Security Trends: Changing Security Gears

By Joe Ricci
Published in the September 2004 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Americans are living with heightened fears due to increased threats of terrorism, yet many corporations have returned to traditional business models with regard to facility security. Many facility professionals, as the liaisons between upper management and the security outsourcers and vendors, are faced with implementing such business models. These models have prompted facility professionals to search for products and services that provide measurable ROI while increasing control, accountability, reporting, and mobility.

Outsourcing And Cohabitation

Immediately following the attacks of 9/11, there was a rush to fortify many commercial buildings. But today, companies are making more rational assessments and plans according to Mark Oakes, president and CEO of Sykesville, MD-based GovSupply, a physical security integration company. Rather than using quick fix, visible security solutions that fail to address actual threats, a greater emphasis is being placed on threat assessments that lead to real risk management.

“For many facilities, applying transparent security, invisible to the public eye, is an appropriate solution,” states Barbara Nadel, FAIA, author of Building Security: Handbook for Architectural Planning and Design. “Implement transparent security where possible and avoid creating a fortress look within the workplace or public building. Carefully review design plans to maintain the integrity of the built environment, while ensuring public safety. Owners and facility managers must determine when and where visible security measures are appropriate.”

Such levels of expertise are seldom available for facility professionals inside their own companies, so in order to carry out security plans, a trend towards outsourcing has emerged.

Outsourced security consulting is a fast growing service sector. As with any active market, numerous new companies and individuals have jumped into the fray, attempting to capitalize on the high demand.

Problems with this burgeoning industry include a lack of qualified providers, little or no industry standards, and a poorly educated consumer market. In exploring security companies, facility managers need to verify credentials through objective, third party organizations.

One such organization that offers industry certifications is ASIS International. This group qualifies security personnel with its Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Physical Security Professional (PSP) programs.

Modernization Leads To Complication

Technological innovations are primarily stemming from productivity demands. Specifically, products with greater capabilities are entering the marketplace and aiding security teams’ vigilance. Panasonic Security Systems of Secaucus, NJ is one such company where a specific type of innovative product–its digital video recorder–is meeting facilities’ other demands.

“Video security and surveillance technologies have always been regarded as a deterrent measure. New technologies linked with data integration capabilities allow users to tie previously unrelated systems together on an enterprise level, making them more effective as a preventive measure,” states Frank Abram, vice president of Panasonic Security Systems.

As for the integration of IT and physical security, new products must be made to work with existing technologies. This has resulted in the increased use of phones, IP connections, and wireless applications.

While IT has made security systems more productive, it has also made them more complicated for the personnel to run.

“Technology truly is a double-edged sword,” says Joseph Bonafede director of special technical projects of New York City-based T&M Protection Resources. “While advancements have simplified personal tasks and business operations and increased efficiency, the repair, modification, and replacement of such technology devices have become so complex that they require professional technical expertise.”

Abram acknowledges the security industry is still adjusting to the new technologies and the transition from old VCRs to DCRs.

“We are still in the midst of an industry wide migration from an analog to digital platform, and there is a learning curve that industry professionals are still navigating as they learn how to incorporate all these new developments in their system designs,” says Abram.

The Square Peg Doesn’t Fit A Round Hole

Security solutions are not one-size-fits-all. “The majority of security installations are occurring as retrofit; not new construction,” says Oakes. “Facility managers have to take into account what can and cannot be done based on local codes, ordinances, basic standards, guidelines, and the unique environments of each facility.”

As with contract security services, technology is being used to improve the efficiencies, productivity, and bottom line return of physical security solutions as well. One perfect example of this trend is key and asset management. Key management represents not only a major concern for facility managers from a security standpoint (i.e., unauthorized access, theft), but as a significant cost issue and operating efficiency.

Key management and asset management systems have advanced from pegboards and sign out sheets to electronically controlled, IP-based key lockers which release keys or other assets only to authorized individuals during approved times. These systems can generate real time reports and send out multiple alerts over a variety of mediums, should keys go missing.

“We are working with the New York Transit System and large property management companies to control keys, to prevent unauthorized access, and to provide an audit trail of who used the keys, when and for how long,” says Fernando Pires, president of Morse Watchman, a key management systems provider. “The new systems include the ability to alert management by phone, e-mail, PDA, or other communications device regarding key usage. [They also allow professionals] to change or manage distribution from anywhere at anytime.”

New physical security solutions require the cooperation of end users in order to be effective. Achieving buy-in from those who will be working with the systems has become a major concern for facility managers.

“It is up to the facility manager to set the tone,” says Geoff Craighead, CPP, vice president of high-rise and real estate security services, Securitas, USA. “Although tenants may balk at the [user difficulties] associated with improving security and safety…the people ultimately responsible for the site–facility managers–must understand the threat and develop preventive and responsive measures to mitigate risk.”

Three years after 9/11, companies are still grappling with this new environment. Finding the right balance to combat real building threats instead of just throwing money at problems can be achieved by doing a thorough assessment. Although it has been a struggle, adoption of manageable security measures is a viable goal for facility professionals who understand innovation.

Ricci is CEO of Ricci Communcations, a marketing communcations firm serving the international security community.