Security Essentials

July 26, 2005
Multiple-layer security design for building protection

The current digital revolution has fueled significant improvements and advances in closed-circuit television (CCTV), as well as in access control and intrusion detection systems. Changes in security requirements have been heavily influenced by the events of 9/11, when it became quite clear that security and first-responder personnel must know how many people are in a building at any given point in time and on a real-time basis. Keeping track of all those entering and leaving a building previously required a log book updated by security personnel. However, that task has been largely replaced by the use of computerized access cards and CCTV systems - with most designs incorporating security systems that limit access and provide video on-demand, as well as detect and deter intruders from a single control center located on-site or possibly hundreds of miles away.

The guidelines for most security system designs utilize multiple layers or “rings” of protection that provide the greatest opportunity for detecting, evaluating, and responding to a threat. This multiple-layer design, which originates protection at the building’s perimeter, increases its level of security with each subsequent ring. The rings provide deterrence, detection, and delay, while the area between the rings provides for an incident response zone.

Protection - One Ring at a Time
The first ring of security for a typical facility could include:

  • A combination of fences to stake out property boundaries.
  • Microwave and/or infrared sensors to detect movement.
  • Electronic barriers that restrict vehicle access.
  • Intercom systems that provide communication when requesting entry.
  • Card readers that authenticate and allow entry.
  • CCTV cameras that record activities occurring along the perimeter.

The second ring could include:

  • A combination of perimeter doors and locks.
  • Card readers.
  • CCTV cameras.
  • Revolving doors.
  • Optical turnstiles.

The third and final ring could include:

  • CCTV cameras.
  • Electronic locking devices.
  • Dual authentication readers (card and fingerprint) for entry to the facility’s core assets, such as data centers and vaults.

As the deployment of electronic security systems increases in buildings, so has the information that can be gathered and stored from these various systems. Using your access card to enter the parking garage or elevator provides an audit trail of what time you arrived at work. This information can then be added to a time and attendance system that also manages employee payroll. Cameras throughout the building can track and record the movement and whereabouts of personnel, thereby providing a record of all the areas that are accessed on a real-time basis. Access levels are programmed to allow admittance to those areas that an individual is authorized to enter, and deny entry to those in which they are not authorized. From this information, management can be immediately informed if someone attempts to enter an area they were not authorized to access, since all granted and denied entries are logged to the access control system. Optical turnstiles in lobbies grant and deny access from the program access cards while providing a real-time count of all entries and exits from the building. Card readers can be used to call elevators to a specific floor, while readers placed inside the elevator cabs are used to restrict access on a floor-by-floor basis. Without the proper access level on your card, you may be able to call the elevator and stop at Floors 2, 3, 4, and 7, but you may need a higher level of access to have the elevator stop at Floor 6.

Security Checklist for Schools

  • Building exterior:
    1) provide graffiti-repellant exterior wall finishes to allow for repeated cleanings; 2) create one clearly marked, visible visitors’ entrance; 3) provide exterior courtyards that can be supervised by one person.
  • Security systems:
    1) install remotely monitored, central alarm systems; 2) ensure that key areas are protected by the alarm system, including the main office, computer areas, cafeteria, gymnasium, shops, labs, and others, as needed; 3) install two-way communications between areas such as classrooms and main office areas, portable classrooms and the main office, and large group areas and the office.
  • Lighting:
    1) ensure school perimeter is well-lit with appropriate fixtures that will not disrupt nearby residential areas; 2) provide sufficient lighting with marginal coverage in case a light goes out; 3) specify accessible light fixture lenses made of unbreakable material; 4) provide additional lighting at entries and possible points of intrusion; 5) locate switches, controls, and electrical panels in restricted access areas, protected from tampering.
  • Signage:
    1) install signs declaring school grounds as drug-free and gun-free zones; 2) install signs indicating the penalty for trespassing; 3) provide welcome signs directing visitors to check in at the main office; 4) use interior signage to direct visitors to the main office and other public spaces; 5) create signage that encourages wayfinding that is consistent throughout the building.
  • Outbuildings:
    1) locate outbuildings, sheds, and portable classrooms on the site to allow clear sight lines and visibility; 2) provide portable classrooms with securely fastened panels to enclose grade-level crawl spaces.

SOURCE: Wyoming State Legislature, School Finance Office, National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities

Integration Spurs Action - and Savings
With this level of information available on a real-time basis, it is possible to integrate the operations of various departments together electronically so that the various systems in a building can be programmed to make decisions based on inputs received from other systems. For example, data from an access control system can be integrated to a building’s HVAC system to turn the heat or AC on whenever someone with the proper access level is granted access to a designated space. Presenting your access card at the optical turnstile could start your billing time at work and allow access to the company’s network. Failure to use your card at the turnstile would indicate to the system that you are not present in the building; therefore, attempts to access your computer would be denied. Companies with multiple facilities can integrate their systems so that once an employee is terminated, their access to all company facilities and services are revoked by either HR or the security department with a simple keystroke.

The integration of various security systems into a single operating platform allows for better command and control for the operators. But, the huge gain is in the system’s ability to make decisions and communicate with each other, which can result in huge savings in operational costs to a building owner. For instance, cameras that produce usable video in poor- and no-light conditions can result in the elimination of outdoor light along a building perimeter. Cameras with infrared light need little or no background light to operate, whereas thermal imaging cameras can operate in total darkness. Therefore, a facility with a large perimeter requiring camera coverage could see substantial savings if the cost of lighting along the perimeter is eliminated. For facilities that still need the option of lighting, operating costs can be reduced by having the intrusion detection system activate the light when the security system has been breached. Therefore, under normal operating conditions, the lights are off and will only be on when the intrusion detection system is activated. The ability to control light can be quite important to a building owner, especially in suburban and rural areas where maintaining bright lights continuously often results in complaints from surrounding neighbors.

As a means of keeping vehicle threats away from the building, several options are available - from simple parking barriers that break away if hit, to fixed or retractable anti-ram vehicle barriers that are rated to withstand the impact of a 15,000-pound vehicle traveling at 50 mph. These anti-ram barriers - though not common at corporate facilities - can be found at government and other high-value facilities across the country. These can be integrated with the access control system to provide admittance to only those personnel with the requisite access level.

Using a combination of vehicle barriers, card readers, intercoms, and CCTV systems accomplishes several things. Security personnel can command and control several sites from a single remote location while remaining safe and secure from immediate threats. Individuals with proper access do not require assistance for entry, and those in need of assistance can communicate their request through an intercom system that verifies their identity via CCTV cameras. Using a single command and control center means that all security-related incidents can be tracked, processed, and investigated from a single point.

Banks, which have multiple locations, can monitor each branch and/or automatic teller machines (ATMs) from a single monitoring center, enabling them to be proactive in their response to a variety of security- or fraud-related activities. A dispute over the use of a stolen ATM card or cashing of a check can easily be verified by playing back the recorded video from the location where the incident occurred. The ability to quickly pinpoint the location of a particular incident can result in a better response to law enforcement requests once an incident has been reported.

Risks and Vulnerabilities in Retail Environments

Primary Vulnerabilities:

  • Air-handling systems:
    1) prime entry point for toxic materials, including chemical and biological agents; 2) disabled ventilation systems may trap commercial fumes in the building.
  • Street frontage:
    1) common point of entry for ballistic and other violent threats; 2) potential for drive-by criminal or terrorist activities.
  • Parking lots:
    1) pose numerous opportunities for vehicular threat and personal assault; 2) difficult to secure, especially against pedestrians and small vehicles like motorcycles.
  • Consumer entrances:
    1) difficult to screen those entering and exiting; 2) easy ingress and egress for legitimate shoppers, employees, and illegitimate users.
  • Service entries:
    1) often concealed from general sight; 2) must allow access by large vehicles, with potential for massive ballistic threat.
  • Outdoor assembly:
    1) waiting lines, amphitheatres, and public plazas; 2) provide large-scale gathering places, difficult to patrol and secure.

Secondary Vulnerabilities:

  • Interior public assembly areas:
    1) interior courts, food courts, cinemas, restaurants.

SOURCE: Building Security Handbook for Architectural Planning and Design by Barbara A. Nadel, McGraw-Hill

Intelligent, Effective, and Easy to Use
With the increasing demand to know who is accessing your building at any given time, the challenge is to have systems designed that are easy to use, reliable, cost effective, and - most of all - have a high degree of authentication to the individual user. The days of lock and key have given way to sophisticated reading devices that scan cards from a distance, as well as measure distinct physical characteristics or personal traits of an individual’s “biometrics.”

To access a highly secure space, one may find a combination of various reading devices that reads fingerprints, facial characteristics, scans of the retina and iris, and analyzes voice patterns. These devices compare the biometric information presented to the information already on file. This information can be supplied by a database located on a company file server or within an individual’s “card” using a smart chip. Multiple layers of required authentication are quite secure when granting access - assuming the unlikely possibility of someone bringing your biometric data and card to a reader without your knowledge.

As building owners control and restrict access to facilities, the need to view and record entrances and exits of these buildings no longer rests with the human eye, but with camera systems and specialized software that can adapt to the environment and make decisions based on changes that may occur in the environment under surveillance. Intelligent video systems can alert security personnel if someone is approaching a fence area rather than moving away from it. Individuals with packages can be tracked and an alert can be sounded if they leave the package unattended. High-value items such as paintings can be placed under constant surveillance, and their removal can be programmed to trigger an alarm.

Unique Concerns in Healthcare Environments
The nature of tenants in a medical office building and the clientele they serve poses unique security concerns; particularly, drugs that physicians keep on their premises to treat patients can be a temptation for burglars, trespassers, or intruders. To address these concerns, property managers:

  • Are encouraged to write into their leases a requirement that all medical facilities must maintain their prescription drugs in safe and secure areas.
  • Should address in the lease the physician’s after-hours access to the building for medical emergencies.

SOURCE: Before Disaster Strikes by IREM (Institute of Real Estate Management)

In a world where the threat level increases and decreases as a result of events beyond our control, the security ring must be designed with several layers of protection that can then be tailored to match the level of threat, whether real or perceived, on a real-time basis. Therefore, readers that require a match of both card and biometric data before granting access to a building may be programmed to require only the programmed card under normal operating conditions, but require a match between the card and biometric data before granting access in times when the threat level has increased. Using this two-stage requirement can be quite effective and enables building occupants to be cognizant of the increased threat level in effect.

Even though intrusive at times, electronic security systems have become one of the key elements in protecting life and property for most corporations and building owners. Their ability to be seamlessly integrated with other building systems and operate over great distances with minimal manpower requirements has led to a high level of acceptance from all stakeholders. Employees, shoppers, and other system users can feel safer, while the boardroom will see a reduction in its overall operating expense.

Maxwell A. Stevens is director of physical security systems design at RTKL Associates Inc., Special Systems Design Group ( He is located in the firm’s Baltimore office.

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