A Sound Strategy

A Sound Strategy

Having the ability to integrate key control with access control systems enables organizations to address health issues, robust COVID-19 contact tracing

No matter the security criticality of your facility or the sophistication of your security system, simple key control is a foundational process of physical key management that helps control access to crucial assets, people, information and spaces.

The lack of proper key control can put an organization’s tangible and data assets at risk, and as businesses struggle to cope with a new paradigm of security and safety protocols in an age of COVID-19, poor key management has even broader consequences.

Not only can lost keys or tokens clog workfiows and disrupt productivity, unaccounted-for keys may now impact the health of your workforce, clients, and vendors if your organization is not able to track the fiow of ingress and egress of personnel. Security personnel and administrators must understand that an organization’s physical security firewall starts with locks and keys, and the key system is the first line of defense.

DESIGNING A SYSTEM THAT WORKS

Key systems must be properly designed and managed in order to provide the necessary controls and a solid foundation to an overall security program. In a comprehensive whitepaper released by Anixter, a technology distributor based in Glenview, IL, it states that “a well-designed key system can do more than just secure doors. It can control traffic, protect people and assets, enforce compliances and manage access rights.”

As the pandemic continues to rage in the United States, this premise is even more important.

The whitepaper adds that “the process for creating a well-designed key system starts with identifying all the doors that require a key. These could include doors that also have electronic access control. This would typically be followed by identifying the security level for each opening. In this situation, consider the risk or liability associated with each opening and the assets, personnel, information, and/ or certifications or compliance that would be required of any person who would need access to the space behind each door and then assign the appropriate key-locking technology.”

In the new world of COVID-19, a security department’s inability to track and control its facility’s keys can prove deadly. To that point, all business operations run on a core set of principles, one of which is maintaining a duty of care for employees and staff. Keeping a business safe is good business. If clients and customers don’t feel safe, the business will suffer.

That fact is being played out on a daily basis across the country as many organizations struggle to reopen and regain the confidence of not only customers but of their staff as well. The challenges of reopening with limited occupancy, social distancing, ensuring that sick employees remain home, and the increased burden of constant facility maintenance has only strengthened the need for reliable contact tracing.

HOW CONTACT TRACING WORKS

As businesses and organizations continue to struggle with reopening, most health experts have agreed that a coordinated and strategic plan for COVID-19 contact tracing is the best method of safely opening and minimizing another devastating pandemic wave.

Crystal Watson, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, states that contact tracing “is the best tool we have to manage this in an ongoing way and allow our economy to open up again,” and she estimates that the United States will need at least 100,000 workers trained in contact tracing across the nation, at a bare minimum, to keep COVID-19 at a manageable level. There are currently around 30,000 contact tracers.

Contact tracing is not a mysterious science but simply a matter of dogged detective work that is used to break the chains of transmission and help manage the spread of the epidemic, while preventing future surges. The use of contact tracing is one of the oldest public health tactics, dating back centuries, said Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO for the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

“It means that as soon as you know of a person who may have a virus or have tested presumptive positive, you work immediately to first isolate that person so they do not spread it further,” Freeman said. “You keep them away from other people, and then you work with that person directly to understand who they have come in contact with.”

According to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, there are four steps involved in contact tracing for the coronavirus.

• Initial notification of the person under investigation (PUI). Contact tracing should be initiated as soon as possible 1 after a PUI is identified.
• Interview PUI. Interviews should include a discussion about confidentiality and verification of demographics, such as age, sex, race). Walk through the entire infectious period hour-byhour and ask the PUI to share who they were in contact with during that time. Provide the PUI with guidelines on isolation to prevent spreading COVID-19 to others.
• Locate and notify contacts who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Inform them of their contact status and what that means. Assess for the presence of symptoms and provide contacts with guidelines 3 on quarantine to prevent potential spread of infection.
• Monitor contacts. Follow up with contacts to make sure they are following the quarantine instructions, and to track the development of any potential 4 COVID-19 symptoms.

Experts say that contact tracing hasn’t been a widely implemented strategy among the general public in COVID-19 response because the pandemic surged quickly and there were not enough tests available to figure out exactly who carried the virus. In a security context, administrators grapple with the challenge of preventing the spread of the coronavirus in their own facilities. Once a case has been identified, security and HR managers attempt to trace the path of infected persons to identify what fioors they visited internally and who they may have encountered, hoping that once all the suspects have been contacted, they will be sent to home quarantine.

A KEY CONTROL STRATEGY IS CRUCIAL

A comprehensive key inventory and tracking system is an essential element of any strategic plan to combat the coronavirus as you build and implement a COVID-19 physical security control plan. Most common touchpoints in a facility are unavoidable and of concern for many building tenants and employees.

Even as organizations begin to upgrade to touchless access control systems, keys remain a vital access tool for controlling ingress to high security workspaces like data centers and computer rooms that house equipment and server racks, or in municipal buildings, such as police stations, administrative offices, museums and libraries where keys are used for public buildings, municipal vehicles, and alarm boxes.

Having a key control solution that is able to audit and track key usage and identify, the user is now as much a public health concern as a security function. For example, in a resort of hotel environment, by integrating hotel key inventory software, facility managers can easily control reporting and program access capabilities. If an employee has called in sick, and another staff member must cover for that person, the manager can remotely authorize access to a key management system rather than physically traveling to the site to release a key. The hotel key control software can run activity reports and sort based on different criteria, allowing management to generate useful information to help mitigate access control issues and at the same time use these reports for contact tracing of employees who may have contracted the virus.

Security for any key system is the result of strict management and protection of the physical keys, which includes policy-driven key system protocols and software that enables searchable audit data that can help with not only security but the new rigors of COVID-19 tracking and monitoring.

A sound physical security control plan may seem daunting, but intelligent technology investments and proactive security policies that encompass an integrated access control and key control roadmap will bolster both security and COVID-19 health monitoring mandates now and into the future.

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

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