As with any electronic equipment, security systems and installations need to be maintained if they are to deliver results over the long term. There is, however, an enormous difference between a professional, planned maintenance programme and someone who quickly looks over a few bits and pieces of technology, makes sure it’s still there and ticks a box.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked Brian Sharkey, a director of system integrator SMC (Security Management Consultants) for his take on what a maintenance plan should consist of and why it’s important, and why an estate should make sure its service provider offers a long-term maintenance programme.
Sharkey says maintenance contracts on new or upgraded security installations in particular are essential. “Often maintenance contracts are a hard-sell to smaller estates or complexes, in the same manner as service level agreements (SLAs) are to suppliers and installers. The assumption is that as the equipment is new, therefore it is covered under a warranty and does not have to be maintained. This is a very short-sighted approach.”
Spending, in some cases, millions of rand on the installation of new systems and equipment will be of little value when it comes to an emergency and you find that the system, camera, recording or perimeter electric fence did not work at the time of the incident. Either it failed to initiate an early warning or footage of the event is not available for some reason.
As far as maintenance is concerned, it is essential that a proactive approach is taken. Energisers can fail, power failures or surges can cause electronic failures, even with a UPS installed. Cameras can go out of focus, get dirty or be moved by strong winds – they shouldn’t, but it happens. Maintenance contracts ensure full functionality of all your security equipment by means of regular testing and immediate software updates, where applicable.
For those who complain that maintenance in the first year is not necessary, it’s worth noting that in long-term contracts the first year or two are usually less costly because of the warranties in place and hopefully the quality of the hardware chosen by the estate will require minimal maintenance. If you have older equipment mixed with newer equipment, this may not apply, as your existing technology may require more care.
What to include
If you are going to opt for a long-term maintenance agreement, there are certain components of the agreement every estate must ensure are in the contract. Sharkey says the first item is a detailed site-specific list of all the equipment with serial numbers and the location of the equipment.
In addition, the duration of the contract with agreed annual escalations and a SLA should form part of the maintenance contract. The SLA should clearly spell out some key issues:
• How often maintenance will be carried out and by whom.
• Maintenance call out times, procedures and expected time of arrival on site.
• Tasks to be fulfilled.
• An agreed critical spares list of equipment that should be kept on the client’s site for quick turnaround and reduced time loss in the event of equipment failure.
• Financial penalties that could be enforced in the event of the contractor failing to keep to the agreement.
When the maintenance is carried out, the estate manager, or whoever is tasked with security, must receive a detailed report on the functionality, condition and effectiveness of all the equipment. This will also include a list of recommendations on improvements or upgrades where required.
As with all maintenance contracts, Sharkey strongly recommends that independent verification checks are conducted, either by the on-site person responsible or an independent third party to ensure the service meets the contract’s standards. “Often short cuts can be taken, or work can be indicated as completed, but never actually done. As with all things, management is key.”
Top three non-negotiables
• Measurable and agreed standards of services to be supplied.
• Duration, renewal and escalation.
• Intimate knowledge of the client’s needs, expectations and environment.
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