Effective Security Systems and Layering for Facility Managers

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Effective Security Systems and Layering for Facility Managers

Over the past 5 years security systems have developed rapidly, with significant improvements in CCTV, Access Control, Fire and Intruder Alarms. This development has focussed on the migration to IP based systems, which basically means these systems are computer based and managed on a server.

This has meant that security systems have made the leap into the ever advancing IT landscape. However, this does pose a few problems for facility or security managers with old style legacy systems based on ageing technology. Firstly, managers often struggle to maintain older style systems (usually analogue CCTV), with parts and certainly expertise to keep the system running steadily out of supply. Secondly, the limitations of some of these systems means managers and staff are compromised to deliver their role effectively. These issues can culminate and potentially undermine how security in large buildings or estates is deployed.

However, some of this issues can be mitigated if you have effective ‘security layering’. For example, security layering is similar to an onion. The first line of security (or outer shell) is usually the perimeter and the tool would ordinarily be fencing and so on. The second layer could be the car park or the building exterior, typical tools are adequate locks, Access Control, CCTV or well designed people flow or management. These layers are utilised to protect the ‘asset or assets’ and sometimes assets can be spread across the layers.

At Sunstone, we follow some key principles that support the design of effective security layering:

1. Natural surveillance: The ability to keep potential threats in easily observable areas (car parks or reception)

2. Territorial reinforcement: Defining the public and private areas using landscaping, gates and fences

3. Natural access control: Paths and entrances that indicate the differences between public and private

4. Target hardening: Using key tools like IP Access Control, IP CCTV, IP Intruder Alarms and convergence of these systems onto a single software platform to improve management

As you can see from the above set of principles, how you plan your security layering is just as important as the technology you deploy to secure your building, estate or school.

At Sunstone, our full site assessment reviews the security layering for systemic weaknesses or absence of key layers. Once this is completed, we review the security systems for effectiveness.

Often, we are invited to assess, review or replace security systems without reference to security layering. This approach can be problematic, as tools like IP Access Control and so on may not be required and could be considered inappropriate to deal proportionately with the problem.

For example, we have visited numerous sites and CCTV has been requested. However, the absence of effective fencing has meant intruders have been able to easily access these sites. When considering security layering, do these clients want to prevent access or capture their image on camera? Usually, the client would want to prevent access using appropriate fencing and then consider IP CCTV should the intruders continue. In most cases, the deployment of effective territorial reinforcement is enough to deter most intruders. 

However, for most facility managers principles 1-4 will not be new but usually the continual changes in security technology will present challenges and benefits.

As mentioned above, security systems are now converging to be managed on single software platforms and this rapid development isn’t necessarily good for the facility manager. In an ideal world, managers would be able to upgrade their systems as they become obsolete or difficult to maintain but this doesn’t usually happen. Often the system needs to be on the verge of completely breaking down before the business case for replacement can be made and this, in our experience, is when problems happen.

This approach, while completely understandable, usually means the facility or security manager is challenged to firstly identify the right security integrator or company to advise on the current system and how long it has left before serious problems occur. Usually, the incumbent security maintainer will be invited to look at the system and if the system is on old style or analogue architecture it would be unusual for the security company to be expert in any other area (like IP CCTV). So therefore, we usually see systems swapped out ‘like for like’ without first reviewing ‘security layering’ (i.e. “is CCTV actually needed like I have it?”) or other security system options. Ultimately, this means the opportunity to improve on ‘target hardening’ or converging these systems to save time, money and improve performance is missed. Often, enterprise level analogue security systems are the same or more expensive than IP, we realise this is counterintuitive but put simply with IP CCTV cameras you buy less because they can do and cover more space. For example, 1 two megapixel IP CCTV camera can effectively replace 4 analogue cameras. So clearly, like for like the IP camera may cost the same but compared to buying 4 analogue cameras considerable savings can be made.

In summary, effective security systems for facility managers will include an aspect of IP CCTV or megapixel CCTV, IP Access Control and so on but it is important that security layering is not forgotten or misunderstood. A good security company will always advise improvements in ‘layering’ before recommending changes to security hardware or software.

If you would like to find out more about what Sunstone has to offer, or would like to have a chat about the options then get in touch. We can help.