Driving COVID Adaptations

The impact of tailgating and touchless technology now take on a new importance

Our recent physical security survey clearly revealed a challenging nexus between security and safety that has only been exacerbated by the continued onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic. The specter of tailgating at secured entrances, especially in corporate lobbies and commercial buildings, is something that 71% of survey participants regarded as a serious breach – and more than half of those surveyed said that breach could run into losses of $500,000, or more.

With the impact of COVID-19 over the past year, tailgating now not only poses a security threat, but public safety and healthcare issues as well, and those aforementioned revenue losses may entail lost work hours and operational slow-downs as much as possible security incursions. Understanding that office buildings are being singled out as prime COVID-19 breeding grounds due to the large number of people coming and going, plus shared entry points like lobbies, other entry points and public elevators where germ transfer between people is more likely, the onus has fallen upon organizations to adopt new procedures that prioritize both workplace health and safety and security when considering an access control technology solution.

Plans to reopen a business may be unique for every organization based on the number of employees and foot-traffic from visitors, and the vertical market sector it serves, the common design requirements that support the basics of social distancing, touchless entry, capacity management, health and screening verification and remote management are more than just temporary remedies.

A prerequisite discussion on new lobby design with increased safety and security in the post-pandemic world is why it’s critical for organizations to control access. What would happen if an unauthorized person were to gain access through a building’s lobby or other access points? The risks and liabilities include everything from basic theft of property and loss of productivity to potential social unrest and civil liability for failure to ensure “duty of care,” and may also extend to regulatory fines for compliance breaches.

ADJUSTING ENTRY AND EXIT POINTS

Building operators and owners are finding that in light of the pandemic, creating a strategic security and COVID-19 health compliance plan can be achieved by working with a qualified systems integrator and security/risk consult to help adapt their access control systems to mesh with new safety mandates.

The traditional security strategies would endorse a single, secured entry point for controlling access. However, the “new lobby” would require multiple entry and exit points as a means of reducing lobby traffic congestion and spreading the traffic out across larger areas to increase social distancing and lessen the risk of direct human contact.

This concept can easily be accomplished by establishing designated entry and exit points to identify and categorize the building population, followed by a determination as to where and how each set of users should enter the building. Employees can be funneled to separate employee-only entrances, while the lobby can be reserved for visitors and packages only.

The design could be taken a step further if there is an opportunity to direct employees through different entrances around the building, for example, having office workers enter through the left-wing entrance and factory workers through the right-wing entrance. The same protocol can be applied when deciding how packages should be received, either at the back of the building or the front lobby.

EVOLVING INTEGRATION SOLUTIONS FOR BUILDINGS

When adapting a security system and increasing the visibility of an organizational health and wellness plan to meet the COVID- 19 challenge, there are evolving integrated solutions available. Introducing features such as touchless or hand-free access control technology, automatic door openers and contactless elevator controls can reduce most common touch points, as can various remote management options that can allow more flexibility for administrators when manipulating access control privileges and modifying building door schedules that monitor a limited inhouse staffs’ rotating schedules and those workers at home.

Other options to consider would be integrating occupancy tracking and management software into the access control system itself or its auxiliary mobile apps to aid in social distancing and health screening.

Business operations and security that are now being driven by COVID-19 go beyond increased employee safety issues that mandate social distancing, staggered operating shifts and temperature readers.

Facility managers are working in tandem with security to migrate every door in their building’s envelope to a touchless solution to reduce every possible transmission path for pathogens. Migrating to a contactless entryway may be viewed as a two-step process that would address the shift to touchless entries and at the same time address the new issue of potential compromised security. With organizations scrambling to make all entrances across their buildings touchless, the quick fix of retrofitting existing swinging doors with automatic, low-energy, electric operators, designed for disabled entry, may create other security issues.

With manual swinging doors, a user typically applies their credentials to unlock the door, usually, either a card reader or keypad. Once the door unlocks, the user pulls the door open far enough to enter, but typically not farther, perhaps only 45 to 60 degrees. The door has already begun the closing process and will typically re-latch in a few seconds as the user enters the building. The door usually never reaches its fully open, 90-degree position making it more difficult for another person to tailgate inside without collusion. If facility managers begin to upgrade their manual doors with automatic, low-energy electric operators, the typical way of entering changes, creating more risk of intrusion.

This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Security Today.

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