From digital cameras to motion sensors with intelligence, today's security technology can offer dealers peace of mind.
September 11, 2008
Motion Sensor Basics
Daylight Farm Supply, Evansville, IL has been using motion sensors for at least 15 years now. Installed and maintained by ADT, they are located on walk-in and overhead doors and are set off when the doors are opened. "The sensor system is hooked to our bulk chemical building, and it won't allow you to set the alarm without all the doors being shut," describes Brian Herr.
One issue that's caused a few headaches is birds trapped inside the warehouse setting off the alarm — so a Daylight rep has to come and deactivate the system.
While Eastman would point out that passive infrared technology has not changed much for almost 20 years now, it has improved. "It's pet immune, and we can actually ignore small animals now, as well as certain size masses — say, 40 or 80 pounds — whatever the threshold of the sensor is. Sensors are becoming a little more human intelligent, checking to see if an intruder acts like a human more than, say, a blowing drape or blowing plant."
H&R installed the security system at Crop Production Services (CPS), Sikestown, MO, almost a decade ago and has been maintaining it ever since. Aaron Wade, manager, explains that sensors cover office and warehouse entry doors, electric roll-up doors, and even a large warehouse window. H&R's dispatch firm will call Wade whenever the power goes off — so he knows the alarm is off.
"That's the only way I can see someone getting in is if they could find a way to shut the power off." Monthly fees for supplier/dispatch monitoring of the systems run about $60 per month.
In addition to motion sensor systems, strobe lights, and sirens, Western Consolidated Cooperative — with sites in Holoway, MN and Milbank, SD — just installed state-of-the-art camera surveillance last fall. The systems allow Holoway to monitor the Milbank fertilizer plant some 45 miles away, says Ken DeBuhr, operations manager. "We have an anhydrous tank there for loading nurse tanks and a rail unload system on the back of the building," he explains. "We wanted to keep an eye on those two places where people work, so if there were any problems, we can see it right away. Safety was our first consideration when buying the cameras."
At the Holoway office, two wide/flat screen displays track action fed by nine cameras in Milbank. A digital recorder stores the video feed, which can be burned to a CD or DVD for archiving. And the cameras' recording feature is actually motion-activated.
Eastman says those motion-activated cameras are the biggest advancement in surveillance electronics. "It saves viewing time and recording space. We can integrate them into alarms so when the front door trips, the front door camera runs for so many minutes, gathering pre-alarm and post-alarm information for up to 10 minutes."
As an example of pricing, the Mil-bank fertilizer site's system cost $14,000, with an additional $11,000 spent on office security equipment.
All of Wilco Agriliance's crop input locations — seven in Oregon's Willamette Valley and one in Washington State — are equipped with some type of security sensors. Mike Gerig, asset manager, says now managers would like to step up and add camera surveillance at these sites for other benefits such as "general observation and study of our operations. We actually have them at our farm stores and have a real good idea of what they could do for us," he says.
"Cameras can play a big, big part in managing your business," says Eastman. "You can see when deliveries are made, when employees come and go, what kind of volume you're doing when you're not there."
Advice From Experts
Eastman and the ag retailers we talked with recommend looking for:
A reputable dealer. Eastman says find a security company that's been in business for a while. "Check for some basic things like workman's comp and liability insurance — the fly-by-night people are not going to have those." Check out their reputation with former users and other businesses in the area. Consultations on systems are usually free, so call in two or three suppliers to get a feel for each person and what you're comfortable with.
He would emphasize there's plenty of good equipment out there. "It's more about the installation than the brands," he says. Also find out what equipment is available locally. Most dealers such as H&R will have a Web site to provide information.
Ease of use. It's the single most important feature for a system, believes Wilco's Gerig. "If employees have trouble getting their codes in or if it's difficult to change codes, staff will resist usage. Also, without proper codes you are unable to identify who's coming in or going out — which is partially why you have a system," he says.
Versatility. West-Con's DeBuhr said his team was looking for versatility, with the ability to expand or change cameras if they wanted — perhaps to go from a fixed camera, to a remote control camera, to a zoom camera.
These dealers are sold on electronic security. "The systems compared to loss are relatively inexpensive and can at least offer a certain threshold of protection," says Gerig.
"One thing we need to do in this industry is make sure the community we operate in is safe — a security system helps ensure that," says CPS's Wade. "It gives me peace of mind at night because I know if something goes wrong, I'm going to get a phone call."