Keep It Simple
With the goal in mind, don’t do stupid things
- By Fernando Pires
- Mar 01, 2016
Over the past decade, high-tech devices, megapixels, Power over
Ethernet, and many other new offerings and improvements
have revolutionized the physical security landscape. They have
provided the industry with new capabilities at a high level of
consistency and performance, and helped to evolve security departments
from primarily reactive functions to more proactive team members. Advances
in surveillance, access control, monitoring and data management technology
have been adopted almost universally, and we are even seeing many of these
security solutions migrating to the consumer market in the form of IP cameras,
remote locking devices, apps and web-based tools. The Internet of Things (IoT)
is sure to take this trend even further in both the commercial and consumer fields.
What could possibly go wrong?
It certainly happens less frequently now than it did when computers and hard
drives were a new technology, but equipment and power failures do occasionally
happen. Power outages could be caused by a natural disaster, or a routine thunderstorm.
It could be a traffic accident where a vehicle hit a vulnerable pole or transformer.
It could be a fire in a switching center miles away, but the fact is, it happens.
Equipment failures also happen in network equipment, hard drives, transmission
equipment, cameras, basically any part of your system is a potential failure point.
Using “cloud” services doesn’t change this fact either. That phrase just means that
you are using someone else’s computer, and you don’t know where it is.
The more we rely on our electronic and networked systems to help us, the more
important it is for us to understand what happens if and when they fail, and how
quickly we can get them back online. And the more critical the system is, the more
priority we can give to redundancy and backup systems to decrease the chances
that any single failure will take down the entire system.
The first step is to undertake an assessment of the security risks of a facility, its
operational requirements, the importance level of the equipment, materials, or
staff, and the steps required to bring the facility back on line after an incident.
After completing the assessment, it may well be found that a fully automated and
integrated security system is either not sufficient to ensure the security of the facility
in the foreseeable conditions, or that such an integrated system may be overkill
for that facility.
In either case, one option to consider is to add a simple overlay system that is
either sufficient on its own to meet the security needs, or that can supplement the
automated system to provide additional functions and serve as a backup system
in the event of a failure.
Two simple systems that fit this description are stand-alone key management
systems, and guard tour systems. Both of these systems can operate when power
and/or network capabilities are compromised, and both can provide additional
functionality to supplement integrated security systems while network and power
conditions are good.
GUARD TOUR SYSTEMS
Many organizations, regardless of size or type, employ the services of on-site security
guards to provide security and related functions such as visitor badging.
Duties may include patrolling the
property, monitoring alarms and video
surveillance cameras, helping control
access at main entry points, and responding
to incidents. Because of these
additional functions and high visibility,
a guard can be a greater deterrent than
just camera surveillance or a standard
physical security system.
While on patrol, guards are expected
to check for suspicious activity as well
as be on alert for doors left unlocked,
burned out lights, water leaks, broken
windows, etc., and capture these issues
for follow up action. Automated and
interactive guard tour systems provide
a convenient and accurate method to
complete this task. Stations are set up
around the facility and as the officer
visits each area, a handheld device records
the location and time of the visit.
Better systems feature rugged, handheld
data recorders that allow security
personnel to input incident codes while
on tour, often with a built-in keypad
and display. This efficient approach
eliminates most paperwork and provides
for easy data capture, review, and
audit, if necessary.
GUARD TOUR ADVANTAGES
In addition to the basic beneficial functions
described above, guard tour systems
can provide other advantages by
keeping it simple. For example, guard
tour systems can be programed to include
random tour commands which
initiate a completely different tour
every time a patrol is initiated. This
simple function adds an element of unpredictability
that discourages wouldbe
thieves, because they can never be
sure when the next patrol will come
by. Some systems can also provide an
“auto pilot” capability that displays the
next station on the LCD screen, keeping
the officer on track, or helping a
substitute be effective. With this simple
function, there is no excuse for incomplete
or forgotten stations.
Note that none of these functions require
the data or communications
network to be functioning in order to
work. Battery-powered portable units
provide the simple functionality to keep
security officers on track and effective
as both deterrents and as on-site support
staff, ready to detect anything out
of the ordinary or help someone who
KEY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
Of all the security measures that can be
implemented in an organization’s physical
security strategy, control of keys is
certainly one of the most important.
This is true for all facilities, large or
small, and whether they have electronic
access control systems or not. In the
case of a power outage, network outage,
or similar incident, physical keys
remain the common denominator that
will allow emergency and security staff
access to the facility and control over
who else has access.
Without formal key control tools
and procedures, facilities and their
occupants and assets are in a vulnerable
position, regardless of how many high tech security tools might be in
place. Knowing the identity of authorized
key holders, which keys they
currently have or have access to, and
when they were used is all essential
information needed to help ensure a
safe and secure environment.
KEY MANAGEMENT ADVANTAGES
Key management systems are designed
to hold facility keys in a tamper-proof
cabinet and only allow access by authorized
users with a proper code, badge
or biometric identification. All access
activity is automatically recorded and
from this data, management has a complete
history of who used which key
and when as well as the current location
of each key.
Like the guard tour systems discussed
above, key management systems
do not have to be networked in order
to function. This is great for smaller
facilities that do not require networked
functions, but it is also great for fully
networked installations that need to
have a backup in place in case that network
Modern key management systems
can accommodate a wide range
of key types and sizes, and some can
be configured to hold other essential
emergency or back-up items, such as
radios and access cards. In the event
of an emergency, and when networks
or general power is down, electronic
access controls and locks may stop
functioning across a facility, complex
or campus. Having a backup system
to provide physical keys to authorized
staff can help manage the facility until
power and network functions are
restored. By using a key management
system for this backup function, some
measure of control and tracking remains
in place, despite the challenging
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Engineers and security professionals
alike appreciate today’s availability of
impressive network and security devices
with complex functionality, but they will
also tell you they keep a spare key under
a specific rock in their back yards. Why?
Because these professionals know that
having a simple back up is a worthwhile
investment and in the case of an emergency,
the simpler, the better.
For any organization and any application,
comprehensive risk management
is a big job. The capabilities of
today’s integrated security systems are
more impressive than ever, and not only
meet security needs, but help organizations
manage their risk, ensure policy
compliance, and deliver other efficiencies
and benefits. Enacting a simple
back-up system, perhaps including key
control and/or guard tour systems, can
be one way to address emergency situations
efficiently and cost effectively. Or,
you can put a spare
key under a rock.
This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of Security Today.