We’re now getting to the end of the project phase, to test and confirm. But, is it truly the end of the project phase, or is “testing” a common denominator that applies to almost every phase we’ve completed, from the vulnerability stage to the assessment stage, from the application stage to the specification stage? Or does testing and confirming have a more fluid dynamic that should be used throughout? Or is it like an alarm clock you set at night, wondering if it will actually wake you up at 5:00 a.m. when you need to get out the door?
You’ve invested lot of time, and your firm is counting on you to have 100% effective security. Your cost is from $100,000 to $1 million or more per site. What if you have ten sites, or up to $10 million in your physical security expenditure?
What is commonplace with our firm is that there are very often 20-50 sites. How do we test and confirm 50 sites when they’re complete? We schedule for individual testing and confirmation. From the time concept development begins, through specification and into construction, we “test” each deliverable, each intended product to be used.
Who Do I Listen To?
When doing testing and confirmation, do I:
Listen to the contractor?
Listen to the integrator?
Or, listen to your staff?
How many times has the contractor completed testing of this exact layout? A dozen times? Or none? Do you know exactly how this design will perform under the most ideal circumstances, and especially under the most extreme circumstances?
This question separates the product and its installation from the criteria used to accept that the system will work under extreme conditions at night, in the cold and fog, and with winds blowing.
And it needs to have over 96% alarm accuracy. Why only just over 96%? Why not 100%?
Because mathematically, any system that is dependent both on a human event that is susceptible to the environment under what could be harsh conditions over time, and 2) the combination of analog and digital communications by multiple systems in lock-step will only infrequently hit a 100% mark. Can we attempt 99%? Absolutely!
Security System Installation is just a Lego Kit Only Bigger Isn’t It?
What if you have the luxury of purchasing a new kitchen renovation? That $75,000 may be both one of the more ambitious home undertakings and the most frustrating. It seems pretty straightforward. The cabinets you saw, touched, opened, and closed. You spun the lazy susan, selected the range, oven, and microwave. All coordinated, all matched, all “custom” built to your home’s specifications. Then the fun begins.
First, the contractor tells you what the cabinet and appliance makers forgot. They also forgot to tell you about the additional stiffeners needed to support the heavier loads an extra. Plumbing extensions that were needed due to the new codes an extra. Additional outlets and bigger wire an extra. A new venting for the microwave because you wanted convection cooking an extra. Did your original requirements include the testing and acceptance of all this additional work? Probably not. Did you account for the 10% additional costs? Probably not.
Feel It Touch It Use It Expect It
The kitchen renovation is now underway but delayed. Appliances are two weeks late. Cabinets are all delivered, but the contractor says the one above the fridge is missing. They have to order that one a three-week delay. And the plumber needed to start another project due to your not wanting to needlessly demolish your current kitchen too early. Total delay? One month.
It’s nice that you could feel, touch, and use the cabinets in the store. However, appliances can’t be tested until installed. But no worries. Right?
Small Problems Big Issues
Your kitchen project is now one month late and costs are exceeding 15% of budget and frustration is at an all‑time high. You’re cooking in the living room, and eating Wendy’s four times a week. You’re also ready to get a new husband, because he always agrees with the contractor. Finally, the contractor says “I’m done! Let’s check it out.”
On the walkthrough, everything looks fabulous. But there are a few problems after you get to use it. The trash bin squeals when used. The dishwasher is as loud as a motorcycle and leaves a film on every glass. One of the kitchen cabinets doesn’t fully open and seems to be breaking the panel, and the last cabinet ordered has a different grain and color from all the others.
Not only that, when you use the disposal, all the lights in the kitchen dim, while the range sets off the smoke detector 80% of the time when nothing is even in it. (I forgot to tell you, false alarms can occur up to 100% of the time. What an irony.)
In this case, you saw the cabinets first hand. You even hand‑selected the appliances, while you physically demonstrated each piece to your satisfaction. What happened? Life happened. People, things, and contracting are a critical triangle to accomplish projects. It only takes one side of the triangle to upset all three. Refer to The Project Trangle.
If this testing confirmed only a few, but major obstacles in reaching your goal, what would a $1 million or $10 million investment test and confirmation program reflect?
When Should Testing Begin?
If your answer is, 1) upon contractor completion, 2) at acceptance testing, or 3) at substantial completion, you’re in for significant hurdles of aligning people, things, and contracting muddying all your fine efforts. Testing begins with research (before specification), proceeds to demonstration (during specification), is defined during product and shop drawing submission (after award), verified at mock‑up (before installation), and confirmed after full contractor completion (post-punch list and 100% corrections). Refer to The Functional Test Process Schedule.
Why 100% is Often Not 100%
By now, we’ve all heard the story of the three computers on Apollo 13 going south. And, of course, the Challenger disaster thirty years ago blamed on gaskets and seals going untested, unconfirmed.
Yet, such failures occur every day in security systems some known while others not. Fire alarm systems actually have an almost 100% integrity designed into the system with power supervision, monitoring of each point every 10 seconds, and notification of trouble. But security systems are not fire alarm systems. They seldom function to the level of a highly integrated and tested fire alarm system.
Sites where human or asset protection is critical deploy physical testing of perimeter systems at each shift change at a minimum. This is because of the 96% rule discussed earlier. There is no confirmation of system response to intrusion or penetration 100% of the time. But we can certainly try to attempt it.
The integration, conformance, testing, and confirmation of specification criteria to a level greater than 96% accuracy of intrusion or penetration takes clear, well‑defined engineering processes. Our experience at PSE reflects over 20 years and dozens of successfully installed perimeter and security programs, as reflected in our staff capabilities. Only with this type of experience can an enterprise accurately monitor success for testing and confirming large security investments to a greater than 96% intrusion and penetration detection rate with low nuisance alarm rates.
Don’t be one of our “new” clients who report that “the system fails repeatedly” or “never worked as advertised.” Have a plan and implement.
This CIP START Technical Bulletin was issued by Professional Systems Engineering, LLC (PSE) and prepared by Jerry ‘Dutch’ Forstater, PE, PSP. Mr. Forstater is a Professional Electrical, Electronics, and Communications Engineer licensed in 12 states and is Board Certified by ASIS in Physical Security. The firm has provided independent consulting and security strategy, design, specification, and construction expertise for 30 years. He is a graduate of the ASIS International Security Management Program through University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, is a graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and has been providing significant corporate, utility, industrial, commercial, and related security and public safety programs since 1986. He is Chairperson of ASIS International Philadelphia/Delaware Valley Chapter and former Board Member of the International Association of Professional Security Consultants. He is a Director of the Philadelphia-Delaware Valley Society of Fire Protection Engineers. PSE has provided significant physical security, electronic security, security lighting, and public safety 9-1-1/agency monitoring for law enforcement and corporate clients/agencies throughout the United States on installations that are critical to Homeland Security, infrastructure protection, and the public at large.