Systems Supervision Techniques: Fact vs. Myth

When planning or proposing a system, always think supervision. System supervision is designed to counter most types of illicit compromises, or simply put, keep a good eye on things.

Exciting times are ahead for 2021. As we often do in Tech Talk, we will start the new year off with an important technical theme —best practices of the pros. What skills and techniques make a technician truly declare themselves a “professional”? Why should you and the customer care?

In the past few years, we have seen a major surge of DIY technology. While the professional security industry has developed techniques and standards over many decades, the perception of “adequate” security has been diluted by deceptive DIY marketing to the general public.

Some major DIY products manufacturers have declared war on the existing pro security industry with amateurish wireless system offerings stating reduced costs and eliminating messy installations.

DIY offerings such as this should not be considered a threat but a great opportunity to distinguish the difference between everyday DIY and highly reliable pro systems. Instead of reducing profits to compete with DIY, one should be offering a premium for pro systems.

The prospect or customer needs to understand this important concept if they are truly interested in reliable security products and services. After all, what do you have to lose?

Everything. This month’s best practices concept is one of my favorites — supervision. When a customer signs a contract with a security pro, they assume that they are protected from any sort of attack. System supervision is designed to counter most types of illicit compromises, or simply put, keep a good eye on things.

While higher levels of supervision such as end of line (EOL) sensors cost more, it does provide extra supervision and security. Provide your sales prospects with different options and have in writing what they select and why. Don’t assume they want the cheapest.

When planning or proposing a system, always think supervision. If this component fails or is tampered with how will I know? Never assume all parts of your system will work 100%, all of the time. That’s what an amateur would do. Remember you are a pro.

Now, let’s take a look at some systems supervision techniques. Also note the common public misnomers.

EOL sensor supervisionJust put a wire across the contacts and you have voided the door contact. Make sure to offer the service of EOL supervision, not just from purposeful defeat, but accidental construction shorts. Offer custom contacts with embedded EOL devices.

High security contacts/sensorsJust stick a magnet on the door sensor and the door is compromised. Take a look at offering new unique high security contacts such as the Magnasphere line.

Anti-mask motion sensorsJust cover over the motion detector lens and it cannot detect anything” Not true if you supply your customers with anti-masking features. Look at sensors like the Honeywell Dual Tec line.

Open/closing reportingI am afraid any employee may come into my shop after hours without me knowing. Most central stations can monitor when personnel arm/disarm the alarm system any time. Central station (CS) instructions to notify shop owner can be arranged.

Latching HUAWhen a silent hold-up alarm (HUA) is pushed I never know which station was pushed. By implementing a latching HUA your customer can better supervise which location was activated. Devices such as the Potter HUSD-15B Series can help with this HUA supervision.

Tamper switchesAll they need to do is open the box or unplug the cord to get inside the alarm system. Make sure that tamper switch features in system enclosures are utilized. Did you know that you can even supervise the connector on a RJ31X phone jack?

Communications supervisionI can easily attack networks or jam cellphone communications. Supervise networks by implementing network monitoring devices such as the Lantronix IntelliBox USDS2100. Offer the advantage of dual channel alarm communicators such as the Tyco/DSC Universal Dual Path Communicator TL405LE with cellular anti-jamming features.

CamerasWe have no recording because the camera was not working. This has always been a common problem with CCTV systems. Fortunately, today many video systems have the option of remotely monitoring and reporting video signal loss via the Internet. Make sure to look for this feature.

Unrestored signalsI can’t believe the alarm signal did not report as I was working on that system just the other day. When techs are testing systems with the CS make sure that you put a time duration on the test process so not to forget and leave a circuit on test. Many CS monitoring software programs will allow operator to put a system, or part of a system, on temporary test with a time limit. Check with them.

Tech Talk tip: When working on a system, hang your van’s ignition key in the control panel. This way you will have to stop at the panel on the way out and reconnect any tested circuits or call the CS before leaving.

Tool of the Month

A versatile product to have in your toolbox is the SB-2000 Timed Electronic Shunt from George Risk Industries (GRI).

This is an inexpensive solution for shunting door contacts and other sensors, and it’s adjustable from 15 to 60 seconds.

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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