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Physical Access Control Systems and Sustained Power Outages: What You Need to Know

Best Practices: What to do during a prolonged power outage and how to pick up the pieces after the fact

By Ryan Kaltenbaugh
Ryan Kaltenbaugh is Senior Vice President of North American Sales at LenelS2

The unprecedented blizzard-like conditions in Texas and subsequent sustained power outages have necessitated a hard look at how to handle a similar future event. At the peak of the crisis, upwards of 45 gigawatts of power was offline and nearly three million Texans were “left in the dark and without heat,” (Fortune Magazine).

While just about every industry needs to plan how it handles a prolonged power outage, LenelS2 would like to offer our thoughts on what to do with your physical access control systems (PACS). Since these systems are in place to protect people, assets and buildings, it’s critical that end users and VARs alike are prepared. Whether that’s what to do during the outage or how to pick up the pieces after the fact, read on for some best practices.

Restarting LenelS2 PACS After a Prolonged Power Outage

After a prolonged outage, there are some important steps that should be taken as you restart your access control system.

  • Restart the server. The server may need to be turned back on manually depending on the settings.
  • Communicate with your network team. They can help you determine if any parts of the network aren’t currently online or working to save time when troubleshooting a LenelS2 controller/panel.
  • Verify that the time and date are still correct and that the time server is on and connected.
  • Verify communication with all controllers and downstream boards and look for any additional alarms or errors.
  • Coordinate with security, facilities and/or staff to badge the most used doors to verify that events are appearing in the client.

How to Make Sure You’re Prepared for a Prolonged Power Outage

Besides restarting the access control system, there are some other prolonged power outage specific considerations that should be discussed with your VAR to ensure you are doing everything possible to maintain a robust and reliable system.

  • Back up your database. If your server or headend has a hard drive failure from sudden power loss, backups will be your best friends. Determine how often your database is backed up to ensure it’s as current as possible in case of a sustained power outage. Look into backing up your database to another location rather than just a server to provide an extra layer of protection. Always consider the cybersecurity of your backups. We suggest:
    • At a minimum to back up a database to a separate physical hard drive in the server. Have the live database on one hard drive and the backup database on a different hard drive.
    • Use a mapped network drive.
    • Consider cloud services that can automatically back up select folders or files.
  • Learn about the capabilities of your Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS). A UPS is used to help during short-term power losses but for longer outages the battery power can get low. These are often found in reader controllers, reader boards and lock power supplies. Determine if your UPS is capable of operating when its batteries start to get low and able to trigger a normal shutdown of your server. Typically, that is done through a USB connection from the UPS to a server or through a network connection depending on your UPS. Also consider the following:
    • Longer duration power outages may have a negative impact on the capacity of the batteries if they become too deeply discharged. Some power supplies have a low voltage cutoff to prevent that scenario.
    • Power surges or spikes from the power grid being turned off and on can affect electrical components and even batteries. Often a battery absorbs some of that surge which can sometimes prevent damage to electrical components but may also damage the battery.
    • Newer security power supplies are starting to use Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries, which have a higher cost but provide potentially worthwhile, offsetting advantages such as:
      • A longer Typical Service Life of 7-11 years (rather than 3-5 years).
      • A reduced weight. They are typically about half the weight of traditional power supplies which is helpful for hard to access enclosures.
      • Designed for deeper discharge without affecting overall capacity.
  • Consider access control cloud services to avoid physical hardware failures and limitations.
    • Integration-as-a-Service (IaaS) moves the server from your site to a cloud data center. Windows updates and software upgrades are still done by the end user or VAR.
    • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) access control software that is fully in the cloud enables patches, updates, upgrades and more to be completed in the background by the LenelS2 sever.

Physical access control systems provide critical security around the world which means no stone can be left unturned when it comes to preparedness. The above considerations will help ensure that your access control system is as ready as possible in the event of sustained power loss.

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