Query the Access Control Expert

Laws Differ State to State on Equipment Regulations
Is an access control system in Texas different from a system in another state?

A: Yes, it is. That’s because last year the law regulating burglar alarm companies in Texas was extended to include access control systems. The amendments seemed straightforward to lawmakers when two paragraphs were added:

  • “Electronic equipment and devices using a computer or data processor designed to control the access of a person, vehicle, or object through a door, gate, or entrance into the controlled area of a residence or business;”
  • “Electronic access control device” means an electronic, electrical, or computer-based device that allows access to a controlled area of a business, but that is not monitored and does not send a signal to which law enforcement or emergency services respond. The term does not include a mechanical device, such as a deadbolt or lock.”

After the law passed, the Texas Department of Public Safety Private Security Board (PSB) began to wrestle with exactly what an access control system is. Installers of gates, overhead doors, garage doors and automatic doors all asked if they were now regulated. The Department issued some advisories which can be found on its website at www.tcps.state.tx.us/.

Essentially, the Department decided it is not the type of equipment used, but how that equipment is used that determines if it is considered to be part of an access control system that is regulated. If the door or gate simply automatically unlocks when a code key or credential is presented for the convenience of the user, then the Department does not consider it to be access control. If the door or gate is monitored, if the door or gate is controlled by a system that restricts access by specific user or the time the user operates it, or if the system logs when the user operates it, then it is regulated.

Law and regulations vary from state to state. Be sure to check them for each state you do business in.

Physical Security Systems Standard (in Brief)
What is included in the NFPA 731 standard?

A: As an overview, this standard covers the application, location, installation, performance, testing, and maintenance of physical security systems and their components. It recommends that qualified personnel are used and evidence must be provided when requested by the authority having jurisdiction.

It also states that installers and designers be familiar with the equipment by knowing the limits of the devices and appliances for a particular design. Know the causes of false alarms and ways to decrease them.

It requires that AC circuit breakers or disconnects have a blue marking, be accessible only to authorized personnel, and be identified as “PREMISES SECURITY CIRCUIT.” The location of the circuit disconnecting means shall be permanently identified at the premises security control unit.

Software must be listed for use with the equipment it’s installed on. A record of installed software version numbers must be kept on the premises and all software protected from unauthorized changes. All changes must be tested in accordance with Chapter 9 of the standard and user training needs to be documented and maintained for 1 year.

Brad Shipp is a former Executive Director and Training Director for the NBFAA where he authored several NTS courses, including the Access Control Certification course. His involvement in the access control industry dates back to 1974 and, in 1986, he became an instructor for the NBFAA National Training School. Shipp has served on several law enforcement, regulatory and industry association boards and has been honored for his service by the False Alarm Reduction Association and the International Association of Security and Investigative Regulators. Send in your access control questions to bradshipp@secdealer.com.