We’re often asked about how to secure amenities. Setting aside for the moment various complex systems of door interlocks, bathrooms shared with the amenity center and complex electronic access control systems, what are the common sense approaches to securing a swimming pool and minimizing or mitigating vandalism?
While some say good fences make good neighbors, they don’t keep people out of pools. There is no fence too tall or too sharp or too imposing to keep out a determined teenager who wants to throw all of your pool furniture in the pool because it’s fun.
But let’s talk for a moment about good fences. Building codes will dictate the minimum height for a pool fence. Based on the municipality and nature of your pool that maybe 4 feet or 5 feet or something entirely different. Most pool fences are aluminum picket 5-foot black fences with a self-closing self latching gate to comply with these codes. Communities that already have highly restrictive access systems at their gate and perimeter may not need the levels of access control that a more typical community would consider. Choosing your fence height and fence type is an aesthetic consideration as well as the question, can the kids just jump over this thing? The pluses and minuses there should be obvious.
Access control is handled by a keylock system or electronic magnetic locks. Key systems exist that can’t be copied at your local hardware store. This is valuable so that multiple copies can be made, shared and lost. Custom keys such as these are not inexpensive and most associations have a key replacement fee that will give pause to any thought of sharing…
Magnetic controls, such as you have seen in hospitals and secured buildings are comparatively costly alternative but provide a number of added benefits. These often include the ability to turn on and turn off member keys who, for example haven’t remained in good standing with the association. It also provides a timestamp for entry and exit times. This is valuable in cases where damage was done or observers were needed to determine what happened during a certain time range. Perhaps obviously, fobs and cards are more expensive and the systems more costly to initiate and to maintain. Some require an Internet access point and even custom software. The best management companies already are connected with the software and can operate these remotely, often turning on and off pool keys based on criteria set by the association board. A further benefit is that in the event of a safety or health hazard, access can be restricted remotely.
Security cameras are another topic of conversation. We all want to catch the bad guy. The plus side is of course that a good system can capture images and videos of the people who access illegally or do damage or harm. All good things. The difficulty is not limited to cost, the good systems can easily run in excess of $2000, often far more. In the event that there is vandalism or an event to be reviewed, the association must have someone access the digital archive. Unless the system is Internet connected and remote accessible, someone physically have to go to the property. Often this is in a pump room or storage room, a situation which creates complications not just for viewing the video but for the life span but also for the longevity and reliability of the equipment, given the high moisture and corrosive atmosphere around the pool sanitation equipment. Remote access viewing software is available and can be set, for example to specifically record motion events during certain time frames such as after pool hours.
Perhaps the least discussed and most concerning aspect of the pool camera system is legal in nature. Statistically, minors are the most likely to commit acts of vandalism in a pool or amenity area. A board has to consider that even if they have a video that “catches them in the act,” can that board publish or post that video on social media? That, certainly is a question for the lawyers but variously interpreted along the way, the answer has been no.
Conversely, and please do get legal advice on this, most boards consider that between a five-member board in a social community where folks know one another, they’re likely to recognize who did the damage. In our experience, this is been true in perhaps 50% of the cases. The question now becomes one of, “is this worth our $2000+?” That depends on a lot of factors, from your association’s financial status to the transient nature of your Community, to physical factors such as where can you place cameras and store the DVR.
Community Management Group can connect your community with ideas and provide quotes from professional resources in these and other areas. Please never hesitate to reach out to your manager or to community management group in general if we may be of service to your community.