5 Steps to Selecting an Outdoor Security System
Here’s what to consider so you’ll select the right outdoor security system for your organization.
If you have high-value assets stored outside, your organization could be a target for theft, damage or vandalism. To detect and deter criminal activity such as yard theft, after-hours trespassing and loitering, consider outdoor security solutions that can better protect your campus.
This guide will provide you with what you need to know about outdoor perimeter security and the steps you should take when considering an outdoor security system.
1. Define Your Objectives
It’s important to first identify your main objectives. These will influence what technology your organization requires and lay the foundation for a comprehensive security platform tailored to your needs. A few common security objectives include:
- Preventing intruders from entering the premises
- Protecting employees and customers
- Preventing loss of business assets
- Detecting and recording any activity on campus
- Notifying authorities of potential criminal activity
For example, if you want to deter theft or vandalism, your outdoor security strategy might include an electrified fence or fence-mounted sensors, motion detectors, thermal security cameras and video surveillance.
No two locations are identical, but establishing a few baseline objectives will help you design a security solution that makes sense for your business.
2. Analyze Your Current Strategy
Your experience onsite has given you invaluable insight into what outdoor security system will be best for your organizations. Leverage your knowledge of the site to anticipate potential security risks and address them within the security plan.
Here’s a checklist of questions to cover when evaluating your outdoor security strategy:
- What security technologies have you used in the past and what are you using now?
- What’s worked (and what hasn’t)?
- Are your current systems dated and antiquated?
- Do they need to be augmented or updated with newer technology?
- Do you currently have an intrusion detection system with an available zone for integrating with your thermal perimeter detection system?
- What type of communication method will be used: IP? Cell? IP with cell backup?
- Do environmental factors, such as landscaping features or signage, present any security risks for your campus?
- Will your security system be required to work 24/7/365 or only during certain hours?
- Is your system partitioned to arm areas not in use at certain times of the day?
- What areas need to be covered by the outdoor security system (perimeter fence, open areas, parking lots, pedestrian areas, etc.)?
3. Review Your Perimeter Options
When designing an outdoor security system, learn the options that are available, and the pros and cons of each. Here are two solutions you should review:
A video surveillance system works great for post-event documentation and evidence, but it doesn’t help prevent an event from occurring in the first place. Some of your stakeholders might believe that placing cameras around the outside of the facility will deter intruders, and to some extent it might, but it cannot truly prevent or immediately alert campus security or public safety about an event.
To ensure your organization has the best coverage and security, the current leading practice is to use motion-sensing capabilities in the cameras. This setting means that cameras will only record when they detect movement in the frame, allowing more retention time per camera. Recorded footage of six hours of an empty room takes up precious amounts of storage on a system’s hard drives.
Camera capabilities must be considered when securing the exterior of your facility. System design should take into account the distance being covered and the desired clarity. Clarity at a distance means a higher megapixel camera or a different lens that will cut down the field of view. With digital zoom features in newer cameras, it makes more sense to cover a large area with fewer high-megapixel cameras.
If your organization has a large fenced-in area with heavy equipment, maybe you’ll want cameras on the fence at the back of the lot. Powering cameras in these instances can prove challenging and might involve adding electrical boxes or PoE extenders. All of these factors should be considered in the design phase of the project.
Thermal security cameras
Fence protection used to be managed by placing beams across the top of the fence to alert security officers to an intruder on their property. Unfortunately, the beams couldn’t tell the difference between a person crossing the beam and an animal. False alarms were a constant issue. This has changed with the arrival of thermal sensors on the market.
Thermal sensors can detect heat signatures in complete darkness or harsh environments like fog, rain, sleet and snow. The sensors — which can be mounted on buildings, electrical poles or a perimeter fence — can then trigger an alarm and capture video of an intruder. Once a thermal sensor triggers an alarm, the video clip is sent to a security monitoring center for review by an employee.
Thermal security camera sensors have built-in analytics software that help verification employees monitor and determine the difference between body heat and the surrounding environment. Viewing the image remotely, the monitoring center can verify the difference between a human and an animal as they cross the fence line. This increases the accuracy of evidence and can escalate a priority police dispatch during a crime.
4. Anticipate Possible Challenges
Any number of challenges can get in the way of implementing an outdoor perimeter protection solution, so to overcome these, it’s important to build your plan based on informed predictions.
Some common challenges include:
- Budget: If the right solution lies somewhere outside your campus’ budget, you may need to plan a phased approach, adding to the perimeter security systems in layers over time. This allows your organization to realize major security benefits in the near term, while creating a roadmap for your security needs in the future. Alternatively, if there is a financing option, that can be a significant advantage. As you move through the design process and talk costs, it’s important to understand the capabilities your organization can have for the budget that’s been laid out. There is a fine line to walk between the budget and the system capabilities, and sometimes it might not be possible to achieve what stakeholders are asking for at the cost that they desire.
- Integration: Knowing what your campus needs is only half the battle; making it work in conjunction with your other systems is the other. Integration among access, video, intrusion and fire systems are a must in today’s environment. Do your doors open when the fire system alarms? Does a camera record who buzzes into a specific high-security space? Does a card read in the morning from the right person disable the intrusion alarm?
- Installation and labor: Installation challenges bring key logistical concerns to the forefront. You can overcome these challenges by providing the full extent of the installation and labor the system(s) will require, and all the associated costs (both in terms of money and time). Stakeholders need to learn how various system designs can reduce labor, like a wireless system that might cost more in hardware but significantly reduce the installation time.
- Limits of technology: It will vary by technology, make and model, but it’s important for your stakeholders to understand each security solution’s unique limitations in order to avoid gaps in the security. What angle of view can the cameras see? How long will wireless power last before batteries will need to be recharged or replaced? Does your organization have adequate lighting for the video surveillance system? Where are the best mounting locations for sensors or cameras? The answers to these questions will not only make your perimeter security system more tactically proficient, but will also help your stakeholders make more informed decisions about security.
- Employee Engagement: Designing and implementing a security platform is important, but stakeholder buy-in and engagement is equally vital to the system’s success. Build policies and procedures for employees to increase the effectiveness of the new system. Convenience can quickly invalidate a new security system. Limiting entrance to two main doors is a common practice, but if an employee likes to park on the side of the building or take frequent smoke breaks outside of that door, you might find a secure, locked door left cracked in order to continue that convenience. Buy-in and understanding from stakeholders will keep the system effective after install is complete.
5. Get Started
After you’ve defined your organization’s objectives, analyze your past and current strategies and review options for a perimeter security system, all that’s left is making a decision.
Eric Talley is Regional Sales Manager at STANLEY Security. This article originally ran in CS sister publication Security Sales & Integration and has been edited.
Read More Articles Like This… With A FREE Subscription
Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!