Load shedding and your security systems

April 2015 Security Services & Risk Management

The majority of modern security systems are dependent on electricity. Although all good security systems will have a number of layers of redundancy built into them, they were not designed to cope with the amount of power outages we are currently experiencing. So what do I need to keep in mind?

Gate motors and boom gates

Many people might not know this but gate motors and boom gates constantly need power from the battery. If you remove the battery you won’t be able to operate the motors even if you have power on the system. With all the power outages the batteries build up memory and won’t be able to power the motor. When you test the voltage on the battery it will still be 12 V but there won’t be enough Amps to drive the motor.

Tip: Keep a bicycle chain on hand. You can always operate the gate manually and then use a normal bicycle lock to lock it. It won’t damage the gate and on most combination locks you can change the combinations, allowing you to change it if you have to provide someone with the combination.

Servers and computer system

Your server might be running on an inline UPS and generator for backup power, but your air conditioning is not. If you have a generator for backup power ensure that your server room air conditioner is also linked. Alternatively monitor the temperature inside the server room and power off the systems when it gets too hot.

Tip: Next time you upgrade the computers in your office, rather go for a laptop than a desktop. Modern laptops are just as powerful as their desktop counterparts are, but are designed to be mobile and not dependent on power.

Electrified fences

The energisers that power electrified fencing in general have battery backup built into the system. In general a fence can stay active for up to 7 hours depending on the system. The problem comes when you have more than one blackout in 24 hours. The batteries need time to charge up to full capacity. Under Stage 2 load shedding, you will notice that your fence remains active for shorter periods of time between outages.

Tip: Dead shorts on the fence rapidly deplete the battery life of the energiser. Make sure your fence is well maintained and clear of all vegetation that might cause a dead short.

Alarm response

While accredited security service providers’ control rooms should be able to deal with the lack of power, the indirect effects of power outages will have an effect on service delivery. Monitoring facilities get swamped by an increase in ‘low battery’ and ‘AC Fail’ signals, while equipment suffers damage having to frequently shut down and power up. Response times are also affected as companies manage an increased amount of alarm signals. External factors like congestion due to the lack of working traffic signals, can delay reaction units from dealing with an alarm.

If you use a GSM module on your alarm system to communicate to external parties, you might get slapped with a sizable bill at the end of the month for the increase in messages from your alarm systems. If you don’t have a contract with your cellular service provider and working on a pay as you go basis, you will run out of airtime earlier than normal.

Tip: Consider the use of alternative power sources to power your alarm system. Alarm systems can easily be powered using a small solar panel.

Alarm systems

Wireless alarm systems have become very popular because it eliminates the need for cabling making it a more attractive option. While the passive infrared devices might run on normal batteries, your alarm base station and radio generally run off the normal power grid. As with all the above they generally have battery backup as a standard feature. What one needs to keep in mind is the radio link with your monitoring company. The radios are high power devices and will rapidly deplete the battery.

Tip: Use your landline to connect to your monitoring company instead of using a radio link. Apart from the power advantages it also can’t be jammed. Make sure your installer and monitoring company is SAIDSA accredited and ask for a by-law 25 certificate for your installation. That way you know your service provider won’t be in the dark when you need them the most.

Heat sources

Adriaan Bosch, MD, Astrosec.
Adriaan Bosch, MD, Astrosec.

During the cold winter months, heating inside buildings is generally provided by things that convert electricity into heat. When there is no electricity, there won’t be any heat. This might cause people to make a fire to provide an alternative heat source and with that comes a host of other risks. Although gas heating is a working alternative, it also creates other health and safety risks.

Tip: Make sure to communicate to all staff with clear instruction and specific disciplinary consequences in this regard.

The blame for load shedding might lay with the politicians but we all share in the problem. My team and myself are doing our bit to save power. We want to challenge you all to do the same.

For more information contact Adriaan Bosch, Astrosec, +27 (0)21 007 1034, [email protected], www.astrosec.co.za

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