Feeling Secure

Security has become a part of every organization-large or small-and security systems have become an integral part of security programs. Such programs consist of people, policy and hardware. Technologically, the ability to cost-effectively monitor and document activity complements a security program. A typica...

By Patrick Markham, Kroll Schiff & Associates, Chicago January 1, 2001

Security has become a part of every organization-large or small-and security systems have become an integral part of security programs. Such programs consist of people, policy and hardware. Technologically, the ability to cost-effectively monitor and document activity complements a security program. A typical system includes access control and alarm monitoring (ACAM), closed-circuit television (CCTV) and an intercom. A system can be independent or integrated and offer various advantages and disadvantages. When putting together a security technology program, it is important to know the capabilities and limitations of each type of system.

Before security systems are installed, an assessment should determine the suitable level of security and appropriate security concepts for the facility. For example, a high-level government facility and a school may share security concepts, but their level of security will vary greatly. Schools typically rely on staff to monitor the status of doors and windows during normal hours and a burglar-alarm system for after-hours monitoring. On the other end of the spectrum, a high-level government facility is likely to use card access to screen personnel, CCTV surveillance and on-site alarm monitoring to monitor the status of the doors and windows.

Security-systems design should not limit facility operators to a specific product, allowing numerous contractors to bid on the project, as well as system flexibility, future system expansion and ease of maintenance. With proprietary systems, the number of technicians that can service the equipment is typically limited.

Assessing security

When assessing the level of security for a facility, it is important to consider its unique aspects in order to achieve a comprehensive security strategy. One good approach is to visualize concentric circles of protection. This methodology increases the level of security as one proceeds within a facility to more valuable areas in need of greater protection. The goal is to increase the difficulty of gaining access to highly sensitive areas, beginning with the site and ending at valuable interior locations. In theory, the more levels of protection, the more secure something can be.

Assessing security for a new facility is quite different from that for an existing facility, which usually has a security plan in place, even if it’s not written or official. It’s important to be knowledgeable of existing operations and systems before developing a new program. This information can be obtained by performing an on-site inspection and meeting with facility personnel. For a new facility, it is important to learn how the facility is planned to operate by reviewing floor plans and meeting with the facility design team and the personnel who will utilize the facility.

The issues that should be addressed when evaluating or assessing security for a facility are:

  • Site security. What can be done to protect access to the site? Fencing can be installed around the facility with some sort of parking control at the vehicle entry driveways. Is electronic protection needed at the perimeter? Many times simply considering landscaping and lighting levels is appropriate. Landscaping can be modified to limit access to the site or improve surveillance. Better lighting can also affect the surveillance of the site and improve security.

  • Vehicle/traffic control. How will vehicular traffic be controlled at the facility? Is it necessary to install parking control gates or will signage be adequate? If parking control devices are provided, how will they be activated? Guard booths can be located at parking control locations or card readers can be used in conjunction with intercoms for communication.

  • Staff and visitor access control. How will access control be provided for staff and visitors? Staff can usually be provided with identification cards that will also act as access-control “tokens.” Visitors may be required to sign in and be issued a temporary identification or access-control badge. Many access-control systems now also provide visitor-tracking functions to log visitor information and print temporary identification/access cards.

  • Security systems. What security systems are desired for the facility? Once the type of security systems needed for a facility is determined, it is important to identify systems installed at all of the client’s sites. Is there a desire for all of the sites to share system information such as a shared access-control cardholder database or provide centralized monitoring of numerous facilities from one location?

  • Alarm monitoring. Will alarms be monitored on site, transmitted to off-site alarm-monitoring centers or a combination of both? On-site alarm monitoring is beneficial for many larger facilities. The drawback is this requires that someone be present at the facility 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Many facilities provide on-site alarm monitoring during business hours and transfer alarms to off-site alarm-monitoring centers after hours when the facility is closed.

  • Security staffing. What type of security staffing will be provided at the facility? Will the security systems be used to complement a guard force? Who will be responsible for the security systems and their administration? Many times, the amount of administration is overlooked when the decision is made to obtain and install a security system. This is especially true of access-control cardholder administration.

  • Lobby and reception control. Lobby and reception control should screen personnel entering the facility to ensure they are authorized to enter and possibly monitor personnel exiting the facility to ensure they are not removing company property.

Innovative integration

Once security concepts are developed, it is important to discuss what can be done architecturally, technologically and operationally to implement the security concept. Simply adding security technology may not effectively increase the level of security or meet the security concept desired.

Architectural changes can limit the amount of technological and operational changes needed to implement certain security concepts. Typically, architectural changes have higher up-front costs but lower long-term costs. The installation of a wall to separate areas with differing security levels is less expensive than installing security cameras, turnstiles or adding a security post. Many times architectural changes are not possible due to aesthetic issues, personnel movement or cost concerns.

Technological changes can include ACAM, CCTV and intercom systems. Security systems generally allow for surveillance and documentation.

Operational changes may include implementing a visual identification program in order to recognize a facility’s authorized occupants. Employees and visitors would be required to wear identification badges at all times.

Prior to proceeding with security-system design, it is important to get authorization from the facility. A presentation should be made to the facility identifying the threat and recommended security concepts. Also included in the presentation should be estimated budget figures. By providing recommendations with budgetary figures, the facility can determine which will be implemented and supported by the facility immediately and which can wait for funding. The purpose of the presentation is to ensure that the facility understands the security concepts and can support the changes required.

Security specifications

Once security concepts and systems are approved, they must be translated into system specification documents and project drawings. In order to ensure the security system design is carried out through installation as originally intended, it is important to monitor the bid-award process and contract administration.

In addition, it is necessary to provide information and coordination for the project team to ensure the complete installation of the security systems. This includes: interface documents, which specify how nonsecurity systems are interfaced with security systems for monitoring, operation or control; coordination documents, which act as a guide for designers and contractors; and finally, security plan drawings, device drawings, detail drawings and conduit plans.

Often, electrical contractors are responsible for 120-volt power supplies and conduit installation for new construction or renovation projects. This installation usually happens early on in a project, sometimes even prior to the selection of a security contractor. A separate conduit system for security wiring is typically desired to provide a level of security to the security system. Open wiring of security components allows for damage and tampering. While electrical contractors can determine the conduit and backbox sizes necessary for security systems, conduit plans and installation details for the security systems greatly assist in the construction phase.

Interface documents are created to assist with the installation or interface of separate systems that may not be installed by security contractors, but often are monitored or controlled by security systems. Building systems that require interface documents are fire-alarm and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. If alarms are going to be monitored by the access-control system, a coordination document details how to interface the separate systems.

Coordination documents are typically the result of reviewing documents prepared by other designers or consultants, such as electrical design documents and architectural door-hardware schedules. Electric door hardware is not usually specified in the security plans but must be coordinated to ensure that the appropriate hardware is installed on affected doors. The architect’s door-hardware schedule and specifications should be reviewed for doors to be equipped with security components. Door preparation should be provided for security devices such as magnetic door-position switches, request-to-exit motion sensors and electric latching hardware.

Clients should approve device installation details and finish requirements in terms of both system design and aesthetics.

Project coordination meetings may be required so that system designs are completed and schedules are met. These are typically more common for projects in which security-system installation is part of a larger project being completed at the same time, such as the construction of a new facility or major renovations.

The final package

The final security-design package includes system specifications, security-device floor plans, detail drawings and conduit plans and details. The security-system specification provides information necessary to supply and install the system, such as general construction information, systems operational descriptions, technical descriptions of the system and components, approved manufacturers, installation instructions, training requirements and warranty/service information.

Security detail drawings assist the security contractor in understanding how the system should operate and how to install the security devices. System block-wiring diagrams illustrate how the system communicates with the security devices and other systems (see Figures 1 and 2). Custom hardware details for console and control panels explain how the components are assembled or installed, and equipment mounting details illustrate how to install the components.

The final specifications, device floor plans and device details and conduit floor plans and details will allow various contractors to competitively bid with the same understanding of the project (see “May the Best Bid Win,” on page 60).

Contract administration

When systems installation begins, it is important to coordinate among building team members to perform site observations and acceptance testing. Prior to installation, the security contractor should provide a prefabrication submittal for review to ensure that the security contractor fully understands the project. Construction documents should always indicate the exact equipment and how it will be installed. Prefabrication submittals are then reviewed for approval.

Next, site observations should be completed to ensure the installation is progressing on schedule and tasks carried out according to specification. This is especially important for resolving differences between theoretical and actual conditions. There are times that what worked well on the project drawings, may not work so well on site.

System performance testing is extremely important as well, and involves testing each component to ensure it meets the specification outlined in the construction documents. A punch list of items that fail to test properly or meet the specifications should be created. When the punch list is completed, the system should be retested; this cycle should continue until the system meets expectations. Until the specifications are met, system warranties should not begin.

The final portion of the project for the security contractor is to prepare as-built documentation. This entails floor plans with exact device placement, conduit plans and wiring details, and is extremely helpful for future system modifications and expansions, repairs or even replacement. Once the as-built documentation is produced and approved, the security contractor is finished with the project.

Planning for success

Assessing and delivering comprehensive security systems is not a simple process. Security concepts remain the same, but technology is always changing, with new devices that endeavor to make security systems better.

Still, the key is to study a facility’s global security plan first. The more planning and knowledge is obtained prior to installation, the easier the process should be.