Tailgating is one of the most common security breaches. It starts out innocently – an employee opening a door and holding it open for others, visitors without badges, or the passive acceptance of a uniformed worker.
The problem with these lax situations is that they open your building to undocumented and unauthorized entry by individuals who could intend harm to your property and occupants.
Anti-tailgating strategies ensure only the people meant to be in your building are allowed access – approved users go in, unauthorized people are blocked.
“One of the biggest issues with tailgating is the potential for crime to be done by someone who you didn’t even know was in your building,” says Charles Crenshaw, chief executive officer for ISONAS Security Systems.
Tailgating can expose your building to domestic violence, theft, sabotage, and terrorism. You don’t want a Timothy McVeigh scoping the layout of your building, or have a disgruntled ex-employer return to make a scene.
Not all threats are external though. Some internal building areas need to have restricted access for only a subpopulation of your occupants. Think of a laboratory, pharmacy, operating suite, equipment room, or data center. You may want to restrict and track who can access valuable equipment, sensitive files, or toxic chemicals.
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Tailgating impacts building management practices as well. If your HVAC or lighting system is tied to occupancy, an influx of unexpected bodies will affect your energy spend.
Inaccurate headcounts during an emergency can also lead to occupants unknowingly left behind or emergency personnel needlessly searching for people who were never on the premises.
Not sold on the idea that tailgating is a problem? Consider the security measures you’ve already implemented.
“If you have a security system and think what’s in the building is important enough to protect in the first place, then why would you let people move freely around the property?” asks Warren Rosebraugh, director of operations, Security Center of Excellence in the Buildings Business of Schneider Electric.
A variety of anti-tailgating strategies abound. Which system is right for you is dependent on the specific entry point you want to secure, the layout of the entrance, the reason for controlling access to it, and the flexibility of your budget, says Crenshaw.
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Tailgating strategies are easy to retrofit and complement most existing security systems. Use one or a combination of these 10 systems:
- Smart cards house multiple credentials on one card.
- Security guards can visually confirm a badge matches the holder.
- Turnstiles serve as a physical barrier and are good for high-volume traffic.
- Laser sensors can detect multiple people.
- Biometrics deter employees from sharing credentials.
- Long-range readers can be used in parking lots and garages.
- PIN numbers can be added to card readers.
- Camera analytics enable remote facial recognition.
- Visitor badges ensure temporary guests are documented.
- Man traps or air locks require a double set of identification.
“The key to anti-tailgating is multiple levels of security techniques,” says Crenshaw. These solutions are the most effective when they’re paired with another measure, making the system more difficult to game.
Build the Culture
You can install the most advanced security system on the market, but your security measures will fail if your occupants aren’t on board.
You need to create a secure building culture. Think about the difference between a casual office setting and going through airport security. Clear expectations and constant communication shape behavior.
“The simplest way to deal with tailgating is to build a culture of the challenge principle,” advises Rosebraugh. “It doesn’t require any system, only making people aware of the risks and empowering them to challenge unfamiliar faces.”
You can also save money by selectively targeting entrances that pose the greatest risk for tailgating.
You don’t need anti-tailgating at every door,” says Crenshaw. “Regular access control is more than adequate for standard control at entry points. Use anti-tailgating systems to address a specific problem that could or has happened.”
Jennie Morton was an associate editor of BUILDINGS.
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