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Security Systems and Today's Strata

Monday, 08th November 2010

Chris Pearson, Quorum Security System's Managing Director and a respected expert in Strata security, believes that most decision-makers in the Strata industry view security systems as a grudge purchase - something we have to buy, like insurance, but we don't believe there's really much benefit in it. Chris thinks this attitude is a pity, as he believes that modern security systems can do much more for stratas than ever before - and what they can do is often much, much more than just security.

"Ask any strata resident or EC member what their Executive Committee issues are, and security will usually be low on the list.  Real management concerns (after budgetary, maintenance and legal issues) are things like illicit dumping of rubbish, misue of common areas and facilities (gym, pool, rooftop terrace BBQ areas, etc), abuse of car-parking spaces and so on" Chris believes. 

"The bottom line here is this: most stratas struggle with tenants and residents alike complying with by-laws.  When they don't comply, you have a knock-on effect which translate into poorer quality tenants, unhappy owners and residents, and lower resale values for units - particularly as 'good' residents start to move out."

However, hope is at hand, he believes, and he cites some common examples"

  • Modern CCTV systems not only provide security for residents by acting as a derterrent to theft and malicious damage - they can also protect  stratas from insurance claims (especially false slip-and-fall compensation claims) by showing a forensic, trail of actual events and proving that the strata has been diligent.
  • Today's access control systems can effectively manage auto-locking of common areas such as gymnasiums or rooftop terraces at night - no more noisy parties after midnight!  They can even automatically make a duress call in teh event of an emergency in the pool area.
  • The latest car-park access systems can 'count' how many cars a specific tenant has let into the garage, and disallow any more than the allocated number, until one of their vehicles has exited - thus dramatically reducing parking problems.
  • CCTV cameras covering lobbies, common areas, garbage rooms adn car-parks not only record intruders in these areas, they can also ensure tenant's and resident's compliance with strata regulations and by-laws.
Chris also believes that security systems are now playing a major role in the war against over-tenanting.  This is where up to a dozen people (called OT's in the industry), illegally tenant an innercity apartment. 

"This is the real issue for the authorities, and it's a nightmare scenario for everyone in the building," Chris said.

"In some inner-city highrise stratas where over-tenanting is rife, you can have up to 50 percent more people really living there than the buildings fire permit allows.  To make it worse, if OT's receive notice of a unit inspection, they often simply 'store' their furniture in the first stairs until the inspecition is over.  In the event of a real emergency, people's lives are literally at risk".

In the past two years, Quorum has been working with several key Sydney CBD stratas to create innovative ways of fighting over-tenanting.  Some of these methods are as simple as ensuring that the resident's mail-room is secured behind an access-controlled door, this foils the OT's usual modus operandi of leaving an access card inthe un-locked mailbox for the next person entering the building.  "Because we deal with these issues every day, we have tried and tested solutions" said Chris.

Other successful techniques to deal with overcrowding include electronically securing the fire stairs (these are then linked to the building's fire systems so that they will open in emergencies etc) to stop their practice of OT's tailgating into a lift, getting off with another resident on a floor near their own, then using the fire-stairs as a rat-run to gain access to their own floor.

"We'ver used CCTV with people-counting software - intelligent new intercom systems that can report on how many remote door releases each apartment makes in a day or week (a reliable indicator of the presence of OT's) - newer high-security encrypted access cards to stop OT's making illegal copies - we've even used biometrics (fingerprint or retina scanning to prove identity) to stop illegal entry" says Chris.

"The idea is to have these technologies prominently on display to any potential tenant, to encourage OT's to try their luck somewhere else.  We've had some really solid successes across Sydney, and the word is getting out there."

In relation to a strata's overall attitude towards security, Chris says that the real challenge isn't getting residents and EC members to understand the technology.  The Challenge is "moving people from the notion that any investment in security is dead money," says Chris.

"We always explain that modern security systems often have a good return on investment and can add real value to the overall social harmony in a building.  Decision makers need to take on board such issues as the real cost of insurance premiums or payouts, the real cost of having poor-quality tenants or OT's in the complex - and how that can all translate into lower values for their units".

Chris also emphasizes that today's security products are less expensive and more powerful and robust than ever before.  "The average system today is a fraction of he cost of only five years ago - it's making stratas re-think their building management strategy.  For example, in many older buildings we can update their intercom to full colour video handsets without the huge cost of rewiring the building.  Another example - today's CCTV cameras are available in low-cost infra-red versions, and come with tremendous image quality.  It's great for catching people who think they can't be seen in the dark - residents simply knowing that their antisocial activities can be recorded even in the dark, will ensure compliance" says Chris "and that it also means that you don't need to install and operate expensive lighting in low-traffic or utility areas."

For more information visit Quorum's website at www.quorum.com.au

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