Total Site Security

Is your facility up to Department of Homeland Security standards?

A bewildering variety of technologies is available in the security market, and determining which will meet both future regulatory requirements and your budget can be difficult.

The first step is to review your facility and define the various areas that require security. Examples are perimeter security, gate security, access control, visitor and contractor management, building security, live monitoring and an audit trail. There are many products designed to address one or more of these requirements.

How to Get Started
Look for a manufacturer that offers a single hardware/software solution that resolves as many of these security challenges as possible. The benefits of this approach include one point of contact throughout the design, purchasing, installation, operation and support phase of the system; systems that operate on a single head-end software system; solutions that are the easiest to install, operate and support; an integrated modular system approach that allows you to install different portions of the system as needed; and overall cost is less when installing a system from three or four different providers.

The first layer of security in any installation is the perimeter. Historically, chainlink fences -- often with barbed wire toppers -- were used to define and protect the perimeter. However, they do very little to deter someone from trying to enter, and they offer no way of detecting an intrusion attempt or sending an alarm to initiate a response.

Detering Intruders
The first step in perimeter security is physically and psychologically deterring potential intruders. Concertina wire and barrier fences can act as a deterrent, but many users feel they are too drastic or threatening in appearance (and there is the possibility of liability due to physical harm).

Electrified fences can be installed inside existing chain-link fences and are only noticeable upon close examination. These fences provide an excellent physical and mental deterrent to potential intruders, and they are non-lethal and legal in virtually all states.

Detecting Intruders
A number of technologies can detect an intrusion attempt, including electrified fences, buried sensors, fence sensors and microwave sensors. Each has its own cost and operational benefits.

However, the most overlooked criteria in detecting perimeter intruders is the number of false alarms associated with each technology. A wide range of factors, including wind-blown debris, ice, water and animals, can affect most of these technologies. In general, electrified fences cause fewer false alarms because a physical action is required to initiate an alarm. False alarms tend to reduce the effectiveness of the system, and many police departments are beginning to charge for responding to false alarms.

The perimeter security system should be capable of interfacing with the CCTV/ DVR system, to allow instant review of each alarm and to archive intrusion attempts for record keeping.

Every facility has one or more gates or access points in the fence. The perimeter security system should include a seamless gate access capability, with total record keeping of everyone -- employee, contractor or visitor -- who enters the facility. Depending on the level of security required, gate security can include access control cards for each individual, vehicular ID tags, photo comparison of the person attempting entry to file photos, biometrics and more.

Access control is a method of identifying the individual -- or vehicle or asset -- who is attempting to gain access to a facility. The system can be configured to automatically allow entry for specific gates and doors, on specific days, and during specified time frames. There are many technologies available on the market, each with varying degrees of security, flexibility, integration and expandability, so being informed is vital.

Knowing who is attempting to gain entry to your facility, and having the ability to grant and deny access, is a key factor in any truly effective security system.

Today, technology allows systems to be programmed to grant access on a location, day and hourly basis. Reliable individual identification can be further ensured by comparing a live picture of the person requesting access to a file photo of that person. This can be done within seconds by an operator located onsite, or remotely via online monitoring. For higher-security locations, biometrics also can be implemented.

Controlling Access
Many facilities have existing perimeter fencing, with gates for vehicular access. Usually, these gates are secured via a chain with multiple locks -- for various employees and contractors or vendors who are authorized access. This type of system presents numerous drawbacks, including no audit trail to know who entered and left the facility; keys are often lost, stolen or passed to others, which allows unauthorized entry for months or years; and often, the lock is left open, allowing anyone to enter.

RFID-based long-range access control allows authorized vehicles to simply drive up, be recognized and gain access. Then, the safe locks and rearms the perimeter security system upon exit.

The access control system should record every event, with a time and date stamp.

  • This provides an audit trail that can be useful in a wide variety of situations:
  • Interfacing with HR programs to record time/date of entry/exit.
  • Maintaining records of contractor activity within a facility.
  • Knowing who is in a facility in case of emergency.
  • Enabling video viewing of each entry/exit for crime or liability reporting.
  • Reporting alarms and emergencies.

Knowing who is in a facility, and in what area, also allows certain facilities functions to be controlled, including lights, air conditioning or heat, security systems or elevator controls.

A monitored building security system is a requirement for every facility. Alarms can be sent to both company staff and an alarm monitoring company. The security system should be integrated with the perimeter security and access control systems, to provide seamless alarm reporting for all areas of the facility and get the most from each system.

The ability to view events as they occur, and store video of events for future use, is a must for both the interior and exterior of a facility. Again, there are many technologies available, and the facility operator should seek recommendations from an expert. Two common and important factors are the ability to integrate the video system with the perimeter security, access control and building security systems, and the way in which video will be stored and transmitted for viewing, which can impact the data network of the facility.

Many facility operators oversee multiple sites located throughout an areas, and each will most likely require perimeter security, access control and building security, as well as the ability to transmit alarms and data to a central monitoring center. The operator should make sure that the system chosen for the main facility has the capability of being installed and monitored from all of their specified remote sites.

This article originally appeared in the September 2010 issue of Security Today.

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