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How to Design an Electronic Security System

By Daniel M. O'Neill and Douglas Early - January 2012 - Security

security assessment, security systems, security technology


Conducting a risk assessment is a very effective way to evaluate an organization's security program. A proper assessment generates risk mitigation recommendations along with cost estimates and implementation timelines. Both capital and operating costs are typically provided. But where do you go from there?

Armed with this information and analysis, the next challenge for facility managers is persuading the C suite to spend the money to implement security improvements. This is a difficult and daunting task, heightening the fact that if and when money is allocated, it is critical to make wise long-term purchasing decisions. Not only can selecting the wrong products, services or installers cost more money, it can cost lives.

So once the organization's security needs are established and funds allocated, what comes next is the carefully considered purchase of an integrated electronic security system. These systems are complex, mission critical, require advanced integration and the process involves coordination with multiple departments.

Making a product selection decision is complex and challenging, but facility managers can navigate the process by breaking it down into phases. The four distinct phases in an electronic security system product design and selection process are conceptual design, design development, vendor selection and construction administration.

Conceptual Design

The goals of the conceptual design phase are to understand the current and relevant security systems, policies, procedures and responses. As well, facility managers need to understand future expectations and requirements of the proposed systems, and develop a preliminary design and budget that meets end-user expectations as well as operational, financial and regulatory requirements.

The first step to take in the conceptual design is to conduct an existing conditions survey. During this step, a close examination of the resources and systems currently in place is made. It also documents the currently deployed systems and determines if systems, components and hardware can be reused in the new system.

It is also important to conduct a system needs analysis, for which it will be necessary to research codes, regulations, standards and statutes that may affect the design and implementation of the security systems. Understanding and clearly defining the user needs and expectations is critical. This is best done by completing a "basis of design" document.

Upon the completion of the basis of design document, the team can now move on to the preliminary conceptual design and budget. At this point, appropriate systems and technologies are identified, including access control, CCTV, intrusion detection, monitoring stations, programming stations, and visitor management systems. Advanced systems such as video analytics, facial recognition, and enhanced video review can be added to the design as well.

Facility managers must work closely with the professional security consultant, designer, or engineer and make sure that IT and security department representatives are included in the conversation. The goal is to develop a programming schedule that addresses the needs of the multiple departments. A rough order of magnitude budget is also developed during this phase.

Design Development

Once the conceptual design phase is done, the design development phase begins. The goals of this second phase are to ensure the design remains within budget, the system designed meets the organization's current and future needs, and that it is specified in a manner that will allow the vendor submitting a proposal to completely understand the requirements of the system, including components, integration, migration, installation, support and maintenance.

It all starts with the major sections of the engineering specifications, which may include cable, fiber optics, wireless and power as appropriate. This step also includes detailed descriptions of installation, software, configuration, testing, support, migration planning and maintenance. Network and storage requirements are defined. Additionally, system components including hardware, software and integration requirements are programmed and detailed.

The 60 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent completion construction documents are developed in this step. These include drawings, specifications, code review, bidding requirements, construction schedules and cost estimates, including the final constructability review and commissioning plan. The final design documents will include notice to integrators, bidding instructions and the development of the final security specification, drawings, schedules and programming instructions.





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