Connected Doesn’t Mean Protected
When it comes to device and systems connectivity, surge protection solutions can mitigate risk
- By Chris Ralston
- Jun 01, 2021
Connectivity is more than just a buzzword to those
who design and install security, communications,
fire alarm and other electronic systems. It is a necessity
for today’s commercial and multi-residential
facilities that feature sophisticated electronics
to control building access, lighting, emergency safety systems and
data networks. This evolution of connected devices represents a
huge change in the capabilities of our systems, and how this wide
range of technologies is supported. The landscape now includes
myriad technologies including wireless networking, new and improved
smaller sensors of all kinds, an expanding array of software
analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT).
CAPABILITIES AND BENEFITS
While we welcome all of these great new capabilities and the
benefits they provide, we should also remember that they all rely
upon sensitive electronic circuits. Thus, as we increase our dependence
on these systems, we also need to implement backups
and protection to help ensure that they are working when they
are needed most. The trend for increased networking and connectivity
must also bring about a trend for increased power and
Every networked sensor that provides input to a security system
requires power and some form of communication – whether
wireless or wired. Even wireless networks depend on wired connectivity
to function, since network access points always have
both power and wired network connections.
Because of the wired connections throughout every security
system, each system is vulnerable to the damaging effects of surges
and spikes from the supplied electrical power. They are also vulnerable
to electrical disturbances transmitted via communications and
signaling cables that can carry unwanted voltages directly to sensitive
electronic circuits. Systems that have outdoor components,
including outdoor cameras, campus-wide systems, and devices
connected to outdoor antennas and communication devices, are
particularly vulnerable. They are exposed to the elements and can
suffer water leaks and wind damage, among other hazards.
While our dependency on these electronic systems has been increasing,
there has been a parallel growth in the sources of electrical
disturbances that can cause power surges and spikes. Electrical
power surges can be considered a “silent killer” of electronic
equipment because most surges are small enough to remain undetected
by organizational staff. Even though they go unnoticed,
they slowly and steadily damage electronic equipment, reducing
product lifespan and reliability.
Damaging surge events affecting your business is not a question
of “if ”, but “when”. Protecting these systems from potential
damage must be a high priority for business management to ensure
organizational continuity and appropriate risk management.
SURGE PROTECTION SOLUTIONS
A common misconception about power surges is that electrical
and electronic devices are only at risk during thunderstorms. It is
certainly true that in addition to causing property loss, lightning
can damage robotics, communication lines and computer equipment
and result in extended downtime for an organization. However,
most experts agree that lightning strikes account for only
2% of all surge-related damage, meaning that 98% percent of the
damage usually happens during these “unnoticed” events.
Power surges caused by everyday occurrences from external sources
such as powerline switching on the grid; as well as internal sources such
as powering up HVAC systems and other pumps and motors that are
often present in commercial and industrial facilities. These minor power
surges and spikes may not be noticed in real time, but they have long
term effects on fire and life safety systems, along with security and data
systems. These damaging events can hamper proper operation and/or
shorten equipment lifecycles, resulting in early, unexpected failures.
While not every system will fail due to a surge event, the chances are
good that any unprotected electronic security system will incur some
damage during its lifetime from power surges and spikes. For every
essential security and life safety device, including access control, video
surveillance and fire alarm systems, and the small additional price for
proper surge protection should be no obstacle. The cost of providing
surge protection is typically less than the sales tax on the system.
Best practices dictate that every sensitive electronic device
should have surge protection at its supplied power connection, in
addition to the surge protection that is installed at the facility power
entry point. Damaging power surges can also be created inside the
facility perimeter from inductive load switching as well as through
the building’s power connections. Since the network cabling provides
a conductive path for electrical power surges, it is a wise move
to protect sensitive electronic systems by installing surge protection
at both ends of all connected network equipment. This is vital for
cabling paths that run to exterior areas including outdoor facilities
for surveillance cameras, access control readers, gate control panels,
electronic locks, or any other networked electronics or sensors.
As the security industry moves forward to implement increasingly
capable and intelligent risk-reduction systems – along with
more networked and interconnected devices – we must all take steps
to protect these systems from unintended but foreseeable damage.
Surge protection solutions can protect every critical electronic
system from power events, improving their reliability
and extending their useful lives. With
a simple installation process, and very modest
cost, implementing surge protection with new
systems and adding them to existing unprotected
systems should be an easy decision.
This article originally appeared in the May June 2021 issue of Security Today.