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When people go to work each morning, there are several things on their minds. Projects must be completed. Deadlines need to be met. Conference calls have been scheduled. In such a fast-paced world, security can often fall by the wayside in favor of other concerns. But this, of course, can be an incredibly consequential mistake.
Any office or corporate campus that experiences constant foot traffic entering and exiting the building is at risk on several fronts. Often there’s no screening protocol in place to detect weapons of mass casualty such as assault rifles or homemade bombs before it is too late.
(Image provided by Metrasens.)
Malefactors have known for centuries that locations with a high concentration of people have inherent vulnerabilities on which they can prey. Facilities where people are constantly coming and going make it hard for security to keep track of any single person or spot unusual behavior, and the number of people occupying one space amplifies the impact of any attack.
In recent years, facility security managers and other decision-makers have augmented the security methods they use to protect a building – sometimes using both walk-through metal detectors and hand wands, or posting security personnel at entrances and exits. Some facilities also use biometric methods like facial recognition for identification purposes.
But these current methods share a universal flaw: to be caught, evildoers have to be on the verge of actually entering the building, which means they can still cause a massive amount of destruction.
Current Methods Aren’t Enough
Conventional walk-through metal detectors are a compromise between effective screening and high throughput, as they successfully detect metal objects, but only can screen about five or six people per minute.
They’re generally placed at the entrance of a facility and, as a secondary screening method, hand wands might be used for anyone that sets off the walk-through detector. Many facilities also use observational methods such as:
- Closed-circuit television
- Security officers
- Police looking for suspicious behavior
- Explosives-sniffing K-9 units patrolling the area
Each of these methods has intrinsic limitations. Observational security methods are just that – observation-based, not detection-based. They rely much more heavily on human factors that introduce greater degrees of error and chance, and positive visual identification of a suspicious threat requires a relatively close proximity to observe the threat. They’re also slow and laborious.
Walk-through detectors and wands will catch someone trying to enter a facility with a weapon, but by the time they do – say, at the entrance of an office building’s lobby – it may be too late. Someone may already be well within proximity to do a lot of damage. Bad people don’t need to actually enter the building; they just need to get close enough to injure or kill a large number of people.
As for biometrics, the method is effective for identifying someone who isn’t authorized to enter a facility, but a disgruntled employee will have the authorization they need to get in.
Security personnel are aware of these pre-security-screening vulnerabilities. What they haven’t had until recently is a way to screen large amounts of people for weapons of mass casualty as far away as they can from their office, warehouse or other business facility, while not impeding entry and exit, or disrupting the workday.
The far perimeter of a building is an ideal place to screen for weapons of mass casualty. Most of the time, an evildoer is trying to get closer to the immediate perimeter to inflict the most damage to larger groups of people.
This advance screening is possible using ferromagnetic detection systems (FMDS).
How Ferromagnetic Detection Systems Work
In the most basic terms, FMDS uses passive sensors that evaluate disturbances in the earth’s magnetic field made by something magnetic moving through its detection zone. Everything else is invisible to it. Nothing can be used to shield the threat because FMDS doesn’t detect metallic mass; it detects a magnetic signature, down to a millionth of the earth’s magnetic field.
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It is also highly accurate – there’s no false alarm rate, because it’s programmed to find only what security personnel need to find (e.g. a weapon). Although a passive technology, it’s more effective and reliable than using observational security methods to screen a perimeter, because the technology will never miss something the way a human would.
An important point is that the system only works on moving objects. This makes it immune to environmental conflicts such as rebar that would trip up conventional metal detectors, and allows people to be screened quickly and unobtrusively without stopping to divest their possessions.
FMDS also doesn’t need people to be organized into lines or groups; it simply detects a magnetic signature on anything that passes.
It runs on batteries – there’s no need for an electricity source, as with a walk-through detector – and can be placed on just about any form factor (a pole, stand, etc.). This gives security personnel flexibility when deploying FMDS, allowing them to create a wide perimeter around a facility without worrying about portability or a power source.
Screening can be as obvious or concealed as personnel prefer based on the form factor they select. (Image provided by Metrasens.)
All of these combine into a solution that creates a way to close the gap in mass screenings at any type of professional facility by expanding the secure perimeter and creating a highly accurate way to detect weapons of mass casualty farther away.
It doesn’t replace screening for smaller items necessarily, and all large buildings should have a layered security solution that also deploys tactics like roving security guards, walk-through metal detectors and hand wands. FMDS gives the opportunity to add a layer of security where there currently isn’t an effective solution.
More Effective Mass Screening Without Disruption
Some technologies are responsible for helping to fight against threats and make the world safer, and FMDS is one of those. By providing a method of detecting weapons of mass casualty before people get too close to a facility, FMDS gives security personnel a way to better protect a building and the people for which they are responsible, making the workplace far less dangerous.
Jim Viscardi is vice president of Global Security for Metrasens.
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