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Security 101

A modern security system, with its array of electronic components, is designed to sense, decide, and act. The security system senses events such as motion in a room, decides if the event poses a threat, and then acts on that decision. While a security system for your business isn't a do-it-yourself affair, you should understand the language of security in order to communicate your needs to a security professional, understand any proposals you may receive, and make the most of your security system after it is installed. Here is some basic knowledge on the components of a security system and an explanation of their use to protect your property. 

Door & Window Contacts

A door/window contact is a switch that can indicate the opening of door or window. All door/window contacts, no matter how sophisticated, operate on the same principle. The switch is mounted to a door or window and is held closed by a magnet attached to door or window frame. When the door or window moves away from the magnet, the switch opens. The alarm control panel (which we'll talk about in a moment) knows if the contact is open or shut, and keeps track of the doors and windows.

Door contacts should be installed on every ground level, exterior door. Ideally, window contacts should also be installed on all ground level windows, unless the security system design calls for glass break or motion sensors.

Motion Sensors

A motion sensor (often called a space detector, or a motion detector) is designed to sense a person moving in a room. The best motion detectors use two technologies to verify movement: passive infrared (PIR) and microwave. The passive infrared component can sense heat, while the microwave senses movement. When the detector recognizes both heat and movement, it sends an electronic signal to the alarm panel.

The motion detector allows you to protect a large area with one sensor. They are the logical choice for spaces that intruders can access from several directions, such as rooms with many windows.

Glass Break Sensors

A glass break sensor is another alternative for protecting large spaces with multiple, fixed windows. As the name implies, it constantly listens for the sound of breaking glass that indicates forced entry. When the glass break sensor detects the sound pattern caused by shattering glass, it sends an electronic signal to the alarm control panel.

Other Sensors

Door/window contacts, motion detectors, and glass break sensors are among the most common sensors used in a modern security system. However, you have other devices at your disposal such as shock sensors, that detect an intruder trying to pound his way through a wall, and panic buttons which allow you to send a fast, discreet call for help. In addition, a modern security system can incorporate environmental sensors that react to the presence of water (which may indicate a broken pipe) or a rise in temperature (which may be caused by an air conditioning failure). Environmental sensors are especially critical in server rooms and other areas that house sensitive electronics.

Keypads

The keypad is where you arm or disarm your system. Your security system should be armed when your facility is empty and disarmed when you, or an authorized person, enter the site.

Most keypads give you the option of using a duress code. A duress code will disarm your security system, but also send a silent signal that you are in trouble. You only enter your duress code if you are being forced to disarm the security system against your will. In order to make the code easy to remember in a stressful situation, it is usually one digit higher than your normal disarm code. So, if you normally enter 1234 to disarm your system, 1235 will disarm as normal, but also send the silent duress signal which will dispatch the police.

A modern keypad also has an illuminated display to inform you of the security system status. This is important because you cannot arm the system if, for example, a door or window sensor is not closed. The keypad display will tell you which door or window you need to check before you can arm your system.

Our installer will normally mount the keypad near your entry door so that you can disarm quickly after entering the premises.

Decide

Our security system's decide functions are carried out by the alarm control panel. The alarm control panel is your security system's brain, processing the information it receives from the various sensors and deciding how to respond. For example, if a window contact opens while the system is disarmed, the control panel knows to ignore the event. However, if a window is opened while the system is armed, it will immediately respond by sending a signal to your central station and setting off sirens or some other notification device.

Your entry door - usually the door closest to your keypad, is programmed with an entry delay. This gives you extra time to get to the keypad and enter your code before the system sends an alarm. Any other doors, along with your windows and motion detectors, will immediately initiate an alarm if they are triggered. Motion detectors that cover the area around your keypad are programmed as followers: they will grant you an entry delay if they see the entry door open just before they are tripped.

Act

A security system performs two primary actions in response to an intrusion: communicating with our central station and triggering alarms within your facility. The act functions of a security system are performed by communicators, sirens, and lights

Communicators

Our alarm panels have a built in communicator that transmits and receives information via the phone line or a two way radio signal if you don’t have a land line. Alarm signals are sent to a central monitoring station, manned by trained dispatchers. When a dispatcher sees a signal from your alarm system, the dispatcher will normally call you first to verify that this is an actual alarm and then, if necessary, contact the police on your behalf.  Our central station will allow you to customize your response procedures. For example, you may want them to call different individuals to verify alarms during and after business hours.

Sirens and Lights

Besides sending signals to your central station, an alarm panel can also respond to an alarm by activating sirens and strobe lights. The purpose of these devices is to scare an intruder away from your premise. The only time that sirens are not advisable is in situations such as bank lobbies where physical confrontation is likely. In such cases a siren may only anger an intruder or startle him into firing shots or attacking a bystander.

After the Installation

System testing is critical to ensure that the central station responds properly in an emergency. After the initial installation, our installer will transmit every single signal that your panel can transmit and verify that the central station has received it and understands how to respond. After the installation, you should test your system monthly. The normal test procedure is to call the central station and request that they put your system "in test." Next, you arm the system and send actual alarm signals. You then contact the central station to verify that the alarm signals have been received and understood. Finally, you request that your security system be taken "out of test" and put back on line.

Since your security system is communicating via the phone line (some alarm systems now communicate over a cellular network)  it is in your best interest to use at least one dedicated line. The communication path with our central station is your lifeline, so resist the temptation to share it with a fax machine or handset.

Cellular backup is a technology that can keep your communication path secure. If your alarm panel senses that the phone line has gone dead, it can communicate with central station via the cellular network if a back up unit has been installed.

Conclusion

A security system is designed to sense, decide, and act on security related events. Our professional security system designers can help you choose from the wide array of equipment on the market and create a system around your business needs. After the installation, regular testing will ensure that your system continues to provide reliable protection.