When it comes to security, understanding individual technologies isn't enough. Combining various components makes your plan functional.

Only when you intelligently combine security technologies, such as transformers, relays, and interfaces, do you reap the real benefits of a security plan. But integrating these components isn't easy. Let's take a closer look at what you should consider when incorporating these elements into your overall system. Here are 10 basic steps to follow for a more successful coordinated security plan.

Understanding the principles. You must have a thorough understanding of all the items you want to control or monitor, as well as a familiarity with all of the devices you want to use. It's not enough to know how A connects to B. You must understand the principles that make A and B work. The equipment manufacturer can usually answer specific questions relating to connection concerns and equipment operation.

Coordination of specifications. Most security devices operate on 12VAC or 24VAC, most computerized devices operate at 5VDC, and most motors run on 240VAC or 480VAC, 3-phase. When combining devices, a common problem is coordinating the current and voltage requirements of each device. If you want to combine a 480V motor and a 120V timer, you will also need an appropriately sized transformer to connect them.

Coordination of duty cycles. Devices used together must have the ability to operate together over long periods of time. For example, some coils will burnout if you use them continuously. If you need a solenoid for continuous use, you probably want one with the mechanically held feature. Regardless, you must be sure all control devices match.

Environmental factors. Make sure all your devices function once installed. This can be as simple as using NEMA 3 enclosures on an outside wall, or as difficult as determining which types of controllers will operate correctly in a hazardous location.

Effects upon existing devices and systems. Don't forget the effects of the equipment you are installing upon existing equipment. Some devices may create unacceptable vibrations. Others produce magnetic fields, which can interfere with the operation of sensitive equipment in the area.

Safety. Safety is not usually a concern when installing security equipment, since it operates at low voltages. You should also consider potential problems with your security equipment. It's critical to design systems so people working with or near the systems you design aren't in danger. This may require the intelligent use of warning signs, overloads and resets, barriers and guards, interlocks, lockouts, and clutches.

Maintenance. When putting a system together, you should consider ease of maintenance and accessibility of critical items for repair. A few changes in the beginning of an installation could save a lot of hassle in the long run. Life span of components is also a maintenance issue. In most cases, you will have to combine items that are expected to last as long as 20 years or as little as five years.

Management. Always remember that you aren't installing control systems for your use only. Managers will need to either control the system from a distance, or they should at least be able to determine the system's state of operation without too much difficulty. Make sure you accommodate for this.

Modification. In almost every instance, you will need to consider future system modifications. Again, a little forethought can save a lot of money down the line.

Ergonomics. Consider the use of your equipment. Think about actually using the equipment before specifying its location.

In our final lesson next month, we'll continue our discussion on how to combine security technologies into one functional system.

When designing and installing your various security technologies, don't neglect the possibility of help from the equipment manufacturers. You'll find many of them are willing to assist you. Some manufacturers help only if you use a certain dealer, which may not be in your best interest. If you run into this difficulty, look to other manufacturers or other sources of information.

Searching the Internet for general or specific security equipment information is a great source. Searching various categories that come up under "combining security equipment" is a good start. You can also get specific questions answered on Internet security news groups. Other sources, such as specialty magazines and trade shows, can either answer questions or give you contact information leading you to industry experts.