Mapping the Way Forward
Careful documentation is vital for maintaining, expanding your facility’s security systems
- By John Weadock
- Jul 01, 2015
Any security investment starts with a
realization that you have people and
things to protect. Or, maybe you experience
a security breach and finally
see it: You have both a moral and legal
obligation to build barriers between your organization
and the forces out there that threaten it.
You researched the products and systems available.
You hired a top-flight consultant, someone with the
credentials and track record that gives you confidence
that he or she understands your security problem, and
how to solve it.
With their help, you look at the most cost-effective
systems and run the numbers by your risk management
team. The consultants steer you toward the best integrator.
They use their contacts to get you the best deal
on the components for a full-fledged system that ticks
all the boxes: full coverage video, inside and out, audio
and motion sensors, card and bio readers to control
access at different levels, and a command-and-control
monitoring module that would make ESPN proud.
The project comes off on schedule, and with a little
luck, the system is up and running on time and under
budget. Everything is going smoothly—until something
breaks, or business growth forces you to expand
and upgrade your system, or the maintenance schedule
notifies you that one or more components need
attention. Suddenly, you realize that you do not have
the documentation that enables you to find the equipment
that needs attention or understand exactly how
the system is wired.
The Need for Documentation
When it comes to documentation, a generic brochure
or standard manual can usually point the way for
a residential system or even a small office complex.
But today’s more complex, fully-integrated security
systems require detailed drawings that show the system
interconnects, connector information, cable runs,
wireless coverage area, and fiber and cable types.
Proper documentation provides cost savings in
multiple ways. Maintenance and expansion are the
two most obvious ones. Despite the reliability of today’s
technology, things wear out; they suffer from the
elements, and they break. Knowing how a particular
piece of equipment ties into the overall system is paramount
when it comes to replacing it.
No one goes into business not expecting to grow
that business. Knowing how to add to an existing system
successfully is next to impossible without knowledge
of how the current system is allocated, wired,
interdependent, etc. Even something as simple as expanding
the physical facility can be a threat to your
system; simply knocking down a wall to add more
square footage can have disastrous consequences unless
you know what’s behind or in that wall.
While your current staff engineer may have had a
hand in running cable and installing cameras, what
if he leaves? Then, that maintenance requirement or
expansion challenge becomes more critical.
In addition, if your system is not properly maintained,
there could be additional cost. A growing
number of local governments are beginning to charge
for malfunctioning systems that cost them valuable
public service time in the form of false alarms. An
unmaintained system can impose a direct cost from
Upfront costs on the original installation must also
be taken into account. Few new construction projects
or even simple add-on integrations can afford to fall
behind schedule. Missing your construction timeline
can cost you in many ways, not the least of which is
the efficient function of your on-going business.
Detailed schematic drawings allow install crews and
wiremen to keep the process on schedule and avoid reworking
portions of the project caused by inaccessible
cable runs, blocked conduit paths, etc. Those drawings
can cover the changes that are certain to pop up during
the implementation phase of the project. When the
project is complete, the as-built drawings that include
those inevitable changes that take place during any
construction endeavor can be priceless.
Most large system integrators maintain a staff of
CAD operators who can take the sales engineer’s conceptual
sketches and turn them into detailed drawings.
Add someone to perform data entry into a dynamic
database for all of that drawing information, and you
have the documentation needed to maintain, troubleshoot
and expand their customer’s security system.
As larger security integrators are already aware, a well-trained, efficient CAD operator is
an integral part of the design and implementation
team. Working closely with
the consultant, the sales engineers, the
integrator, and the customer can help all
parties guide the project through to conclusion
with detailed documentation.
Of course, they need to use specialty
software that is flexible enough to meet
diverse drawing standards and comprehensive
enough to provide adequate
detail of the integration. A big plus is
using one of a handful of software applications
that tie the CAD drawings
to a dynamic database, which provide
the customer with a full list of all the
equipment in the system, as well as a
list of cables and their connectivity.
Meanwhile, many smaller integrators
and operators do not have the resources
to field a design staff. Like many
other industries in today’s economy, the
security integration business is cyclical.
It’s often difficult to justify the cost of
a highly trained and effective CAD operator,
not to mention the additional
expense of required medical coverage
and other benefits and the annual subscription
cost of expensive design software.
Full documentation is necessary
to remain viable in the very competitive
security integration market.
As a result, many integrators today
outsource documentation to a private
contractor. While that additional service
no doubt adds to the overall cost of the
integration, in the long run the return on
investment (ROI) is well worth it. Where
the cost of maintaining a CAD design
department, or even a single operator, is
prohibitive, well-trained, equipped independent
CAD contractors are available
to provide a full complement of drawings
and other accompanying documentation
in a cost-effective manner.
Documentation for Peace of Mind
With over 40 years’ experience in broadcasting
and communications design,
I’ve seen first-hand the value of detailed
documentation in the communications
industry. Time and again problems that
developed during or after the construction
of a complicated facility or system
were solved quickly and economically.
Small changes did not become large disasters.
Cost overruns were held in check
simply because thorough drawings and
a detailed database of equipment and
cables enabled all parties to have the
information needed to make the proper
decisions to stay on schedule.
Once the system was in place, up
and running effectively, I have seen
detailed documentation enable many
facility managers and engineers save
themselves countless hours of sleep,
not to mention long, overnight stretches
of work tracking down cable runs
and verifying equipment interconnects
and failures. I personally know of one
case where complete documentation
enabled an operator to rebuild quickly
following a disastrous fire. The examples
of the effectiveness of full detail
drawings, complete equipment and
cable list are endless.
That same solution awaits the security
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Security Today.