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Jaime-Lee Gardner
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Louise Martin
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All along the watchtower

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All along the watchtower

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4 min read

With more than 10 000 registered security companies, South Africa has one of the largest private security industries worldwide. The extent to which we rely on the private sector for our personal safety and security is exemplified by the fact that there are 2.5 security personnel for every police officer in the country – and this number is growing exponentially with our crime rate. Out of necessity, private security performs functions in the public sphere which used to be the sole domain of the South African Police Service.

However, most built environments, including residential estates, are private rather than public spaces, which have always been the domain of private security personnel. Homeowners and investors purchase property behind these walls with the expectation that their security needs will be taken care of. In today’s South Africa, one of the main reasons people opt for estate living is personal safety, as well as the peace of mind of knowing that their property’s value remains unaffected by crime.

Rob Anderson & Associates (RA&A) is a security consulting and electrical engineering company based in Westville near Durban. The firm has been involved in more than 500 electrical and security projects since Rob Anderson started his operation in 1997. The security side of the consulting business provides holistic solutions for office and residential estates, which have included Zimbali, Thesen Islands and Sibaya Coastal Precinct.

“I act on behalf of developers to get them the best possible deal with service providers. The benefit of using us rather than directly approaching a security company is that we act as the client’s agent and minimise their risk, as well as ensuring an integrated solution is provided ” says Rob.

RA&A’s service includes consultation, professional guidance and security solution design. The final step in their process is to put the infrastructure installation out to tender.

“We have zero vested financial interest in projects, apart from the system being fully operational.”

Any risk on the part of the client is negated by their professional indemnity insurance. Another plus for developers using their service is that contractors negotiate directly with Rob and his team, rather than the client or developer.

“Our aim is ultimately to inform and advise the architects that our clients use, enabling them to provide solutions which are conducive to good practice – to maximise security for everyone.”

One of RA&A’s latest projects is the oppointment by Tongaat Hulett to develop a security master plan for all public spaces in the Sibaya Coastal Precinct, which is a mixed-use development on Durban’s North Coast. They were also tasked with writing a security protocol for the overall development which ensures that there is a coordinated response from all the developers to whom Tongaat Hulett sold the serviced land. Included in these documents was a plan for Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED), which aims to deter crime through strategies − such as natural surveillance, access control and territorial reinforcement − that rely on influencing offender decisions preceding criminal acts.

One of the key ingredients to securing the perimeter and the most costly security measure for any development is fencing. In most cases an electric fence is the chosen solution, but unfortunately maintenance is expensive and the false alarm rate is also high. From a financing perspective, Rob identifies the length of the boundary fence versus the number of stands to be sold as an important factor in securing any built environment. “If the price of a stand needs to subsidise an excessive fence at today’s costs, plus surveillance, it becomes very difficult to keep costs down.”

He explains that the number of access points in secure estates also directly impacts the developer’s overheads as staffing multiple entrances is an expensive exercise.

“There needs to be a security manpower plan from the outset. A well-designed control point, manned correctly, always saves money in the operational phase.”

In RA&A’s view, the most successful estates, in terms of their security track record, had all formed a subcommittee representing both developers and residents from an early stage.

“Together they are able to fine-tune their security solution and take joint ownership  to the advantage  of everyone.”

Fibre technology is used extensively in the security industry, and RA&A consults for many developers, such as Tongaat Hulett, looking to offer fibre to the home (FTTH) as a valuable add-on to the land infrastructure. “Moving into fibre was a natural progression for our business.”

RA&A’s involvement in fibre installation is at an advisory level, assisting clients to find a suitable model for their particular environment and how the service should be financed.

The company often reminds developers of the value of owning their passive network – in other words, the fibre itself or an open access network, either of which gives developers the freedom to choose their own internet service provider.

“We’ve just finished renegotiations to run the network for Kindlewood Estate, another Tongaat Hulett development, and they have benefited from more leverage as proprietors of their network.”

What is the future of running security systems as web services over open networks.? Rob is concerned about this approach. There is a need for two separate networks, one or more for security services and another for FTTH. He warns that the use of a centralised security network can make the entire system vulnerable to attack.

Rob acknowledges the ways in which technological advancement is making our built environments safer, but stresses the need to realise the limits of technology and rely more on human co-operation.

“The efficacy of security systems has less to do with how clever they are, and more to do with how closely people work together by sharing and using the information they gather.”

The Developer Journal is available online and in print.

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