Several years ago, one of our AV salespeople shared a story that boggled my mind. It’s a story of the need to consider AV equipment security.

This AV person had taken an order for a replacement motor for one of Draper’s heavy duty projection screens. For some reason, the previous motor had “burned out.” Neither the dealer nor our AV people could figure out what caused it. So, off went the new motor to the installation site, which turned out to be a school.

At some point later, the dealer was back on the phone. The new motor had also burned out, again for no apparent reason.

It was decided to try one more replacement motor and see what happened.

Not long after the new motor was installed, we had a call from the dealer again. This time, he knew what had been happening.

PhotoShopped depiction; please don't try this at home.

PhotoShopped depiction; please don’t try this at home.

The screen was, as I mentioned above, located in a school. School officials had gotten suspicious and checked out footage from a security camera mounted in the room where the screen was located.  It turns out every day after school, two elementary school boys were coming into the empty room and giving each other rides on the screen. One would operate the wall switch while the other would grab onto the dowel and hang on while the screen went up and down. Then they would switch places and the other kid would get to ride.

No wonder the motor was burning out; in fact, those kids were lucky that the unit was well made and the installers had taken care to properly and safely mount it.

I’m sharing this story—and hopefully I’ve remembered the details at least somewhat accurately—to point out ways in which AV equipment might be at risk for damage or vandalism—even when it’s recessed out of sight—if proper steps aren’t taken to protect them. And to do that, you need to think like a kid—or, at least, someone who wants to get at your hidden AV. What is readily reached? What kind of activity is attractive to kids? What kind of equipment might vandals or thieves be looking for?

There are a number of different kinds of key operated and locking switches available to control AV equipment.

There are a number of different kinds of key operated and locking switches available to control AV equipment.

First of all, never leave your recessed projection screens or projectors lowered into the room. Once you’re finished with them, make sure they retract fully into the ceiling. In some cases this might mean waiting a few minutes if your projector is installed on a lift, as the lift waits until the projector cools down and powers off before returning to the closed position.

Instead of a standard wall switch, use a key switch. This way, only someone with the correct switch can lower the screen or lift. Of course, when you go this route it’s imperative that they key not be left in the switch, and also that the right person has the key at the right time!

Use remotes or touchscreens instead of wall switches. This does mean the further step of securing the remotes in a locked location, or of powering down and securing or password protecting the touchscreens. In the end, though, it’s worth it. Plus, with the touchscreens you can benefit from adding control of your screen and lift to an overall room control scenario.

If, in the end, you like the simplicity (and cost) of the old fashioned wall switch, install protective locking covers over the switches. That way access is still restricted, but you have the simplicity of the up-down wall switch.

Of course, there ae other steps you can also take; these are just a few ideas. What ways have you used to make sure your AV equipment security is taken care of?

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