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Planning a Corporate Security System, by Corinne Maddox, CCM, CFM

Planning a security system should begin by assessing what loss could occur by an unauthorized entry and the significance of the loss. The areas of greatest risk should receive the greatest attention and investment. Obvious areas to consider are perimeter doors, computer rooms, human resources file rooms, equipment with sensitive files and supply rooms. Security should begin by developing or properly enforcing the company's security policy. Who has keys to what areas? What happens to keys when employees leave the company? Do employees let visitors through secured entry doors without escorting them to the employee they came to see? Often a simple employee campaign to create awareness will greatly improve security. Card access systems are expensive but effective. Two common types are proximity card and swipe card systems. Proximity card devices are usually preferred since cards will not wear or become damaged as easily as swipe cards. Proximity systems are also available with small keychain devices in lieu of cards, although cards can double as photo ID cards or can have more than one magnetic strip for multiple uses. Sophisticated systems allow multiple levels of programming, which allow different levels of access by each employee and/or door. Other security devices include glass break detectors, closed circuit TV (CCTV) cameras and motion detectors. Clever facility managers sometimes install CCTV camera shells as a low cost deterrent; however, be aware of potential legal liabilities. In planning, access control should be placed at all entry points, including stairwells. Keep in mind that a standard key entry will allow access to the space without a record of who entered. The automatic motion sensor release where card readers are located at fire exits (required by fire safety codes) can be a security hazard. This allows easy unrecorded entry from stairwells, in particular, as an intruder can wait inside the stairwell until the lock is released by an unknowing passerby. A similar hazard occurs when there are gaps around a secured exit door. An intruder can slip a wire through the gap waving something at the end, which triggers the motion sensor release. Security panels should always be placed in secured spaces, and should be placed on emergency power, if possible.

In comparing systems, one should consider the number of levels required, the standard reports available, report customizing options, the ease of use, system capacity and expandability, staff available to program and monitor the system, and the initial and ongoing operation cost. For better control, a company can procure a control station to print reports and program cards themselves. As an alternate, the vendor can do it for a fee, which vary widely. Ask vendors if any equipment is proprietary, and if it is feasible for another company to provide monitoring services, in case you wished to change vendors at a later date. In budgeting and installing, don't forget the electrical and door hardware, as well as the staffing requirements for ongoing programming and monitoring.

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