The number of gated communities spread across the United States has increased significantly over the past few decades, going from 5,000 in the early 1980s to well over 20,000 today. What attracts so many to this type of living environment? Access control. Of course, that is not the only feature that attracts residents to these types of communities, but it is what sets this type of residential area apart.
Primary Benefits of Controlling Access
One of the most significant benefits of controlling access of who enters these properties is greater security. Simply having a barrier between the outside world and these residential areas naturally reduces access to criminals and others with nefarious intentions. However, the exact effectiveness of these controls depends on a number of factors.
Another benefit is simply enjoying the exclusivity of living on a property that only residents and invited guests are allowed onto. That provides closeness and a feeling of community with others that live there that is not possible in areas that are open to the public. That offers a sense of comfort, a sense of safety, regardless of how effective controlling access is at reducing crime on that property in reality.
Irrespective of why residents head to these types of communities, it is important for those in management to engage in the best practices possible in making it a safe environment in a cost-effective manner.
Types of Systems
Some communities use a radio system to allow people to enter and exit. These provide a way for vehicles to be approved for entry without needing to have a line of sight between the receiver point and the car. Dirt and snow will not hinder that transmission either. However, transmitters can be easily transferred from one vehicle to another or stolen, both of which reduce security.
Another option is the use of a barcode scanner system. With that, a direct line of sight is necessary in order for the system to read the barcode. Of course, in normal conditions, this is not an issue, but it might be if snow, ice or other substances are blocking it. Some drivers may also prefer to not have a bar code on their vehicles. However, bar codes are not nearly as easily transferrable as radio transmitters, and they are generally inexpensive as well.
License plate recognition systems are used by many as well. These allow residents and other authorized people to not need to affix or add anything to their vehicles, and the license plate number could also double as a manual entry code, possibly as a backup if the electronic system is broken or to access an adjacent pedestrian entryway. Another benefit is that calculating how long a limited-access vehicle has been on the property can be easily done with this system. Conversely, the hardware cost of license plate recognition systems is significant.
There are also several new types of access control systems that rely on smartphone and internet technology. One popular system, Nimbio, allows residents of gated communities to control access with a smartphone app. Nimbio turns any existing gate into a smart gate, allowing residents to control guest access from anywhere with their smartphone.
Types of Gates
Another factor that those who manage gated communities must take into account is the type of gate that should be used.
Swinging gates, which are comprised of two gates, tend to be more aesthetically pleasing but also tend to result in higher initial and maintenance costs. Conversely, vehicular gates, which consist of one gate at a designated entry point, slide horizontally. These are less apt to experience damage and are more affordable, but they are also not usually as pleasing to the eye.
An often effective way for unauthorized people to enter gated areas is to tailgate, to follow an authorized vehicle onto the property prior to the closure of the gate or other type of access control. Not only is the presence of these people unwanted, but tailgating often results in a considerable amount of damage to the gates.
One of the best ways to reduce tailgating is by educating citizens on how to stop it. An option is to have them stop their vehicles just after passing the gate until it closes before moving on. This can be further encouraged through the addition of a speed bump or even made a requirement through the use of a second gate that needs to be passed before being allowed to move on. However, these may not be effective solutions for high-traffic entry points. Conversely, hiring a guard will essentially eliminate tailgating but will result in an added expense.
Eliminating Wrong-Way Access
The placement of collapsible traffic-teeth to stop vehicles from entering exit pathways is highly effective. Of course, make sure to place highly visible signage warning people so that residents do not suffer unintended and costly accidents.
It is important to also account for pedestrian access although how much this type of entry is used will vary considerably from property to property, generally depending more so on location than any other factor. Some common control methods used for pedestrians involve keypads, keys, access cards and, if someone is on site to check the veracity of them, identification cards.
Emergency vehicles must be able to pass through the gates as quickly as possible. This can be done through wireless transmitters, strobe light or siren sensors, lock boxes, special keys and two-way radio communication. Do note that what would work best for a specific community will largely depend on the unique requirements of the local emergency services, so those in management should make sure to research those. Also ensure that back-up plans are in place in case a power failure or other unexpected event occurs.
Importance of Communication
Regardless of the access control methods that are being utilized in these gated communities, residents and other authorized people should be kept informed of any changes and other pieces of important information. For example, if gate codes are being used, educate users on not unnecessarily giving them out, and if they are changed, keep them informed on when that will and has happened.
Major changes should be made in writing, such as a policy change to leave gates open during the day or reporting that damage has resulted in the gates not working for an extended time period. Also consider asking for feedback on how the procedure to limit access can be enhanced.