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This month's expert, Chris Wetzel, discusses ways to secure recreational facilities

Central to any young person’s life is the concept of playtime, much of which often occurs in the local recreation center. A hub of activity surrounds recreation centers, with a variety of visitors moving through the facility each day. Seniors involved in exercise classes, children playing organized sports, parents picking up or dropping off their kids and employees of the center are among the many different visitors. It is essential to employ an assortment of security options to ensure that all users are protected.

ISSUE:What should be the first step in securing a recreational center?

SOLUTION: Any recreation director should begin with a risk assessment of the facility. A security system integrator can help. Note how many people use the facility each day and during what times. List the equipment that needs to be protected and how many doors need locks. Pay attention to the lighting and landscaping that might impact security. Look for places where problems are most likely to occur.

Cameras are an essential part of any security plan. It is important to evaluate the correct number of devices that should be installed. An experienced integrator will be able to accurately provide an effective number to meet the center’s security needs.

ISSUE: How can surveillance cameras best be used to secure a recreational center?

SOLUTION: Cameras will not only help record criminal activity but also will help deter crime. Ask an integrator to ensure correct camera placement to deter potential vandals and to help avoid graffiti. It also is wise to ensure placement of cameras inside the center, helping to avoid equipment theft. Many recreation centers have expensive equipment, from audio/visual systems to sporting supplies. The gym floor itself also is valuable and needs protection from vandals.

Outside the premises, cameras need to monitor heavily used areas, such as entry and exit points, play areas and the parking lot. Parking lots are a haven for bored young adults, gathering to find some activity to pass their time. After hours, recreation centers also may be used by skateboarders, who could either damage park equipment or injure themselves. Cameras can act as a form of protection from possible liability.

Video from the cameras also needs to be recorded and saved appropriately. Talk to an integrator about the best methods to use. DVRs have surpassed tape and VCRs as the storage system of choice and may be a good fit for the security system.

ISSUE: What else can a recreation director do to ensure visitors’ safety?

SOLUTION: It also is important to employ some methods of access control for the center. Recreation centers are public facilities, so there will be a lot of people entering and exiting throughout the day, which increases the importance of securing private areas such as offices and storage rooms. These areas require a higher level of access control. There are small access systems that, combined with a few card readers, can provide that added level of protection.

An integrated plan of access control, video surveillance and proper training can greatly enhance security. Recreation centers are often built adjacent to schools to share play areas. In that case, talk with the school district to see if the recreation center’s security needs can be meshed with those of the school’s.

With so many people—including young children—enjoying themselves at a recreation center, it is incumbent upon those running the facility to make sure all users are kept as safe as possible.

READER QUESTION:We are a growing business that requires vendors and contractors to be in our offices. The activity level is often chaotic, and we would like to be able to have badges for some of our long-term vendors and contractors to wear while on the premises. I don’t know if we are quite ready for an access control system. Is there a badge-only solution for us?

SOLUTION: The good news is yes— and this is a perfect way to migrate into a card access solution with photo IDs. Most of the access control software includes a module to handle the ID badge portion of this solution. The best investment that you could make would be to purchase entry-level access control software, which is a cost-effective way to use the ID badge. And your investment also can help you migrate into access control if the time arises.

The other aspect of the ID badge is the equipment for taking the photo and printing the badge. The ID badge printers will work with most software, and a standard digital camera will produce good images for the ID badge. The other option is to work with a system integrator who creates and manages ID badges.

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