How would you decide controller location when installing an alarm or access control solution in an SME premises?

A: Selecting the best location for an alarm and/or access control panel is site specific. In larger applications, controllers are usually installed close to internal risers within secure network rooms. In SME applications, such facilities may not exist, leaving the integrator to make the best selection.

The first thing we’d be establishing is the location of power and comms risers or cable trays. All other things being equal, the controller should be installed to ensure cable runs are within specification. You’ll also need to locate the controller somewhere that offers a layer of physical security – that means in the manager’s office, or in an access controlled internal room, preferably without external walls.

Something that will inevitably feed into your choice will be a location that minimises surface mount conduit – the nature of the site will impact on this choice. Something that’s well worth undertaking before you start work is a quick appraisal of the site’s electronic infrastructure. This will allow you to avoid sources of noise and may help you make decisions about the best location for sensors. If 2 locations offer similar catch performance but one achieves this from a point closer to the controller, this will be preferable.

External comms will be another issue. It’s likely the system will have cabled comms and wireless comms – you’ll need to ensure cabled communications are secure and that wireless communications are not subject to electrical noise, or interference from metal structures. That will mean walk testing to discover the best uplink location.

Depending on the nature of the facility, it may be possible to take advantage of old infrastructure like piping, or underfloor raceways, to move cables around the site. At all times, document the system and its footprint to assist service techs in the future, and label cabling and infrastructure in such a way that it can easily be identified by professional technicians handling other site services.

Something you may have to deal with is management insistence the controller be installed somewhere that may not be ideal from the point of view of a professional security installation – this will most commonly occur in a retail site, where décor is paramount.

When this occurs, you’ll need to have a strong sense of why your selected location offers enhanced security and reliability with minimised complexity, though there may be applications when you will have to work with the location you’re given.

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