will speed relighting after a power outage, to keep secure areas lighted and provide almost continuous light for Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) monitoring and recording. Other CCTV considerations of the security lighting plan are insuring that there is adequate light to produce clear video images, and that parking areas, where obstructions, such as containers and trucks, could temporarily obscure the light. Mounting the fixtures on high poles will reduce the risk of blocked light and shadows. Security lighting is a cost-efficient, reliable way your customers can protect their facilities from intrusion. It discourages crime, requires minimum labor expenditures to maintain, and supports the work of the security staff by extending the range of physical and electronic surveillance. Security lighting can also enhance a facility's image and provide illumination to workers in exterior operations. But, in recommending a security lighting system, remember that its primary purpose is security. LIM is vice president of marketing for the Crescent/Stonco division of Genlyte-Thomas, a New Jersey-based manufacturer of a broad line of fluorescent and energy-efficient HID lighting products and accessories, compact fluorescent lighting and exit signs for commercial, industrial and residential markets. He can be reached at (856) 546-5500 or at

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