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Apartment Security Systems: Complete Guide

An apartment security system is a collection of various physical and digital security solutions throughout a building’s common areas. It’s important to identify these different parts of common area security to determine which solutions fit best for each unique building. In doing so, property managers and owners can maximize their building’s security to ensure the highest level of safety and security for tenants. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Common security issues in apartment buildings
  • Apartment security system installation considerations
  • Apartment security system components
  • Benefits of better common area security

Apartment Building Security Issues

Apartment buildings have to face many security challenges. Below are the most common security issues that apartments need to mitigate: 

  • Package Theft: Package theft has become a major issue for apartment buildings. With the soaring rate of ecommerce, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of package theft has skyrocketed.
  • Bike Theft: Bikes are expensive, which makes them a target for theft. Many apartments have bike rooms where tenants can store their bikes, but unfortunately they are still broken into and stolen.
  • Apartment Break-Ins: Individual units have been known to get broken into, especially if an unauthorized person tailgates into or otherwise enters the property. 
  • Secure Visitor Management: Some apartment buildings employ a front desk person to close the gap on secure visitor management. But, if an apartment building does not have a staff member to manage the visitors that come in and out of the building, it’s always a possibility that an unauthorized visitor can get in. 

Apartment Security System Installation Considerations

When an apartment building installs a security system, there are several considerations based on: 

  • Building Size
  • Budget
  • Install Experience 
  • Post-Installation Management

Building Size

The size of the apartment building will determine the amount of hardware — such as door locks, controllers, cameras, etc. — needed, but it will also play a role in establishing how robust the system needs to be. A large apartment building will need different capacity components than a smaller, 4-unit or 8-unit building. Similarly, if intrusive wiring is involved, apartment buildings will need to consider the installation timeline. For example, larger buildings will take longer to install a security system if wiring needs to run to each individual apartment unit. If an apartment complex is in a rush to deploy a particular security solution, a wireless system would likely be the best option. 

Budget

Budgeting for installation is also important. Hardware is just one cost associated with deploying a new apartment security system. The cost of installation will increase the more overhead is required. 

Install Experience

Can the new security system be installed by the property manager or building owner? The level of experience needed to install an apartment security system should be a consideration before making a decision. Additionally, the level of support available beyond installation will be important for system maintenance and troubleshooting issues. 

Post-Installation Management

Finally, apartment buildings need to consider the experience or technical skills required to operate, manage, and maintain the system once it’s installed. Outsourcing security system operation will mean additional costs and collaboration with third parties. Technical training for apartment staff also needs to be taken into account. If the administrative interface is not intuitive, technical training will need to be coordinated and completed each time there is a new staff member. 

Apartment Security System Components

A complete common area security solution includes several different individual systems that each perform a certain function: 

  • Alarm and intrusion detection
  • Access control
  • Intercom system
  • Fire alarm
  • Video surveillance, security cameras, and video management systems

Alarm and Intrusion Detection

Alarm and intrusion detection should be incorporated to high security doors like bike rooms, electrical closets, and package rooms as well as other doors, windows, and access points across the apartment building. This security component will ensure the doors are only opened via access control and not through forced door opens. 

Access Control 

Access control systems are an important component to any apartment building’s security system. They essentially function as a house key for each resident. Traditionally, buildings used metal keys and tumbler locks. These were largely phased out and replaced with key cards and fobs. Now, advanced security solutions are allowing tenants to unlock their doors with their smartphones and even using facial recognition

Mobile access control provides a convenient, flexible, and modern solution for tenants. The next generation of renters are actively seeking this form of access in their apartments. 

Similarly, facial recognition access control is taking security and convenience one step further. This frictionless form of access allows tenants to access their building by using their unique facial characteristics. 

Intercom Systems

Intercom systems are possibly the most diverse component to apartment security, taking the form of: 

  • Doorbells
  • Video doorbells
  • Telephone line and SIP-based intercoms
  • Multi-tenant video intercom

Doorbells

While not commonly seen anymore, some apartment buildings use a traditional doorbell to alert when a visitor is at the door. This doorbell emits only a sound or chime that alerts a tenant or building staff member that a visitor has arrived. They then need to physically unlock the door and let the visitor in. There are some solutions, like DoorBird, that are attempting to improve this experience by offering a video intercom system that installs on these pre-existing, hardwired doorbells. They still do not, however, have the capability to remotely unlock doors. 

Video Doorbells

This type of doorbell has recently become popular in single-family homes. Companies such as Ring and Nest manufacture these wireless video doorbells that allow anyone to see who is at their front door via mobile app. Like doorbells, they lack the ability to remotely unlock the door or offer any multi-tenant features like a tenant directory or visitor pass distribution. 

Telephone Line and SIP-Based Intercom

Telephone line and SIP-based intercom systems route audio-only intercom from outdoor hardware to an individual tenant’s apartment receiver. Companies such as DoorKing, 2N, and Linear manufacture intercom systems like these. This system provides significantly more security than a doorbell, but less than a video intercom. They also require expensive installation costs as wiring is required for each unit. 

Multi-Tenant Video Intercom

Multi-tenant video intercoms allow tenants to use audio and video to communicate with their visitors. This ensures that tenants can visually identify who is at the door before granting them access. 

Video intercom systems also feature much more flexible remote unlock capabilities. While telephone line and SIP-based intercom have the ability to remotely unlock the door for their visitors, they are limited to answering those calls and granting access from the hardwired station in the apartment unit. Modern video intercom uses cloud-based technology to allow tenants to remotely unlock the door for their visitors from anywhere. This ensures packages and other deliveries are never left unattended.

Finally, video intercom allows tenants themselves to control the PIN codes they give out to visitors. These can be multi-use PIN codes given to friends and family, or single-use PINs for deliveries. 

Altogether, this provides a seamless experience for the highest security and convenience in a single platform. 

Fire Alarm

Fire alarms are critical in common areas and individual units. In the event of a fire, every second counts. So, it’s important to have high quality and comprehensive fire alarm coverage to quickly alert residents and ensure safety of life and property. For the quickest response time, buildings use central station monitoring to immediately alert the appropriate emergency response team.

Video Surveillance

Video surveillance is typically used in a commercial setting, however can be a beneficial component to the apartment security ecosystem. Security cameras and video management systems (VMS) are used in apartment building common areas such as the lobby, package rooms, parking garages, and more in order to deter crime, theft, and vandalism. 

Video surveillance, which consists of security cameras and video management systems, are versatile and can cater to the specific needs of an apartment building. Security cameras can be used in several common areas and the video management system can then aggregate and monitor all of the video and either store it locally or send it to the cloud for remote access and viewing. 

It’s important to evaluate the data security and privacy of camera and VMS providers whenever incorporating a video surveillance solution into an apartment security system strategy.

Benefits of Better Common Area Security

Better common area security in apartment buildings enhances tenant’s experience, but also increases efficiency and profit for property managers and owners. Improving apartment security systems can:

  • Proactively prevent break-ins, vandalism, and theft
  • Contribute to reduced neighborhood crime rate, and increase desirability of location 
  • Attract high quality tenants who are looking for modern amenities such as mobile unlock and video intercom
  • Increase tenant security overall
  • Provide tenants with peace of mind
  • Turn high security into an amenity to increase the likelihood of signing a lease contract
  • Cut costs by upgrading to modern access control systems that do not require rekeying costs
  • Tenant’s control their visitor’s PIN codes to reduce risk of PIN code being leaked or misused
  • Create peace of mind for property managers
  • Contribute to the protection of the property owner’s largest investment
  • Create upsell services like package management

Start Improving Your Common Area Security

Get it touch with a Swiftlane Specialist to start improving the common area security in your apartment building.

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