The 3 Key Differences in Residential vs. Business Security Explained

What is the difference between a commercial and a residential security system?

Commercial real estate is a property type that is only for business or retail purposes. Residential real estate is a property type specifically designed for living purposes, if it is four units or less– anything larger than that is considered a commercial property.

Commercial and residential properties are subject to different laws and regulations, and that includes rules for security systems. Commercial property and business owners run the risk of liability claims and exposure to lawsuits if they do not maintain adequate security measures. In general, security for commercial properties is much more complex than for residential dwellings.

Identifying Security Risks

Risk identification in a residential property is relatively simple, especially since the homeowners are the ones primarily going in and out. The biggest threats to life or personal property are from a fire or theft. The most vulnerable parts of your home are the front door, garage service door, or any sliding doors. Windows are also a possible entry point for thieves, particularly if they are covered by large shrubs or the lighting is poor,. When assessing fire risks, bedrooms, basements, and any areas where there are cooking appliances or heating elements, all need protection.
Risk identification at a commercial property is much more complicated.  Commercial buildings are first accessed by a wide variety of people–employees, vendors, and patrons–at varying times throughout the day.  Then there is often valuable merchandise, technology, or cash that is visible and easily accessible in a commercial property. If a commercial property is an industrial facility, there are environmental factors to consider, as well as more complex safety issues.

Complex Commercial Security Considerations 

  • Who has access to the building and when?
  • How are special areas such as storerooms, restaurant cooking facilities, or cash registers protected?
  • What special regulations need to be met for securing elevators, stairwells, or parking lots?
  • How will data storage and playback issues be handled to address theft, employee disagreements, or customer complaints?

Certifications and Inspections

Residential properties are generally not subject to certifications and inspections of security equipment. A home security system isn’t required at all, outside of working smoke detectors, and possibly carbon monoxide detectors, depending on the city or state you live in.
Commercial properties, on the other hand, are required to use certified security equipment and undergo regular inspections based on building codes and any local or state ordinances. Fire alarm system design and installation are driven strictly by code. Each jurisdiction has different requirements, and many times fire alarm systems may require the approval of multiple jurisdictions (local, state, and joint commission) before installation.


There are varying accessibility needs that must be met in commercial property


Another significant difference between residential and commercial security systems are accessibility needs. In a residential property, the homeowner is not required to make any accommodations for people with disabilities.
With a commercial building, accessibility is always a consideration. There are varying accessibility needs that must be met in commercial properties– both for entering and working inside of the building and exiting it during an emergency. 
  • Do you need to have audible-visible appliances to alert occupants of a building in an emergency?
  • Does your elevator have a recall function or two-way voice assistance?
  • Is your building required to have an area of refuge?
  • Do you have an appropriate Emergency Action Plan
With over 45 years of experience, FSS Technologies is an industry leader in providing security systems and life safety solutions appropriate for residential and commercial applications. All our technicians are NICET certified, and we understand the nuances of installing security systems in most jurisdictions. For more information on designing the right solution for your home or business, contact us today.

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