Security & Power:
The Critical Role of Power Protection for Security
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How to defend security devices against power problems
to ensure continuity in an emergency
A compelling case can be made for how important security systems are in protecting
facilities, assets, employees and customers, and few would disagree that investing in a
comprehensive plan to secure a business is a wise decision.
Controlling access to facilities is essential. Having surveillance cameras and video
recording is important on several levels. Fire and smoke alarms are often mandated.
Intrusion detection is important. Being able to communicate in an emergency is vital. And
for many businesses, including retailers, theft prevention is imperative.
All of the systems mentioned above contribute to protecting a business, and all of
them have one thing in common: they all require power. Without power, none of these
systems provide the function for which they were designed. In any discussion about
security systems, power protection plays a very critical role and must be a part of the
overall planning process. Simply stated, there is no security without power.
The purpose for this document is to provide background information on power and
its associated anomalies, how power problems can affect businesses and campuses, as
well as outlining the use of power protection within security applications.
The Problems with Power
Power failures can strike at any time and for many reasons. These include the
travails that Mother Nature dishes out, unexpected construction accidents, a utility
pole taken out by a careless driver, equipment failure, or even sabotage by a
disgruntled employee or outside group. No matter the cause, businesses and all
institutions must be ready when a power problem occurs or disaster strikes.
Events that can lead to power anomalies:
Ice/Winter Storms
Hurricanes & Tornados
There is also an ever-increasing demand for electrical power, and in some
highly populated areas, the strain on the power grid during peak hours is worthy
of concern. Blackouts, brownouts and inconsistent and unreliable power are
fairly consistent “exceptions”. To security managers and business owners, it’s
downright scary to consider the vulnerability that comes from a total reliance on
the availability of power.
Utility Provider Errors
Employee Sabotage
Rolling Brownouts/Blackouts
Water Main Breaks
Power Quality Disturbance Cost
and Frequency (Source, Duke Energy Survey,
Cost/Event Annual Frequency
Voltage sags
1-hour outage: $22,973
1-hour outage:
no notice
4-hour outage $74,835
1.1 total for all
extended outage
Along with the obvious security implications, downtime caused by a power
outage can be very costly. Consider the loss of customer good will, lost sales,
dips in employee productivity, delays in business processes, not to mention the
recovery time for getting things back to normal. Obviously, the longer the absence
of power, the more costly it is for businesses. A comprehensive power protection
plan can prove to be an invaluable investment.
Above and beyond merely causing an inconvenience, power problems can
endanger the safety of employees, students, patrons and customers.
Electrical power outages, surges and spikes bring about more than $150
billion in annual damages to the U.S. economy. Every year, an estimated $104
billion to $164 billion goes down the drain due to power interruptions, while
another $15 billion to $24 billion is lost on account of poor power quality such as
voltage fluctuations, power surges and spikes.
Specifically, industrial and digital business firms suffer losses amounting to
$45 billion annually. Some industries, such as manufacturing, can lose as much
as $6.45 million per hour of downtime. The benefits of investments made in
necessary power backup arrangements far outweigh the shocking costs related
to irreparable damages and irretrievable loss of revenues caused by downtimes.
Power & Security | Minuteman Power Technologies White Paper
Power Anomalies
A surge can best be described as a “power tsunami.” The AC voltage rises sharply
very quickly and inundates equipment power supplies with an over-abundance of voltage.
When that happens, equipment power supplies and equipment components are not
able to process that much voltage, thus resulting in severe damage. A surge is
Power Problem Frequency
different from an electrical “spike”, in that, a spike is a very sudden increase in
voltage that lasts only a few milliseconds. But during those few milliseconds,
severe damage to power supplies and equipment components can occur. Surges
Sags &
and spikes make up about 6% of all power anomalies, but they both can cause
catastrophic damage to critical equipment.
Types of Power Problems
The most common power problem is a brownout, which is a slight drop
in voltage that can cause equipment to reboot. During a brownout, system
component power supplies are essentially starved of the correct amount of
voltage, thus causing them to fail. We often see the effect of a brownout when
lights dim or flicker. Although brownouts do not often cause physical damage,
they can wreak havoc by causing data corruption and a disruption of productivity
while systems reboot or reset.
The opposite of a brownout is an over-voltage condition which can also result
in system reboots because the power supply will not be able to tolerate a voltage
beyond the usual range. An over-voltage condition can be observed when the
lights shine a little brighter for several seconds. Brown-outs and over-voltages
combine to make up 88% of all power problems
The most noticeable power problem is a blackout, which obviously is a total
loss of power. Blackouts can also cause corrupted data files if a server or DVR
is in the middle of a write cycle. Of course, the most devastating result of an
outage is loss of the use of all electrical equipment. Everyone has experienced
an outage of some sort, and blackouts often remind us how important power is to
businesses and consumers.
Power outages can range from a few seconds to several hours, and can even
go on for days. There are UPS solutions that allow for the addition of external
battery packs, allowing critical equipment to stay up-and-running for an extended
period. Keeping a security system fully functional during an extended power
outage can be very beneficial for any type of institution.
Power Protection Solutions for Security
The most basic type of power protection is the surge protector. These
products are designed to protect attached equipment from catastrophic damage
caused by spikes and surges. Surge protectors are an inexpensive solution that
can pay huge dividends should a spike or surge occur. Investing in expensive
security devices and not protecting them from catastrophic damage is not a
prudent choice.
Power protection, in the form of an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), has
been around for several decades now, yet surveys find that up to 60% of small
businesses do not utilize any power protection. UPSs protect against all types
of power problems; from sudden spikes or surges to brownouts and blackouts,
along with electrical noise. Each of these anomalies can result in damage to equipment
or disruption of important applications.
The most crucial function of a UPS is, of course, its battery back-up capability.
Certainly, all power glitches can cause serious damage, but things change dramatically |
when power fails. Without adequate battery backup, security systems go down, thus
putting businesses and campuses in a vulnerable position.
Where is Power Protection Necessary?
Security Components that Require
Power Protection
Cameras & Recording Devices
Access Control Systems
Fire Alarm Systems
Emergency Communications
Telephone Systems
Intrusion Detection
Loss Prevention
Power protection is needed wherever there are cameras, video recording
devices, access control systems, fire alarms, intrusion detection devices,
emergency communications equipment, asset protection or loss prevention
systems. All these mission critical systems play a part in protecting a business or
other institution.
Cameras & Recording Devices
Security cameras and recording devices are a critical protection tool for
businesses. Whether a business has a 4-camera system or 400 cameras, if
complete power protection is not provided, these devices become vulnerable to
electrical damage or will become inoperable during a power outage.
Just like any other electronic device, Network Video Recorders (NVRs) or Digital
Video Recorders (DVRs) cannot function without power, and they are also susceptible
to brownouts, surges and spikes. Should power fail for any reason, the NVR or DVR will
cease to function unless adequate backup power is available from a UPS. A small DVR
can be cost-effectively backed up by a 400VA to 900VA UPS.
Larger capacity DVRs will require a larger UPS, and with many DVRs now
being rack-mounted, a larger capacity UPS can support several DVRs. It is
recommended that security recording devices have at least 1 hour of battery
backup time, and most businesses will find it affordable to provide even 3 or 4
hours of runtime.
Frost & Sullivan Survey:
SMB Runtime Requirements for
Emergency Systems
75% of medium-sized
businesses look for
60+ min.
The camera power supply should be backed up with a UPS. Although
many camera power supplies offer basic battery backup, a UPS is far superior,
providing complete protection from surges, spikes, brownouts and blackouts.
In addition, the internal battery within the power supply will only provide a few
minutes of backup time, while a UPS will keep the system operating much longer,
with the option to have several hours of backup time with an extended runtime
UPS along with external battery packs.
When using Power Over Ethernet (POE) cameras, it is also essential to provide
protection for the power supply for the cameras. Again, if left unprotected, the POE power
supply and cameras will cease to operate.
Access Control Systems
Access control readers require power in order to operate as designed, whether
entry or exit is for a building, campus, parking lot, or gated community. The need for
power protection is important to ensure entrance and exit of facilities, no matter what the
condition. Many reader device power supplies have an internal battery for emergency
operation, but again, the battery backup function may only operate for a few minutes, and
if it is a busy building entrance or exit, the built-in battery may prove to be inadequate.
In addition, these power supplies do not provide any further protection from all power
Gate access systems have similar considerations, and all states have regulations on
emergency access for gated communities, apartment complexes, condominiums, private
homes and businesses. A UPS is the smartest choice for access control applications to
Power & Security | Minuteman Power Technologies White Paper
ensure continuous operation. The power requirement for most access control equipment
is relatively small, so backing these systems up with a UPS can be inexpensively
Fire Alarm Systems
The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code lists power requirements for fire alarms
and signaling systems which specify the conditions under which a system must perform
and the parameters necessary for system power supplies. The National Fire Protection
Association and many new state codes require a fire alarm system to have a single UPS
or two sources of power, either primary or secondary.
NFPA Fire Alarm Backup Requirements Explained
Type 0
True on-line, zero response time during a
power outage
Class 24
At least 24 hours of backup capacity for the
attached devices must be provided
Level 1
operation of the device is critical; failure could
result in loss of human life or serious injury
The type of UPS that some states require is a Type 0, Class 24, Level 1
system. A Type 0 (on-line) UPS essentially means there is no switchover time
when the power is being transferred from the primary source of power to the
This is very important for mission critical systems and can prevent system
malfunctions from happening when a system switches from AC power to battery
backup. It is not specified in many state codes that the UPS can only serve the
fire alarm, but sharing the UPS should not be done unless the UPS can serve the
entire connected load for the time needed or have load-shedding capability. Also
in many states, the UPS must be Class 24, meaning 24 hours of capacity must
be provided.
Check your local regulations and codes to ensure compliance. Fire alarm systems
are not immune from power problems, and it is essential that these systems have
appropriate power protection.
Emergency Communications
During any type of disaster, or even in a temporary power outage, it is absolutely
essential that communications are not interrupted. Businesses must be able to
communicate with employees and customers. Educational institutions must be able to
communicate with students and faculty. Retail stores must communicate with employees
and customers. Without emergency communications and mass notification systems,
people are further endangered and liability issues are magnified.
In many states and localities, emergency communication systems require a 24-hour
quiescent load capability, meaning that when the system is not being used, there is
at least 24 hours of battery backup capacity should power fail. Other regulations may
require a minimum of fifteen minutes of full-load alarm capacity from a UPS.
These systems may have to function at long periods of time during an emergency.
Actual use time may be 30-60 minutes, but typically only a partial load when an
announcement is being made is needed. The code requirements should be evaluated
by a system designer to determine if a larger capacity or longer back-up time should be
Telephone Systems
The telephone may also be a critical part of emergency communications and certainly
requires power to operate. Using a UPS to back up a telephone system is an absolute
necessity and can be accomplished very economically. IP telephony systems do require
additional considerations because not only does the main system have to be backed up,
all telephone hand-set stations are also individually powered. |
The recommendation is to utilize a UPS on the main controller system, but also
using a small UPS on individual stations. With unified communications also running on a
desktop or laptop computer, the same UPS can be utilized to back up the computer and
telephone station.
Intrusion Detection
Intrusion detection systems, commonly called burglar alarms, provide alarm
notification should a door or window be opened or breached. These systems are primarily
focused on identifying possible intrusion incidents, logging information about them, and
reporting those attempts. For secured facilities, intrusion detection systems are a crucial
component for protecting both facilities and personnel.
While intrusion detection systems run on DC voltage, they must have an AC power
supply. The usual power supplies installed to support intrusion systems typically include
basic battery backup which provides minimal backup time and no protection from any
other power problem. Since these power supplies are generally low wattage, they can be
cost-effectively backed up with a UPS and they can benefit from complete protection.
Loss Prevention
Annual Retail Store Losses due to Shoplifting
Total Lost Revenue:
$10+ Billion due to ‘Shrinkage’
by both customers & employees
Total caught/prosecuted:
Over 1 million perpetrators caught
by store mechanisms & teams annually
Preventative Equipment to backup:
AC-powered Electronic Article System (EAS)
which detect tags on merchandise
Businesses, especially retailers, utilize anti-theft, or loss prevention systems,
to deter shoplifting and employee theft. “Shrinkage,” as the retail community calls
it, costs store owners more than $10 billion annually, and in excess of 1 million
perpetrators are caught and prosecuted annually. Electronic Article Surveillance
(EAS) systems are placed at all store exits, and camera surveillance systems can
also be incorporated. High-value goods are tagged with devices that sound an
alarm when the tag enters the field of an EAS system.
These anti-theft systems are AC powered, and the reader or sensor
devices typically have low power requirements. This enables retailers and other
businesses that employ these systems to provide full power protection at an
economical price by using a small UPS. When power fails, EAS systems do not
have any built-in battery backup, thus making retailers very vulnerable to theft.
Making power protection an integral part of a security system installation and disaster
plan is essential, no matter the type of business or institution. Business owners and
managers are selling their security system short and doing their business a tremendous
disservice in not providing complete power protection.
Some security system dealers have even made it a point not to sell a security
system without adequate power protection. This not only protects the customer from
possible liability and safety issues, it also protects the dealer from having a very unhappy
customer and being dragged into litigation.
By the time a power incident occurs or disaster strikes, it is too late to take many
of the important steps to protect a business. Too many business owners and managers
take the supply of power for granted and do not plan accordingly. Things happen
unexpectedly, and all too often, Murphy’s Law catches us by surprise at the most
inopportune times.
Security systems are designed and installed for protection – not protecting them
with proper power solutions can negate any benefit of the investment in a security
system. Security shouldn’t end when the power goes out, especially when it’s completely
preventable and affordable.
Power & Security | Minuteman Power Technologies White Paper
Security Power Prep Quiz
The following questions should be considered when planning power protection
strategies in security applications:
If the power goes out, which security system components will
require battery backup?
How much battery backup time is required for each security system
What will happen to my system if my backup battery becomes
completely depleted?
How can a security incident disrupt the ability to conduct business
and serve customers or put employee’s safety at risk?
If you do have a disaster plan currently, how is security addressed?
How are mission critical security functions prioritized?
Are all peripheral devices that support security systems fully
protected from power problems?
In case of an extended power outage, in what order will systems be
brought down?
When power has been restored after an outage, what is the order
for re-starting security system components?
About Minuteman Power Technologies
Minuteman Power Technologies products are manufactured by Para Systems, Inc.
Founded in 1982, Para Systems, Inc. is a privately held corporation headquartered in
Carrollton, Texas. Our power technology products are sold in more than 100 countries
throughout the world.
Minuteman single-phase UPS products are available in sizes ranging 400VA to
24KVA, and we also offer three-phase UPSs from 10kVA to 300kVA. Additional products
include surge suppressors, remote power management (RPM) tools, power distribution
units (PDU), and power management and monitoring software.
The Minuteman brand has been synonymous with quality and reliability since 1982,
and our products represent better value in terms of price vs. performance and reliability.
In addition, we pride ourselves on providing superior product warranties, and the
industry’s most responsive customer service both before and after the sale.
About the Authors
Bill AllenKarren Hodge
Minuteman Power Technologies
Minuteman Power Technologies
Director of Marketing
Marketing Database Specialist
800.238.7272 x242
800.238.7272 x232 |
Learn more at our website:
Size the perfect UPS solution:
Learn more on our News & Resources section:
Para Systems, Inc. | Minuteman Power Technologies
1455 LeMay Dr. | Carrollton, TX 75007
972.446.7363 | 800.238.7272 |
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