Understanding Central Station Design

Article excerpt

Security managers should understand how a central station should be configured before beginning any integration project.

Central monitoring station is the nerve center of any security operation. Whether the station is proprietary or operated by a third-party service provider, the security manager must know enough about its design and function to make intelligent choices about its construction, initial setup, long-term operation, and maintenance.

A typical monitoring center consists of three touchscreen computer systems used to monitor alarms and intercoms; two additional PCs to manage the company's security database and to be used as a backup system; several fire alarm panels (the exact number depending on the size of the facility and the number of alarm points); and several CCTV monitors, usually one for every four to eight cameras.

The equipment room, which is usually located adjacent to the monitoring center, will contain multiplexers, VCRs, and the wiring and control racks for various systems, such as surveillance cameras and access control devices.

In addition to the actual equipment, however, the security manager who installs the company's proprietary monitoring station has several other important considerations. The security manager must pay attention to the size and functional layout of the equipment room; the company's control station must meet all local and national building and electrical codes; audio lines must be installed with extra care; all equipment must be backed up in the event of failure; and monitors and equipment must be positioned properly so as to be used most effectively by officers.

Equipment room. While the visible part of the operations will be the control station where the officers watch monitors and handle calls, the behind-the-scenes brain of any monitoring station is the equipment room. Video, audio, communications, and computer hardware should be centralized in this area, which should be located as close to the control station as possible for easy access and to minimize cabling costs. Also in this room will be industrial processors, intercom controls, programmable controllers, multiplexers, and switching devices. If the monitoring station and equipment room are located in a high-security facility, such as a prison, they should both be constructed with reinforced concrete - essentially making them security vaults.

Build for future growth. The security manager should ensure that the equipment room is planned with the future in mind. The room should be large enough to accommodate not only the equipment being installed at the time but also additional devices that might be needed to meet growing demand. If the company plans to double the size of its facility within the near future, for example, the security manager putting in a new station should set up an equipment room capable of meeting that future capacity requirement.

Neatness counts. It is vital that the equipment room remain neat and clean. Dust and dirt will cause operational problems for electronic equipment. Furthermore, an untidy equipment room with wires coiled together like a bowl of spaghetti can be more difficult to maintain and fix when problems arise. Panels, such as circuit breaker boxes and input/output devices, should have doors that are easily accessible and can be closed to protect instruments against dust.

Cables should be labeled using a technique like the Brady labeling system, which uses nonremovable, easy-to-read tags on all wires. Tied-on or taped-on labels eventually fall off. The longer it takes for maintenance personnel to identify wires, the longer a security system may be down when a problem arises.

The security manager should also set up the equipment on racks in such a way that "status indicators" are properly displayed and easy to read. The indicator will show the status of the particular piece of equipment on an LED or meter, telling security whether the machinery is experiencing any problems. …