security

Complete Monitoring for Complete Protection

Complete Monitoring of your Life Safety Systems

Remote monitoring provides complete protection of your people and asset. Whether you have a fire, break-in, or a medical emergency your alarm monitoring staff will know immediately and can dispatch the appropriate agencies – police, fire, ambulance or any necessary support services.

In addition to alerting the authorities, your designated contact is notified of the situation ensuring that management stays abreast of all events. All within minutes of any alarm. This quick response and communication is a critical part of your safety management program.

Most companies have remote monitoring for a security system and fire protection system. While this is now commonplace, it should also be standard to have your Life Safety Partner monitoring all systems for alerts about emerging or immediate system problems. Your system can be monitored for issues such as failing batteries, electrical issues, or other problems that may interfere with the proper function of your life safety systems.

You can also have alerts monitored for health and safety items such as your AED cabinet and carbon monoxide detector. This all-inclusive monitoring ensures that the proper authorities are notified during an emergency, and that system issues are addressed quickly in order to provide continued protection.

When selecting or reviewing your Monitoring partner, understand that your security relies on the staff of the monitoring station. This means it is important that your Monitoring station have highly trained staff, capable of responding to all situations appropriately and effectively. Your Monitoring station should be staffed 24/7/365 to ensure continuous monitoring of your systems.

Customized responses from your Monitoring partner are also important. With a variety of systems being monitored for maintenance alerts and emergency alarms, there is no one response that will work for all of them. Being able to customize the responses for your different systems will allow the correct person to be notified every time.

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

Internet Speed and Mobile Security Access

Mobile access to your security assets, such as video surveillance, is an advantage and convenience for business owners. Mobile access can allow you to log into your CCTV system to view your security footage in real time. It also allows you to set up a remote security monitoring location for your surveillance system. Remote security monitoring can be an efficient means to providing security in your facility without the cost of in-house security professionals.

In order to have remote access to your security footage, it is necessary to have sufficient internet connection speed and bandwidth. One way to do this is to have a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which puts the camera on a separate network inside your own network.  If you do not have a VPN, then you need to ensure your connection speed/bandwidth is sufficient to handle both your business needs and your security cameras.

How much Internet Connection Speed/Bandwidth do you need for IP Cameras?

There are a number of factors involved in determining exactly how much connection speed or bandwidth you need for your IP cameras to provide a quality mobile connection. The main factors you need to consider are video recording resolution, video compression, number of cameras, and FPS (frame rate per second). Even if you are recording locally, you need to consider these items in planning your local network. There is no set amount of internet speed or bandwidth you will need to provide sufficient support for your IP cameras and video surveillance, instead your Life Safety Partner will utilize a formula based on the characteristics listed above to estimate how much you will need.

Do you have a high internet speed and your video surveillance is not running smoothly?

The high internet speed advertised to you for company use is generally the download speed – or the speed at which your company’s computers are downloading information from online. While this is great for your business, it is the upload speed that has more effect on the remote viewing of your video surveillance. Talk to your internet provider about your current upload speed, what you are utilizing it for, and what they have available for upgrading.

You can find out what your internet speed is through Google, click this link to run a speed test.

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

Why you need to upgrade that DVR

If your CCTV system uses a DVR, it may be time to consider upgrading to a Network Video Recorder (NVR). This newer technology is now available in a price range that makes better video surveillance accessible. Here we will review the changing technology that brought us to where we are in current CCTV systems, and the advantages we now have with this technology.

Original Analog Technology

Analog was the original technology for CCTV systems and it served a purpose, recording activity on the property for future access and review. It did not, however, broadcast live information which is how we now use CCTV for monitoring purposes. Analog picture quality was low and often unusable for identifying individuals; it also relied on staff changing the tapes regularly.

The Digital Difference

Digital systems revolutionized the way we use CCTV for security. A live broadcast is now available for monitoring from either an onsite or remote location. The footage is transferred to a computer or server for storage. Digital technology allows CCTV to be used for live security monitoring.

Digital provides faster retrieval, as you can rapidly search events by time, date, location and camera. You have options for archiving important information with your digital system, including HDD, CD-R, or DVD. You can also save space by setting your system to record only when motion or other pre-defined events are detected.

All digital surveillance technology provides higher resolution than analog. Within digital, there is also a difference in resolution. DVR’s provide a digital resolution of 1080, which we are all familiar with from our TVs. While this is an improvement from the pixilated analog video previously used, NVR-based systems have megapixel cameras which provide much clearer images which can show detail and have the ability to zoom in on facial details.

Technology End of Life

Low-definition analog systems are reaching the end of their lifespan due to competitively priced, better quality digital systems. It’s not just the camera quality either, digital systems provide better system back-up options and less maintenance.

Digital CCTV also have a longer lifespan as most systems have upgradeable software. However, DVR is being phased out for IP based systems. NVR systems have much higher resolution cameras and are now competitively priced with older cameras.

Don’t keep your security system in the past. Secure your people and assets with the most current technology available.

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

Better Video Surveillance: Upgrading is easier than you thought

Video surveillance is an integral part of any security plan.

It can be intimidating to upgrade technology, but upgrading your CCTV system is easier than you may think.  Network-based IP CCTV systems have become more affordable as the technology has become more common, so that now better quality video surveillance is cost-effective. If you haven’t upgraded your system to a Network-based IP CCTV system now may be the time.

Traditional CCTV Set-up

Traditional systems are arranged with cameras with a separate power source, and stored on a DVR. A DVR then converts the images to digital and broadcasts them on a monitor for instant viewing. The digital footage can also be sent out from the DVR, through a firewall/router and modem over the internet to remote devices for viewing.

Network-based IP CCTV Set-up

Unlike early digital cameras, IP cameras do not need a separate power source, they may derive their power from the same cable that transmits the video images. The signal is sent to a POE Switch (Power over Ethernet), and from their it can be delivered to multiple devices including a network video recorder (NVR) which does not have to be housed on-site and transmits the signal to monitors for immediate viewing, a local PC, and out, through a router/switch, and over the internet to remote devices for viewing.

The main differences here are: 1. the single cabling for power and video to the IP cameras, instead of separate cables required for power and video; and 2. No need to have an onsite storage device. This may not seem like much of a difference, but if your system is still based on older technology and you are worried about making the switch to newer and better technology, below are a few items to think about.

  1. Ease of Installation

A common misconception is that Network Video Recording-based installations are much more complex than DVR-based. While that may have been true in the past, advances in technology have included features like plug-and-play camera recognition which make NVR installations as simple as possible. New IP cameras also have ease of installation as a primary feature.

  1. Existing Infrastructure Use During Upgrade

If you have a CCTV system already in place, then you might want to transition your system slowly. There are solutions for this that will allow a slower migration so that you can replace components one at a time, either when they start to fail or have reached their end of life. This transition allows you to maximize your initial investments and provides the flexibility of funding your video surveillance upgrade over time.

  1. Cost-Effectiveness

As technology advances, IP cameras and NVR deployments are becoming more cost effective. The price of IP cameras continues to drop, and they provide significantly improved capabilities. The DVR is no longer cheaper to purchase, and the NVR operates as more than just storage – it can manage the video surveillance requirements while also operating as the foundation for the overall storage and data management needs for a work group, remote location, or stand-alone business.

  1. Scalability

If you are expanding your current CCTV system, utilizing IP cameras is the most logical choice to cover new areas. Network-IP cameras can be added to an installation that uses existing cameras. If you are expanding and ready to move away from the outdated technology of a DVR system, then this is a good place to start your system migration.

  1. Reliability

IP video surveillance systems have proven to be faster, more reliable, and every bit as durable as the older systems which utilize DVRs and analog cameras. When you consider all the inherent advantages of NVRs, the move to NVRs combined with IP cameras makes even more sense.

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

Top 3 Reasons to Upgrade your CCTV System

CCTV systems are a critical part of your life safety system, they help to maintain a secure property and provide a safe working environment to your people. If you have an older system and cameras, you may not be getting very much value from your CCTV monitoring or footage. IP-based megapixel systems can greatly improve your security. Here are the top three reasons you should upgrade your CCTV System.

  1. Higher Image Quality

The best quality for a CCTV system will come with megapixel cameras. We’ve all seen the grainy footage from traditional cameras and CCTV systems. New, megapixel cameras far surpass this with better resolution, providing a clear picture. This new technology also gives security teams the ability to zoom in on facial details. This can be important when identifying individuals from past records or assisting law enforcement in an investigation.

  1. You shouldn’t rely on outdated technology

Keeping your analog cameras and VCR or DVR, is relying on technology that is outdated (or obsolete in the case of the VCR). Sticking with outmoded technology is not providing you with the best security. New CCTV technology have better quality images from the cameras, better storage, and easier viewing and retrieving of footage.

  1. Mobile Access

We rely on mobile technology as a part of our everyday lives. Updating your CCTV System will allow you to have mobile access to your security footage and view what’s happening in real time from your mobile device. This also allows you to have a remote monitoring site or connect your CCTV system to your monitoring partner. With access to your video feed, you can check in with your facility at any time. This can be particularly helpful when an alarm has been triggered or if suspicious activity is reported on your property.

Your CCTV system should provide you with reliable, usable video security. As technology continues to progress, options for upgrading your CCTV system become more cost-effective and easier to install. Upgrading your CCTV to an IP-based megapixel system will improve your overall security program.

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

Electrical Contractors: 8 Ways to Keep your Fire Protection Project on Schedule

Keeping your project on schedule can be a challenge. Planning, communicating and coordinating with the different trade professionals is important and one set-back can cause a ripple effect for others. Here are a few items Electrical Contractors can check off the list to keep the fire protection part of the plan on moving forward.

  1. Have background CAD Drawings available

Your fire protection project starts with installation drawings which overlay with the project’s background CAD drawing. The design of a fire protection project cannot begin until these original drawings are received. When you select your Life Safety partner, have your project’s CAD drawings ready to hand over so that the fire protection design can begin immediately. To delay the start of the design can lead to slow submittals, unnecessary delays, or even missed deadlines.

  1. Coordination with other trades

To have a successful fire protection design, your Life Safety partner will need to coordinate efforts with other trades during construction. Successful communication between trades will limit delays and errors in project delivery. For example, the sprinkler contractor needs to communicate the number and locations of sprinkler points to be monitored. It is recommended that your elevator contractor and fire alarm contractor meet early in the schedule to discuss the interface. Many issues and delays can occur if miscommunication occurs between the fire alarm and HVAC professionals, so A1 recommends that you use your fire alarm contractor to supply and install the system duct detectors. This cuts down on the opportunity for problems and delays, and allows the duct detectors to be programmed in a way that they can be reset at the fire alarm panel.

  1. Phone Company

We all know utilities move at their own pace. Waiting on the phone company to provide a dedicated line for your fire sprinkler monitoring system can be frustrating and cause an unnecessary delay. By utilizing cell monitoring you can cut out the phone company altogether. Take back control of your project. Your Life Safety partner can install a cell dialer during construction.

  1. Power

Your Fire Alarm panel requires a dedicated power line with 120-volt circuit with a breaker lock marked “fire” in red. Without this power line installed and properly marked, your Life Safety partner cannot move forward with the fire alarm panel install and programming. Ensure that your power is properly run before your Life Safety partner is scheduled to perform the fire alarm install.

  1. Check all Circuits

This is another item that needs to be completed before your Life Safety partner can begin installation. Your electrician should check all circuits to ensure they are free of trouble, no grounds, opens or shorts. If your fire alarm panel senses these troubles it will not work properly, your Life Safety partner will have to spend valuable time rechecking all lines for the problem which can delay the schedule.

  1. Communicate Permit Notes/Changes

When permits are returned with comments it is imperative that these notes be passed back along to your subcontractors including your Life Safety partner. If changes are required but not implemented, you can fail your final walk-through and delay occupancy. Even small changes can take time and cause extra expense if they have to be corrected after all work is complete; however, the delay and expense can be minimized if the changes are communicated during construction.

  1. Communicate changes to project schedule

Changes to your project schedule need to be communicated to your Life Safety partner and other subcontractors as soon as possible. If you are changing your project to a phased project, experiencing delays, or accelerating your project getting all of your partners on-board with that change as quickly as possible can be the difference in successfully meeting your new timeline.

  1. 100% Pre-Check

You should test 100% of the fire alarm devices before the AHJ arrives for the final inspection. This ensures a successful final and occupancy. More importantly, it provides confidence that the fire alarm system will work in the case of an actual emergency.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. Click here to see more information on how A1 can provide all your fire safety needs.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

School Security Best Management Practices

School security is an important and complex issue. Outlined here are some best management practices for any school security program.

A study from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the percentage of public schools reporting the use of security cameras has increased from 19 percent in 1999 to 75 percent in 2013. In this same time period there was also an 18 percent increase in the number of schools controlling access to the school during the day by locking or monitoring doors.

Improving school security is a serious concern and securing doors is an important part of that security. As with any public facility, this security must be looked at from all aspects – not just keeping intruders out, but also providing safe egress in case of an emergency. Several states, ignoring both existing codes and warnings from their fire marshal, have approved the installation and use of barricade devices. Many of these devices are not code compliant and could prohibit safe egress and endanger the life safety of the school’s occupants in the event of an emergency.

Rather than installing devices that could risk the lives of their students and staff, we encourage schools to consult security and life safety experts to evaluate options for security measures that work with, not hinder, life safety. Your life safety experts can also work with you to develop protocols that include best practices for perimeter security and access control which will allow you to provide a secure learning environment.

Single Entry
Having a single point of entry available during school hours allows for a more secure environment. School’s should have clear signage with directions to the entrance and a visitor management center. This entrance should be monitored during school hours for more control over who should and should not be allowed to enter the building.

Visitors: Controlled Entry and Management
Entry to the school should be arranged so that visitors are funneled from the door to the office before having access to the rest of the school building. Having a vestibule that connects the main entrance and the office allows for staff to safely monitor visitors before granting access to the school. The vestibule can be open during arrival and dismissal of students but locked during the day. As visitors enter the vestibule, an intercom system, camera, impact-resistant windows and pass-through drawers allow staff to verify the identity and purpose of the visitor to allow or deny access with access-controlled electronic locks.

Electronic Access Control
Electronic access control allows for doors to be locked and unlocked remotely. Access controlled doors provide better security, additional reporting of activity, and more control over secured areas. Access control systems utilize a card or fob as a lock release mechanism which provides a more secure system than traditional keys which can be copied and distributed. Cards and fobs can be deactivated, given limited access by area or time, and provide a log of activity for when they are used. In addition to providing better perimeter security, access control can be utilized within the school to limit access to computer labs, classrooms, etc to only those with authority to enter the area. These systems also provide a method to quickly lock-down areas should an emergency situation arise, as the electronic locks can be activated through the central system and can be integrated into the emergency response system with video cameras, digital video recording, and alarm monitoring.

Emergency Communications
Having a secured perimeter and protocols for school access are the first steps in providing a secured learning environment. An interconnected communications system can pull all of your security systems together and alert first-responders when an alert occurs. While these communications systems can be expensive, there are programs to assist schools with the cost. Talk to your security adviser about possibilities, and always coordinate with your local police and fire departments.alertus-desktop for school security

A1 helps our educational clients complete a grant application with Alertus for a full license of their desktop alerting system, which provides alerts to all computers during an emergency. The grant provides the Alertus software for all desktops and laptops within the school, whether managed or personally owned, allowing schools to integrate existing IT assets into their security system.

Training
After your security systems and protocols are in place, training and drills for your staff are imperative. For a security system to be effective, everyone must understand how it works, what they should and should not do in order to work with the system and not impede it, and what their response should be to an emergency alert. Remember to explain and train on every aspect of your security system including policies, procedures and technology. Drills should be repeated to ensure every staff member will understand and remember the actions they should take in an emergency. During your training, it should be stated clearly that these policies and procedures are not optional but required behaviors to ensure the security of staff and students.

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

 

Understanding Doors: Balancing Life Safety, Security and ADA Compliance

When selecting doors for your facility, it is equally important to consider life safety, security, and ADA compliance. The following post outlines national standards for these issues, but you should always check your local code to ensure compliance when selecting fire doors.

Life Safety

Standards set by: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101’s Life Safety Code

Purpose: Fire safety

NFPA 101’s Life Safety Code spefire door signcifies guidelines for fire doors, which prevent the flow of toxic smoke and fumes throughout the facility in the event of a fire. Fire doors are rated for their fire resistant and protection based on how long they can withstand exposure to fire test conditions. The rating of fire doors must match that of the wall on which they are installed, although fire walls are able to rate higher than fire doors. When this happens, the highest rated door is used. For example, a fire wall can be rated at 4 hours, but fire doors and frames can only rate as high as 3 hours. So a 3-hour door is used on a 4 hour rated wall. Fire doors are required to be inspected and maintained on an annual basis.

NFPA 101, Chapter 14: Means of Egress

Security

Standards set by: Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA)

Purpose: Protect people and property

BHMA’s standards outline the performance parameters of door hardware to protect people and property. These standards ensure that doors and related hardware are sturdy enough to withstand normal use, abuse and even break-in attempts. The door products and hardware are tested and certified by BHMA to ensure compliance. Be aware, these certifications ensure a minimum standard – they are not a recommendation for top performing doors and hardware.

BHMA standards

ADA Compliance

Standards set by: ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Standards for Accessible Design

Purpose: Providing access to people with disabilities

If you own or manage a facility that is open to the public, you need to ensure that all people are able to independently access and exit the building. The ADA Standards for Accessible Design are issued by the Department of Justice and provides guidelines on accessibility. The International Code Council (ICC) provides specifics on how hardware should be installed and function to provide this accessibility.

It is imperative that you check the local code for what is required from these standards can vary greatly. In general, all doors should allow everyone, including those with a wheelchair, to

examples of ADA compliant door handles
examples of ADA compliant door handles

pass through. Exit doors should have a simple operation, such as pushing, to open it. Exit doors, and directional signs to exit doors, should be marked with tactile signs. This primer for small businesses is an easy overview of ADA requirements for commercial buildings. [https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/smallbusiness/smallbusprimer2010.htm]

ADA Standards
ICC A117.1

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 at1-800-859-6198.

Greg Lane

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