Access Control – More than Electronic Keys

Business owners and managers are constantly working to identify areas of risk, and systems or processes that will mitigate that risk. An organization’s resources include personnel, and physical and electronic assets – all of which need to be safeguarded. Access control systems can be configured to protect your employees, property, equipment and valuable data from unauthorized individuals.

This article will focus on device or endpoint access control, which is used to protect personnel and physical assets for a company. Access control allows a company to make resources available only to those that require it, and is an effective security method for companies of all sizes. The systems are used to ensure critical areas are available only to those who are essential to the restricted resources. Access controlled areas can also provide valuable reporting, giving you a trail of who went where and at what time. This can be used for access to your facility from outside, or restricted access within your facility. You can also set restrictions to apply on particular days and times for employees, allowing entry during work days and hours but not outside of those times.

Businesses need to understand not only the best way to use access control in everyday security, but also the implications it has for management and a company’s culture. Used properly, access control will provide your employees with a greater sense of security in the workplace. Carefully consider which assets need access control, you want to protect employees and assets without being overly restrictive which can create a culture of distrust.

Access control systems range from simple, stand-along entry control to complex, fully integrated systems. Determine the purpose of your access control system. The most basic access control system will keep out anyone who is not supposed to enter an area – whether that is your front door, parking garage, server room, personnel records room, or any other area with sensitive or valuable resources. Consider how secure you need an area to be – will a key card be sufficient or do you need a system with redundant methods of security for additional protection – a card and thumbprint for example?

More complex systems can integrate access control with your other security devices, such as CCTV and monitored entry detection, to enhance the value of your security system. Access control can go beyond electronic keys though. For example, equipment can be equipped with an access control system allowing only trained employees to operate the equipment. The system can also be linked to your billing system, as it already tracks date and time for when keys are used, an employee can access the equipment with a card assigned to a particular account and use the card again at the end of the operation. With the start and end times logged, the billing system can automatically account the time in the billing system for the appropriate client. You can also attach a clock to your access control system and utilize it for employees to clock in and out of work.

A1 can help you review your facility and work functions to outline ways access control can be utilized in your processes. Determining the size of your access control system is your next step. How many doors do you need to secure? Are you wanting to secure your entire facility, or just the server room?

Here are some additional questions to think about when setting up an access control system:

*  Do you have doors for employees only?

*  What are the doors made of: wood, steel, or aluminum and glass?

*  Do you need to secure any designated fire doors?

*  Do you have any garage doors or parking lot gates to control?

*  If you have more than one site to secure, consider an access control system that can be operated over a network which allows you to manage the security at all your locations from a central point.

*  Consider whether you need a free exit and controlled exit system. In a free exit system, there is no requirement for leaving a secure area. The system either detects someone approaching an exit (usually through motion sensors) and unlocks the door, or has a release button or bar that allows people to Exit. In a controlled exit system, the system requires the use of the same security for entry and exit. By law, access control systems have to be set up to allow people to exit if the system fails or power goes out. Controlled exit systems increase both security and your overall costs.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Cell Monitoring: Why you should upgrade your fire alarm panels now

Plain old telephone service (POTS) lines have served us well but are quickly coming to an end. As this technology becomes obsolete, communication systems that once relied on it – including alarm monitoring – are looking to cellular service as a replacement.


The end of analog lines is near. In December of 2009, AT&T reported to the FCC that is was seeing ways of phasing out ‘Relics of a By-Gone Era.’ Now, seven years later, analog lines have been replaced with digital or cellular devices for most industries. Alarm panels are one of the few remaining devices that regularly rely on analog lines for monitoring. Why though, are we allowing a vital part of our security and life safety systems to rely on outmoded technology?

It’s not just that analog lines are outmoded, the replacement – cellular service – is significantly better. Single path cell systems report into the central station every 5 minutes, versus every 24 hours for a system connected via POTS lines. This dramatically increases the ability of your central monitoring station to discover a problem with your system. Consider this, if your system is on POTS lines it might check in at 2:00 a.m. If your system then experiences a problem and shuts down at 2:04 a.m., your system monitoring station will not know there is a problem until 2:00 a.m. the next morning. That’s almost a full 24 hours that you are unprotected!  However, if your system is on a cellular monitoring service the problem will be discovered at 2:05 a.m., allowing your provider to notify you almost immediately of a problem and decrease system downtime.

In addition to better system monitoring, cellular monitoring also costs less than POTS lines monitoring. As you can see from the analysis below, cell monitoring provides better technology at a lower cost.

Traditional Monitoring Costs + Business Lines                                   Typical Savings with Cellular Monitoring 

2 Year Agreement Costs = $3,024.00                                                                    2 Year Agreement Savings = $1,101.00

3 Year Agreement Costs = $4,536.00                                                                     3 Year Agreement Savings = $1,953.00

4 Year Agreement Costs = $6,048.00                                                                    4 Year Agreement Savings = $2,817.00

5 Year Agreement Costs = $7,560.00                                                                     5 Year Agreement Savings = $3,705.00

6 Year Agreement Costs = $9,072.00                                                                     6 Year Agreement Savings = $4,653.00

Save money and improve your asset protection with cell monitoring.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Greg Lane

Fake Security Cameras: Are They All That?

What are fake security cameras?

Fake cameras are exactly what they sound like: inexpensive props that look like real CCTV cameras. They are designed to mimic the appearance of popular models of residential and commercial security cameras, but provide no real protection. They are not working cameras and will not record any footage.

Do Fake Security Cameras Prevent Crime?

The honest answer here is, maybe. A scarecrow might work for a few months, but eventually the birds learn the dummy poses no threat and will flock to a farm again. In the same way, criminals will eventually figure out you have a fake camera. They’ll take advantage of the lack of security and you’ll find yourself paying for a real camera that you probably should have spent money on in the first place, as well as having the cost of loss or damage.

Fake cameras can create a false sense of security, which can get you into trouble in more ways than you may think.

The Liability in Fake Security Cameras

The false sense of security from your fake camera can create disastrous consequences for everyone but the criminal.

While dummy security cameras may provide some degree of deterrence, installing them does expose the company to liability. If there is a known security issue, the company may have a duty (if not legally, what about an ethical duty?) to take reasonable measures to protect the business, employees, and property.

By installing a dummy security camera, particularly if there is a known security issue, the company is representing that there is a security measure in place — one that does not actually exist. If a crime occurs in an area where a person felt secure due to the existence of the camera, the company is at risk for creating the false sense of security. Similarly, there is exposure to liability if a person who was a victim of a crime in an area “monitored” by the dummy camera subpoenas the video and there is none.

There are a growing number of lawsuits finding liability for these dummy cameras. The best way to mitigate this liability is to install real security cameras.

Protecting Yourself Against Falsehoods

Keeping a video record of everything that happens in your building will save you from any false claims. For example, if someone claims they fell in your parking lot, footage for evidence will make a much stronger contest of the fraudulent claim.

Pros and Cons of Fake Security Cameras

-Less Expensive (at least initially)

-Lawsuits from people who thought they were safe
-Can’t catch perpetrators as easily
-Only hold off crime for so long (then the cost of fake security cameras increases because they are in addition to your loss and, potentially, the new install of real cameras)
-No evidence to protect against fraudulent claims

By putting the money forward initially for a real security camera, you’ll be saving yourself from greater expenses later.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Security Essentials: Your Security Camera Placement Guide

Before Installing Your Security Cameras, Evaluate the Following:

  1. Distance from camera to the subject being recorded
  2. Environmental conditions your camera will need to withstand
  3. Lighting conditions

Are you Signing Your Security Camera Up for a Long Distance Relationship?
That’s okay in some cases, with the right equipment you can make distance work.

  1. The greater the distance between the camera and the subject, the higher the quality camera and cable you’ll need.
  2. The greater the distance between the camera and its power source, the lower the video quality and IR brightness
  3. The more out of reach a camera is, the better! Please note the technician servicing the camera will need to be able to reach it.
  4. Keep cameras at least 15 ft from each other or other wireless devices using the same frequency–I.e. microwaves, cordless phones, etc.

Is Your Security Camera the Outdoorsy Type?
Your camera spends all of its time outdoors but how will you protect it and help it do its job?

  1. Make sure the power connections are not directly exposed to water, and shield them from other outdoor elements.
  2. Only use cables and equipment made for outdoor use.
  3. Clean the protective camera lens periodically using a lint free cloth.
  4. Don’t submerge a weatherproof camera under water. It can handle rain and snow, but probably not a dip in the pool.
  5. Try to install your camera somewhere under a brim. Rain and Snow aren’t supposed to directly hit your camera.
  6. Cameras can work in colder temperatures than the specs suggest because heat is produced while they’re plugged in.

Security Camera Blindness is 100% Preventable
First of all, “security camera blindness” is not a technical term– it just fits with all the personification happening in this post. Really though, the lighting your camera is exposed to can inhibit its ability to function enough that you won’t see anything.

  1. Don’t point the camera directly at a light source.
  2. Don’t aim your camera out a window, it has a tendency to only record window glare and nothing else.
  3. The level of light to the camera sensor needs to be the same as the level of light at the focal target. So don’t put your camera in a dark place to record a lighter area. It just doesn’t work with standard cameras.
  4. Night vision cameras need IR LED lighting placed above the unit to illuminate the focal point.


Tips to a Long-Lasting, Happy Relationship With Your Security Camera

  1. Plug your cameras into a surge protector. Voltage spikes will cause them to fail prematurely.
  2. If you have questionable area, ask your installer to set up a demo for you.
  3. Choose strategic places for your cameras that will provide details of each visitor. Entrances, exits, and high traffic areas are a great start.


So now you know. With a little care, consideration, and the right equipment your security camera will stay healthy and helpful for your entire relationship.

Are you ready to find your perfect security camera match now? Let us help! Click here to contact us, or call 1-800-859-6198.


Joseph Reynolds
Joseph Reynolds