Layering Facility Security
Taking a look at different facilities and how they protect people and property
- By Dana Pruiett
- Jul 11, 2018
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
“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.
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.
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.
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.