Layering Facility Security

Layering Facility Security

Taking a look at different facilities and how they protect people and property

Today’s facility operators must prepare for virtually any event from vandalism to a terrorist attack. With facilities ranging in size and use—from an emergency communications center to a multi-family apartment building—there’s no readily available one-size-fits-all security plan.

However, there are basics that apply to any facility. Security begins at an entry, whether it’s a door or a gate. From there, layers of equipment—integrated, diverse systems—combine to create the strong security solutions facility operators require.

Here’s a brief look at how four very different facilities are protecting their people and property.

911 Center

A southern state 911 communications center serves as the heart of police, fire, paramedic and other vital public services. The center’s director said emergency calls are received at the rate of more than one a minute. There’s literally no time for the center to close due to a security issue.

Security is designed for the center’s 80 employees, but also has to accommodate a few employees from the local telecommunications company that also uses the four-story building as a switching station.

The facility has two entries, front and back, that are kept locked 24/7. Most employees enter a fenced parking lot at the rear of the building. Employees use their access cards at the gate entrance to gain entry into the parking area.

A video intercom is mounted beside the card reader at the gate. Visitors with no access cards press a button to request entry into the facility. A staff member inside the building uses a master station to see and speak with the visitor before determining whether or not to remotely open the gate.

After parking, visitors and employees encounter a second security barrier, the locked rear door. Here again, employees can easily use their access cards to get in or visitors can push the call button on a second video intercom. The staff member can quickly confirm the visitor is the same person from the gate and ensure unauthorized people aren’t trying to enter at the same time. The telecommunications employees who share the building can enter the building the same way as visitors.

In addition, there is another card reader and video intercom at the main entrance to accommodate the few employees using the front door. That same system combination is mounted just outside the 911 center’s third-floor entry. One more video intercom is mounted outside the interior radio room where calls for assistance are answered and first responders are dispatched. These multiple security layers protect both the employees and the services that keep the public safe.

Some IP-based video intercom systems even offer invaluable smartphone apps that allows other employees to handle visitor calls if the staff member assigned to the master station leaves his or her desk. “This system has made us more secure and confident in our ability to continue our vital mission,” said the center’s director.

Office Park

One of Central Canada’s largest office parks uses a variety of security layers to protect 3,000 employees working in the two 12-story towers, a five-story building and a two-story atrium with office and retail space. More than 80 surveillance cameras provide the onsite security operations center (SOC) with live views of building entries and lobbies and outdoor areas including four parking garages and a light rail transit station.

The megapixel cameras help not only with security, but also liability issues. While slip-and-falls are common during the icy Canadian winters, it’s not unusual for park management to receive false injury claims. Reviews of the recorded video have successfully debunked many of those. Also, drivers of tall vehicles occasionally run into the overhead of parking garage entries before backing up and driving away. Video has helped identify those vehicles and their drivers to gain restitution.

The park’s access system has 24 card readers on building exteriors and another 115 to protect interior office doors. A few tenants have also installed readers in elevators serving their full-floor offices. Building entries and elevators are automatically locked between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and employees use their access cards to gain entry. Visitors lacking access cards use video intercoms to reach the security department. There are 12 video intercoms installed at public entries and at locations where covered walkways connect buildings and parking garages.

Another 16 blue-light video emergency stations located throughout the garages provide instant contact with security officers in case of an emergency. In addition, 35 audio-only intercoms are installed in staircases. All of these intercoms save money for the facility as there are no recurring expenses such as annual licensing fees or monthly phone bills.

“The intercoms provide guards with higher quality information about who enters the buildings and have increased the safety of tenants throughout the complex,” said the facility’s system integrator.

Water District

Maintaining public confidence in its water supply is a major priority of any water district, including one in the southwestern U.S. serving more than one million customers. This utility has an administrative center, parking garage, pump stations and reservoirs to protect from terrorism, vandalism and theft.

Again, we find a multi-layered defense used to secure this public resource. High-resolution video surveillance cameras provide live and recorded video of remote entry points, building perimeters, office lobbies and the six-level parking garage. Thermal cameras are installed outdoors around outbuildings and reservoirs to capture movement of people at night. The expense of running cable to remote areas has been eliminated by using wireless IP-based cameras. Live video is monitored in the district’s security operations center.

The district counts on an access control system to monitor access to gates, buildings and offices for its hundreds of employees. The system can be programmed to allow employees access to only those entries required to complete their jobs. Vehicular gates at each of the utility’s three water and three wastewater treatment plants include a card reader to allow employees access.

Video intercoms are also installed on each gate for use by visitors. These intercoms use the district’s network to transmit video and audio remotely to the SOC, typically miles away. The district also installed emergency stations, each with embedded video intercoms, in the parking garage. Each station is topped with a bright blue light making it easy to locate.

Sensors have been strategically placed on fences to notify the command center if anyone attempts to climb the fence. Motion detectors create virtual barriers around open areas, while intrusion systems protect the administration center and other buildings.

“The district has employed a wide range of security tools to protect one of the area’s most valuable assets,” said the systems integrator.

Multi-family Housing

Residents of an upscale, New York City 14-story co-op suffered due to their proximity to the United Nations Headquarters building, a site of frequent protests. On cold or rainy days, the nearby co-op entry vestibule offered a warm, dry spot for protestors seeking quick refuge—especially when the building’s doorman wasn’t on duty. For years the building used an audio-only intercom located inside the vestibule, so visitors could call residents from the vestibule to be buzzed in, but the co-op’s board and management company wanted to keep the vestibule locked at all times and add video to the system so that residents could see their visitors. The solution was a man-trap entry, multi-tenant video door stations were installed at the sidewalk entrance door as well as the interior door within the vestibule of the building.

Once buzzed into the vestibule, the second video intercom is used to let residents double-check to make sure no one is trying to sneakin behind their visitor. For the doorman who is on duty, a voice-only intercom on the desk allows him to unlock either or both the doors so the visitor can enter the vestibule and lobby. The doorman can then easily call the resident using the same multi-tenant intercom system, to verify the visitor should be allowed to continue upstairs or accept deliveries on a tenant’s behalf.

The integrator was able to reduce the cost of the project by reusing existing cable from the previous 30-year-old audio intercom system. The integrator later installed an access control system allowing residents to use a key fob to enter the building rather than having to enter a code into the intercom panel.

“Residents can feel more secure by having a better idea of who they allow into the building,” said the integrator.

The Layers

Facilities come in all sizes and have a wide variety of uses. Each has its own special security needs, but the process of layering surveillance cameras, access control, video and audio intercoms, sensors, fencing and other security tools has been proven to protect people and property in any facility.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Security Today.

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