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4  FM quick reads on security

1. Human Element Plays Large Role In Multitenant Building Security


The human element plays a large role in effective multitenant security. One of the key ways to make sure you've got everybody on the same page is extensive communication.

Good communication is not only effective; it's also cheap. But that doesn't mean it's easy. The problem, say security consultants, is that everyone has to be willing to meet on a regular basis to discuss security concerns. And they have to fully understand expectations and procedures.

It's not enough just to do fire drills, says Brett Williams, facility manager, Transwestern. As an example, when a tenant in one of his buildings received a bomb threat a couple years ago, the tenant expected a far different response from police and security staff than what was received. The experience not only taught Williams some new things about security, but also about managing tenant expectations.

The need for communication isn't limited to owners and tenants. During construction, for example, it is imperative that operating staff be part of the construction meetings.

An anecdote offered by Kelly Klatt, chief executive officer for the Center for Security Solutions, illustrates what happens when operating staff aren't present in construction meetings; the story involved a hotel, but it could easily have been a multitenant office building.

On this project, the fire control room and security room were next to one another, but not connected. Had the operating staff been in the meetings, they could have stipulated the two rooms be connected via a short hallway. But that wasn't the case. As a result, the night security guard had to leave the security room with the cameras and walk around two rooms to gain access to the fire-control room. Ultimately, the situation was solved by putting a remote control panel in the security room that allowed night security staff to acknowledge alarms.


2.  Operations Affect Security With Access Control Systems

Advances in the operation of access control systems have made them successful with maintenance managers and system administrators, who can use them to reschedule access operations, from time of building opening and closing to whom may use what door at what time. As with card readers, however, performing regular maintenance is critical to the performance of the system and security of the facility it controls.

Central systems maintain a database of those people allowed access at specified locations. It is critical to the operation of the system that this database remains current. When employees leave, managers must delete them from the system as soon as possible so they cannot gain access to the facility, should they fail to turn in their access cards. If a facility's functions move or if an employee's responsibilities change, system administrators must make those modifications to the database.

Access-control systems are not independent, standalone systems. While they might operate independently from other building automation systems, they piggyback on top of existing building components. The most important of these components are the facility's doors and door hardware. No matter how well designed the access-control system is, it is only as secure as the components it operates.

Consider the facility's exterior doors. Access-control systems might be designed to limit access through particular doors, but if a door and its hardware do not operate properly and allow the door to fully close, an unwanted visitor can easily defeat the access-control system. To ensure the facility's doors do not hamper security, managers can implement a comprehensive program for inspecting, testing, and maintaining exterior doors, as well as secure interior doors.

One common problem area, particularly for heavier exterior doors, is the door hinge. Stresses on the hinges from frequent use and wear can cause the door to sag. If the sagging becomes pronounced enough, the door will bind or fail to fully close, compromising security. Managers can reduce the extent of door sagging by scheduling frequent inspections of the operation, adjustment and lubrication of door hinges.

To enable doors requiring an unusually high level maintenance to close properly, managers also can consider the use of continuous, geared hinges. This type of hinge essentially eliminates sagging issues by spreading stresses experienced by standard door hinges over the full height of the door.

3.  Training, Maintenance Are Keys To Access Control

Access control systems offer a number of advantages for facility managers who want to have a good, well-rounded plan for security. But to make the most of them, training and maintenance are required.

Managers must ensure that all parties involved with access-control systems receive appropriate training. For building occupants, training should identify and cover proper access procedures, as well as improper activities, such as loaning a card to someone else, propping doors open, or allowing multiple people to enter a facility on a single swipe.

When the access control system was first installed, certain maintenance technicians most likely received training in its operation and maintenance. Over time, they will have forgotten at least some of these learned procedures or replaced them with more desirable ones. New technicians also have arrived and most likely relied on existing employees to learn these procedures. To ensure that everyone is working the system properly, managers can schedule periodic refresher courses.

Staff also must regularly inspect the equipment that runs the system. Too often, areas in which this equipment is located become collection points for paperwork, unused equipment, and trash. Computers and circuit boards need adequate ventilation. Workers should regularly inspect systems to make certain paperwork and other materials do not block ventilation fans and ports. Cabinet-mounted circuit boards should remain closed to keep dust and dirt from accumulating on the circuit boards and interfering with cooling.

It is equally important to regularly inspect all cables and connections that are part of the system. Inadequately supported cables and conduit put stress on wiring and connectors that can cause failures. All connections and seals to field mounted equipment must be kept in good condition.

It is important that technicians also test the functionality of the system. For card readers, this requirement means technicians will have to swipe both valid and invalid cards in order to determine that the system is accepting and rejecting cards properly. At any alarm points in the system — such as when a door is opened improperly— technicians must test those alarm points individually to make certain the system reports the alarms promptly and properly to the system.

4.  Technology Drives Improvements in Access Control

Maintenance and engineering managers are finding the benefits of facilitywide access control systems go far beyond simply improving the level of security within buildings. In many cases, a well-designed and implemented system has resulted in reduced operating and maintenance costs, in part due to hardware standardization and the elimination of traditional key-based systems.

But access-control systems are not maintenance-free. As with all building systems — particularly those that combine advanced hardware and software — access-control systems require comprehensive maintenance, testing, and inspection if they are to perform as intended. If technicians do not perform those maintenance and testing activities regularly, the integrity of the access system will deteriorate, jeopardizing security for the facility and increasing maintenance costs.

Consider the facility's exterior doors. Access-control systems might be designed to limit access through particular doors, but if a door and its hardware do not operate properly and allow the door to fully close, an unwanted visitor can easily defeat the access-control system. To ensure the facility's doors do not hamper security, managers can implement a comprehensive program for inspecting, testing, and maintaining exterior doors, as well as secure interior doors.

One common problem area, particularly for heavier exterior doors, is the door hinge. Stresses on the hinges from frequent use and wear can cause the door to sag. If the sagging becomes pronounced enough, the door will bind or fail to fully close, compromising security. Managers can reduce the extent of door sagging by scheduling frequent inspections of the operation, adjustment and lubrication of door hinges.

To enable doors requiring an unusually high level maintenance to close properly, managers also can consider the use of continuous, geared hinges. This type of hinge essentially eliminates sagging issues by spreading stresses experienced by standard door hinges over the full height of the door.

Managers can greatly reduce the likelihood of deteriorated system performance by focusing attention on some of the most common trouble spots found in access-control systems.

Access-control systems are not independent, standalone systems. While they might operate independently from other building automation systems, they piggyback on top of existing building components. The most important of these components are the facility's doors and door hardware. No matter how well designed the access-control system is, it is only as secure as the components it operates.


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security , security procedures , multitenant facilities

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