Services & Maintenance: Security Merge

A physical security assessment examines physical and electronic assets and determines their condition and ability to perform assigned functions. (Photo: Thinkstock/Jupiterimages)

By Eric Moreau, PSP
From the October 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Facility managers (fms) and their colleagues are always searching for better ways to protect their occupants, assets, and buildings from any number of internal and external threats. With new buildings, fms often have the luxury of designing security systems without tight space and budget constraints, but integrating security into existing facilities doesn’t have to be difficult either. The first step, before even evaluating new technologies and equipment, is to understand the existing vulnerabilities of the facility and the operational changes that will accompany any new security program.

Understanding the specific security issues of the facility helps to determine what type of equipment is actually needed. For example, if exterior vandalism (e.g., spray painting the garage) is a perceived threat, then establishing a more robust fence line could eliminate the problem, or installing a CCTV camera could help deter or possibly catch perpetrators. However, if the issue is preventing outsiders from gaining access to the facility, an enhanced access control system or intrusion detection system programmed to the facility’s schedule could prevent a future security breach.

Secondly, it is important to realize that new equipment and systems may present the need to expand the security operations of a given facility as well. For example, it’s easy to install a CCTV camera, but who is going to monitor it? Will an increased security staff or 24/7 guard service be required to maintain or operate the new equipment?

Equipment Investigation

Once the security issues have been identified and operations have been evaluated, it’s time to investigate the equipment itself. Fms can begin by acknowledging what the facility’s existing equipment can do. They should also consider the feasibility of adding to the current system—to make it more robust and achieve the desired effect—before looking into a new system.

Also, it’s important to consider the need for “security in depth,” or multiple layers of equipment, to meet the facility’s needs. Taking the example of preventing outsiders from gaining access to the facility, if an 8′ tall fence is installed, an intruder could still use a ladder to climb it. But if a thermal sensor was installed to watch the area behind the fence and fiber sensors were employed on the fence (multiple layers), facility operators could be alerted to a security breach immediately.

Exterior Cameras. Fms should be sure to evaluate the camera’s environment and determine if its packaging is suitable for the surroundings. For example, a camera in Miami, FL will most likely not require a heater, but because of the high humidity in that location it will require a fan to ensure water doesn’t build up on the lens or the cover.

Interior CCTV. Any interior lighting issues, including overhead doors opening and closing or reflection of lighting from the floor, will require a wide dynamic range (WDR) sensor on a CCTV camera. Without the WDR sensor, there is the possibility of blurred visions, shadowing, halos on faces, and shining behind people. That makes it difficult to use the footage for security purposes.

Access Control. The purpose of an access control system is to maintain accessibility and convenience while also securing an area. A popular feature for facilities is the toggle open and close mechanism that locks and unlocks doors on an as-needed basis (when prompted by the right credentials at the door). This feature is used at loading docks to toggle the door open and closed as necessary for unrestricted access during a delivery.

Another critical access control feature is the ability to override every opening with a single emergency lockdown button. Because access control systems can be set on multiple schedules to open and close regularly every day, this feature allows someone with authority to lockdown their facility quickly—which can be the difference between life and death in some situations. This button can be physically located at a designated location in the facility as well as located “virtually”—accessed by an fm’s mobile device.

Intrusion Detection. It’s crucial to select the correct intrusion detection sensor for the specific facility’s needs. If this is not done, false or nuisance alarms can become common. For this reason, dual technology sensors are extremely popular because these require both a passive infrared and microwave sensor for an alarm to be set off. Passive infrared technology senses body heat and is not an active sensor (meaning it does not emit energy). Microwave sensors send out pulses and measure the changes due to reflection off moving objects.

Depending on the type of security needed at the doors, a common electromechanical sensor can be used, or for more secure areas, a balanced magnetic switch (BMS) is recommended.

Nuisance Alarms. To help reduce nuisance alarms, it is desirable to ensure a holistic approach to security system design. During the design process, fms and other team members should keep “security in depth” in mind. This will help significantly in reducing unwanted alarms by allowing alarms to be verified prior to responding. Nuisance alarms can ultimately cost money and can put the facility in a vulnerable position if staff is responding to a false alarm when a true threat may be happening elsewhere.

Implementation And Operation

It is important to remember that the new equipment has limitations and is only as good as the people who are managing, administering, and monitoring it. While it can be comforting to install a top-of-the line security system, if the operator in charge of programming or monitoring it isn’t trained correctly or completely, the system will not perform as desired. The equipment should be viewed as a tool to help secure the facility, not as the security itself. Fms should also make proper installation, training, and maintenance a high priority.

Fms will also want to work with a certified contractor when it comes to installation. The company or contractor chosen should have at least five years of experience installing similar systems. Fms should ask for references with a similar project scope and check at least two.

Training operations staff on the new equipment should be done with a manufacturer certified instructor. The training should be done in a classroom setting to minimize distraction and maximize theoretical understanding of the equipment and how it works. From the system administrator to facility operators, every member of the staff should know how the system works. It is industry best practice to train operators on security equipment prior to commissioning the system. These types of training programs are frequently scheduled to occur as much as a week prior to 100% commissioning.

Fms should consider securing a maintenance contract that goes beyond the typical one year manufacturer and installation warranties. If a camera fails in the loading dock area where secure access is required, for example, a quick response time will be critical. Where there’s an existing maintenance contract in place, repair time is minimized.

When a well thought out security plan is in place, additional equipment can be installed to enhance the facility’s security system as a whole. From understanding existing vulnerabilities and realizing that operational change must accompany the new equipment to the specification of multiple layers of security and proper implementation techniques, any existing facility can be safely secured.

Moreau is an associate in the Washington, DC office of Syska Hennessy Group, a global consulting, engineering, and commissioning firm.