Darren Nix

Tip of the Month: System Testing 101

I was recently asked to review and test a large security management system. Upon scheduling the testing date, I was asked if a construction review and auditing agency could follow us during the testing. The agency’s primary objective was to review and audit design and construction projects on a very routine basis. During the testing, the representatives from the agency asked questions and took many notes. I quickly realized that this was a learning opportunity for them. I was somewhat shocked that this type of agency did not fully understand the elements of a security management system and how to test the system. Nevertheless, I was more than happy to instruct along the way.

Whether you are directly responsible for routine audits, similar to this agency; a security professional accountable for testing your company’s systems; or even a home owner with a burglar alarm system, you must fully understand how to test your system and conduct frequent, routine testing.

When testing a system, the main objective is to ensure all equipment is functioning properly and all devices are reporting correctly (e.g. door alarms, video cameras, etc.). There are certainly many methods of testing multiple types of devices, equipment and systems; however, here are some of the basics:

1. Contact alarm operators – Before you begin testing, you should contact those responsible for monitoring the alarm activity on the system. In some cases, that may be a third party company. If so, you should request for them to keep an activity log during your testing time.

2. Arm the system – When testing a burglar alarm system, you must first arm the system. If you are testing a security management system, you should make sure all alarm devices are set to report alarm conditions during the testing period.

3. Doors

a. Door status switch or alarm contact – If a magnetic switch is used, place a magnet in front of the switch for a few seconds while the door is open. When removed, the alarm should report.

b. If using a 'door held open' alarm on a security management system, leave the door open and do not place the magnet in front of the switch for the amount of time allowed in the system for a door to stay open before an alarm sounds.

4. Card Readers – Use a variety of credentials for testing. Each credential should be set for the following:

a. Access granted
b. Access denied
c. Unknown badge

5. Cameras – Check for the following: (some systems will initiate an alarm on some events)

a. Correct field-of-view
b. Focused
c. Recording at set times
d. Loss of video signal
e. Covered lens
f. Clean domes

Finally, make sure you test all of the systems communications and associated alarms and be thorough when testing all aspects of your system.

About the Author

Darren Nix is a senior associate at Risk Management Associates, Inc.

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