Surveillance Secure, Deter, Monitor
When building a new self-service/in-bay automatic car wash or adding a security system to an existing wash you should consider the following:
- Best practices for deterring vandalism or theft.
- Best practices for deterring unsubstantiated damage claims.
- Best practices for identifying perpetrators of any incident after the fact.
- Ease of installation through design or advanced technologies.
- Monitoring considerations.
The good news about security systems is that the technology has advanced considerably over the past decade, while costs have dropped dramatically. Newer technology has allowed for much clearer video, mobile web-based monitoring, and hassle-free recording through DVR technology.
The main consideration in any security system is the deterrence of any acts of theft or vandalism before they occur. It is a sinking feeling for car wash owners when they need to start searching through their archived DVR footage for the perpetrator of theft, vandalism, or other misdeed that occurred on their property.
As a real-world operator, your security system should be up-front and personal. This means choosing camera locations that have an “in-your-face” presence at your car wash. This “in-your-face” approach to your security should be coupled with signage that drives home the fact that the premises are under 24-hour monitoring and that any perpetrator’s actions will be on film for any act of theft or vandalism.
Locations for security-system cameras should include the following:
Ingress and egress from your property. Include a specialty camera that will allow you to read the license plate of every vehicle that enters or leaves your property. While these cameras are more expensive than normal security cameras, they provide a valuable tool in identifying perpetrators after the fact.
Anywhere there is money. Cameras and signage should be located anywhere money is located. This will include entry systems, changers, bay and vacuum coin boxes, and vending machines. Equipment-room cameras will allow you to indentify and deter employee theft.
In the automatic bay. Helps deter unsubstantiated damage claims. The goal is to be able to review a customer’s vehicle as clearly as possible before it enters the automatic bay. Owners of friction washes know all too well that many pre-existing conditions are blamed on their car wash equipment. If you are able to point out to a customer that their mirror was hanging off the car, or the paint had a large scrape before they entered your wash, it will minimize damage claims.
Strategic placement to minimize blind spots. Cameras need to follow a vehicle as it enters the property and then continuously monitor its progress as it moves from service point to service point. This will require cameras on light poles, in wash bays, at vacuums, etc. Install signage below each camera that points out the camera. The more prominent the camera and signage, the less likely an event will occur.
NEWER AND BETTER
Identifying and reporting of any incident after it happens can be problematic with many older or poorly designed security systems, which do not provide clear video footage. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to identify the
person who committed a crime on the property. Newer, properly placed cameras will provide clear footage of any perpetrators and the license plate, make, model, and color of their vehicle.
When replacing an existing security system the placement of the cameras can be problematic because of the nature of hardwired camera installations. Many older designs will not have conduit to run cabling to new strategic camera locations. While wireless, solar-powered cameras exist, they may be less reliable than traditional hardwired installations. This becomes an even bigger issue when you want to locate cameras on the premises away from the building structure. In new wash designs, you need to plan appropriately, because once the asphalt is installed, any changes will be expensive and/or disruptive.
Monitoring video has never been easier with many of the web-based technologies. Most newer DVR technologies will also allow users to remotely view their premises from home computers or mobile devices. Some user interfaces are easier than others, but most will allow car wash owners to view their washes when they want from wherever they want.
Security systems have become much more popular for all business types over the past few years, but have been common in the car wash industry for decades. Keeping them up-to-date can be challenging with today’s fast-moving technological advancements.
Buzz Glover owns two car washes in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA. He is also the author of Car Wash Business 101, The #1 Car Wash Start-Up Guide available on Amazon.com and www.carwashbusiness101.com.