As a professional security integrator, it is only a matter of time before you receive the highest compliment from one of your customers when they say: “We need a completely new access control system, and we want you to design and implement it.”
Along with the vote of confidence comes a huge responsibility. It can be a daunting task, especially if the system required is substantially larger than what is already in place. But if you approach it methodically, you can reduce error and ensure that your customer gets the exact system they require.
Listen to the End-User
Questions to ask include:
- What is you short-, mid- and long-range vision for the access control system? Is it based on open standards, like 802.11b/g or 802.3af, for the most affordable infrastructure? Is it scalable enough to support possible mergers and acquisitions?
- What type of credential(s) will be used? How many are issued? What type of format will be used, and can it support a projected card-holder population? Is it controlled to ensure there are no duplicate IDs?
- What investment has already been made? Is the current system upgradeable?
- What assets does the end-user have, and what value do these assets have in relation to the operation or business? These range from physical assets like computers to patient records, employee records and client data.
- Have the assets changed, requiring higher levels of security? Perhaps the locks and/or key system needs to be changed as well.
Observe Your Customer
Essentially, the integrator should be trying to find out about the culture at the end-user’s location. It can range from an open, accommodating environment, to one with strict and limiting access controls. There will always be a conflict between convenience and security — the challenge is to create procedures and rules that balance these disparate goals.
Did you observe the employees holding doors open for each other? If so, how are they able to verify their current employment status? Did they open the door for persons carrying large packages? If so, did they check their IDs? Did visitors sign in at the reception desk? Did they wear ID badges? Were they escorted by staff members? Did students have a habit of leaving their dorm rooms unsecure? If so, what sort of liabilities fall on school administration if a theft occurs and they knowingly allowed that practice to continue?
Conduct a Site Survey and Security Audit
Walking through a customer’s facilities can be invaluable when developing a comprehensive access control plan. Here are a few things to look for:
- Mechanical Security: If the openings are not mechanically secure, any additional funds spent on electronic access control are wasted. The following must be addressed before moving forward on an advanced access control system:
- Are the doors, frames, and hinges in good condition? Are they rugged enough for the application and durable enough for the traffic? Are the frames mortar-filled?
- What key system is in use? Is it a patented, high-security type? How often are locks re-cored? How many master keys have been issued? Have any been lost? How easy is it to reproduce the keys?
- Is there a reasonable accommodation for the handicapped to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
- Are cross-corridor fire doors in place? Do they have magnetic door holders tied to the fire system?
- Identify Assets and Value: Many consider assets to be tangible items that can be sold for quick cash. But assets include anything that someone might want to steal or destroy, and vary among end-users. The important thing is to put a price tag on the loss of the asset, plus the cost of lost productivity and potential liability that could result.
- Identify the Threat: Consider the end-user’s surroundings: Have you noticed any evidence of gang activity? Have you noticed an increase in shuttered businesses? If so, perhaps an increase in perimeter security is in order, potentially including increased lighting, cameras and gated access.
- Evaluate the Facility(s): This will help you identify product options. How old is the building? Does it have architectural or historical significance? How thick are the walls? Was asbestos used as an insulating material? If so, it may be difficult and costly to install conventional, wired access control devices. Perhaps a WiFi solution will be a good alternative.
Wireless systems are ideal for any retrofit or new construction application where wiring is difficult or impractical, or where the cost of traditional wired online access control is prohibitive.
THE CRITICAL SAFETY COMPONENT IN ACCESS CONTROL