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4  FM quick reads on access control

1. 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.


2.  Keep An Eye On Heat To Avoid Security Trouble

Overheated components too often are a factor in the premature failure of security equipment. In some cases, the mean time between failure decreases exponentially as the heat increases beyond the operating range of the equipment.

It is important for managers to ensure that equipment enclosures provide effective thermal management for the longevity of security equipment. The enclosure must be able to dissipate heat or prevent heat buildup beyond the equipment's maximum operating temperature. In very cold climates, managers might need to provide additional heat to keep the equipment from operating below the equipment's minimum operating temperature.

But since electronic equipment tends to reject heat inside an enclosure, overheating tends to be the greater problem. Too often, equipment is installed in an exterior enclosure with no thought to the heat load the equipment will generate inside the enclosure. The size or surface area of the enclosure plays a role in the amount of heat it can dissipate without using vents, fans, heat exchangers, or air conditioning.

The enclosure's location also might be a factor. If the enclosure is located in direct sunlight, it will have a significant increase in internal air temperature, and calculations to determine heat buildup become increasingly complex. The enclosure's color also takes on greater significance. For example, white enclosures will reflect much of the radiant heat from the sun.

Video cameras can feature a sunshield that stands off from the camera housing 1 inch or so and acts to absorb and dissipate heat before it reaches the housing.

Cooling systems can be classified as open or closed loop and active or passive systems. Open-loop systems use outside air to cool the components. They are often passive, using convection and heat dissipation. Closed-loop systems use internal air to cool the components. They are often active, using an external device or system to cool internal air.

Some systems on the market include louvers, grills, exhaust fans, heat exchangers, and air-conditioning systems. Some manufacturers provide special software that helps in selecting an appropriate cooling system for the enclosure.

3.  Test New, Existing Systems To Ensure Working Access Control

When installing new access control hardware and software, testing it with existing doors and hardware is crucial to ensuring all systems are working properly.

While facility managers would not knowingly choose access control hardware and software that don't work well together, this can be the result if they don't take the time to review the systems, and test them together.

For example, consider what happens if the mechanical hardware on a door doesn't align with the electronic access control system. Once the door is mechanically locked, even a properly functioning access control system won't be able to open it.

Sometimes facility managers retain a key cylinder on a door with an electronic card reader. This allows an individual to bypass the card reading system with a key, thus destroying the audit system.

Of course, a facility still needs a backup system in case the card system fails. One way to handle this, yet not make it easy for individuals to bypass the system, is by installing new key cylinders when a new card system is implemented.

Then, the new keys should be given only to the individuals that truly need them. This provides redundancy, without potentially undermining the electronic access system.

Another mistake is failing to include all the components required to create a solid access control system. For instance, installing card access technology alone on a door creates an electronic locking system, but won't let you know if the door has been forced or propped open. That requires a door monitoring sensor.

Another area to watch is the interface between the access control system and the corporate network. Many access control systems rely on a company's network to transmit data. Some access control systems may not work effectively with the corporate network, or may strain network capacity, making data transmission more difficult.

4.  Assess Future Needs When Putting In New Access Control

Facility managers charged with implementing a new access control system will want to do all they can to avoid mistakes.

Of course, that's true of any implementation. However, mistakes can be particularly troubling with access control systems because they're so visible. The implemented system needs to secure the building, yet still allow occupants to move about as needed.

When replacing an older system with an updated one, it becomes tempting to simply remove the current system and replace it with newer devices, retaining the same general configuration. While that might suffice, it also means foregoing the opportunity to re-assess a facility's security needs, as well missing out on the features that might not have been possible even a few years ago, says Harold Gillens, president of Quintech Security Consultants.

He provides an example: Some of today's systems can link a facility's security cameras to the floor plan. That can be valuable if, for instance, emergency responders need to track a dangerous individual as he or she moves within a facility.

Another mistake is overlooking the benefits of technology that works with both the existing components of a system and new technology as it emerges, says Frank Pisciotta, president of Business Protection Specialists. That is, a new system that can read both existing and new access cards eliminates the need to "re-badge" all employees. "It's not that much different in costs, but it provides tremendous flexibility" when migrating to the newer credentials, he says.

Remember that access cards are evolving, from bar code and magnetic stripe technology to smart cards and, in some cases, near-field communication. So a facility manager considering an upgrade will want to install a reader that works with new technology as it emerges, Pisciotta says.


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access control , security , doors and hardware , security technology

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