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12/15/2008

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Conduct A Building Security Audit To Ensure The Best Security for Occupants

Compiled by FacilitiesNet Staff

In a post-9/11 world, few need a reminder about the importance of building security. Today, determining the best way to provide building security is critical. Enter the need for a building security audit.

In its simplest terms, a building security audit looks for threats that could disrupt a facility and its operations. These include, but are not limited to: threats or attacks on housed employees or visitors; damage to facility components or systems that will affect occupants; and damage to the area around the facility affecting non-building property or the ability of occupants to safely evacuate the building.

A building security audit should identify possible entry points for these and other disruptive activities, and it should provide a way for facility personnel to plan for physical changes or modifications to the facility or to develop a response plan. The next step in the planning process — identifying the way the organization responds to potential threats or disruptions — is left to a separate step called the emergency or security response plan.

The building security audit should look at threats, access points and possible types of attack. These areas are not necessarily sequential in a facility security audit. They are starting points that allow a manager or security specialist to begin the process.

Managers first need to identify facility threats to help determine the level of detail for the audit. For example, if a facility houses critical public services, such as police, firefighters, or emergency medical services, managers might review it differently than if it housed commercial activities. That difference does not diminish the need to audit a commercial facility; it simply allows the manager to focus on different areas.

Managers also will need to assess whether the facility is susceptible to attack because it houses a controversial activity and whether a disruption would have an immediate affect on more than just the facility and its occupants. They can address many threats by using perimeter solutions, which keep unauthorized people far enough away from a facility to minimize damage.

Identifying threats requires that managers know about activities going on in their buildings. Talking with occupants regularly will help identify potential threats. When managers are accessible, occupants are likely to be more willing to identify potential security problems in advance.

A building security audit also should consider a building's access points. Access points are those facility areas at which a facility’s security and safety can be breached. The most obvious access point is a door or operable window at or near grade level. Other access points include: fresh-air intakes; utilities, such as water, sewer and electric service; roofs; adjacent facilities; and the Internet.

Some access points are easier to control than others. For example, a receptionist or security guard can staff public entrances, and cameras can record activity and assist in identifying a threat. Also, cameras and door-open detectors can monitor private entrances, emergency exits and windows.

Initiating a building security audit might seem overwhelming for someone who has never conducted one before. Often, consultants can lead the effort by providing guidelines and suggestions and facilitating contacts with other interested parties. But they can’t complete the audit alone. The organization must provide site-specific technical details.

Facility managers understand the construction and operation of buildings. They know the weak points, including components that are old and may not meet code anymore, but are considered safe due to grandfather provisions in the codes.

They also know the effects on operations of shutting down building systems. For instance, if an incident compromises a fresh-air intake, a first response might be to shut down intake fans or close intake dampers. But if exhaust fans are not turned off or changes are not made to replace the air, the building could become negatively pressurized, and exit doors would be hard to open, trapping occupants.

Source:
How Secure are Your Facilities? By Ted Weidner

Related Articles:
A Closer Look at Security Audits

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