Kevin Ian Schmidt

Physical Security Program; know the process

When a business hasn’t experienced a significant security incident for a while, C-suite executives typically become complacent and begin to question if all of the security procedures, systems and jobs currently set up are needed. However, complacency isn’t the right reason to reduce the security budget, particularly in a recession when crime usually increases. It is the responsibility of a security manager to make sure the organization always remembers the importance of physical security programs.

physical security programTo avoid an upswing in security incidents, security management should conduct a physical security audit of their facilities. Evaluating current physical security procedures will reveal areas where security might need to be increased to protect the company’s assets, including facilities and employees.

To design a cost-effective security program, you need to carefully consider developing a well-balanced program. While designing a well-balanced security program, you will need to take note of the 3 fundamental components of physical security strategy.

Types of Physical Security

  • Organizational (security staff and procedures as well as organizational security): Covering the involvement in the security programs by management, security staff, tenants and employees.
  • Mechanical (electronic systems): Covering the use of security hardware including access control, Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), door locks, monitoring systems, emergency call boxes and intrusion alarms.
  • Natural (architectural elements): Covering basic security philosophies involving property definition, natural surveillance and access control. Also known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), you are utilizing psychological techniques to reduce risk.

Unfortunately, countless security professionals concentrate too closely on just one of the three security concepts. A number of facilities depend too much on security guards who will be able to only protect a entrances or handle a limited number of people entering the building. Utilizing a massive security team is a sizable, long-term cost. Many other facilities concentrate on mechanical security, leaving their security team and tenants untrained and uninvolved in the security process. While other facilities go without the utilization of mechanical and organizational security, dependent upon the goodwill of others or simply the psychological effect of signage.

Establishing a security program that utilizes a balance of all the above physical security strategies, will keep the program flexible and ready to handle potential risks that may develop.

A physical security audit is the first step to proper design of a comprehensive physical security program. The following steps will walk you through the initial steps of conducting a physical security audit:

Check Out: Risk Assessment Guidelines

Examine Your Risks

Before you develop your security program, you must first determine the level of risk to your facility. The higher the risk, the greater need for physical security and planning. There are three forms of risk:

  • Terrorism (International and Domestic)
  • Criminal (Crimes against people and property)
  • Environmental (Risk from nature or manmade incidents)

First, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have neighbors who might attract unsafe individuals to your neighborhood for either terrorist or criminal activity?
  • Does your facility contain individuals or activity that might bring risk to your doorstep?
  • How well known is your facility on a local, national or international basis?
  • Is your facility near railroad tracks, major freeways or a toxic manufacturing/storage facility?
  • Are you near a university or college?
  • Is your facility near a public park or government facility?
  • Do any of the tenants in your building have negative media or internet exposure?
  • Are there certain organizations that are not thrilled with the existence of one of the tenants in your building?
  • What is the crime rate in your neighborhood?

The responses to these particular questions are going to determine the measure of risk for your facility. That is, an office building full of proctologists almost certainly carries a lower chance of terrorist attack compared to an office building containing a Federal Government Agency. A property positioned adjacent to an abortion clinic almost certainly carries a greater risk of becoming affected by safeguards or various other harmful events. A lot more Us office buildings have been evacuated as a result of toxic fumes from derailed trains and overturned trucks as compared to terrorist activities.

Check Out: Physical Security Risk Assessment: 9 tips to secure your workplace

Creating a Balanced Physical Security Program

Utilizing the aspects of organizational, natural and mechanical security you can develop layers of physical security around your facility.

Organizational Security

organizatinl physical securityTo begin with, who may be allowed in the building? The following recommendations come under the organizational method of physical security. In the event that your company is the solitary tenant of the building, what sort of background checks do you happen to be performing on new staff members or contractors? Are you able to know if the new personnel coming through the door is a legal resident of the United States of America? Does this new staff member have a record of violence, drug use or theft? In the event that they are handling cash, have you performed a credit check? Are you permitting undocumented associates of the cleaning staff to enjoy open access to every office in the facility at night? The expense of a background investigation for every new employee are dwarfed beside the losses you could possibly experience should you allow a violent person into your work site. In the event of contract companies providing staff to the facility, does the contract require the companies to perform background investigations of their staff, and can you at any time audit this process?
Do your tenants and staff members obtain some type of security and safety orientation? Will they be familiar with who to contact in an emergency? Do they understand who needs to have access to their work space? Do they know the emergency evacuation routes, and do they understand exactly where they need to meet once they evacuate the building so a headcount may be conducted? Is the lone emergency meeting location you have chosen in close proximity to any kind of potential neighborhood problems like a railroad track?

Do you have contact with community law enforcement representatives to know what is happening in your neighborhood? Do you have meetings with your neighboring businesses to discuss the issues they are facing? Could your company be impacted by a strike next door? Is one of your neighbors being threatened? Have any of your neighbors experienced an upswing in criminal activity? Do you have a clear communication method to pass this information to your tenants, employees, or neighbors?

More robust physical security controls, for instance physical security training as well as more effective background investigations, may have averted many of these attacks. Physical security controls consist of taking preventive measures to stop unauthorized physical access to restricted areas in addition to preventing physical theft. Insider threats to physical security may come from current or perhaps previous staff, contractors, or even respected business associates, which includes custodial personnel or security guards. Employees granted open access must be comprehensively vetted. As an example, custodial employees as well as security guards must submit to the exact same background investigation just like all the other insiders. Staff with this kind of access should likewise undergo regular security awareness training due to the fact their jobs cause them to become popular prey for social engineering attacks.


Natural Security

Now consider your facility perimeter utilizing natural security aspects. Look at your facility as a stranger might from the outside. Are your property boundaries clearly defined? Would a stranger know if he or she were walking or driving from public to private property? Is this clearly defined by signage or architectural design? Does the signage define the rules of your property? Are the rules enforced? Is your property given the appearance of being well maintained? Is graffiti quickly removed or covered? Are bushes trimmed low so they cannot be used for hiding? Is the lawn maintained? If you answered no to one or more of these questions, you will give the unsafe stranger the impression that you don’t care about your facility’s appearance and probably also do not care about security.

At night, is the area around your property dark and foreboding or well illuminated? Do your employees or tenants feel apprehension when they walk from your building to the parking lot or parking deck at night? Could they see danger at a distance or are there shadowy hiding areas where unsafe individuals could be lurking?

If you have a large parking lot or a parking deck, do you provide your employees, visitors or tenants emergency call boxes? Such call stations reduce the fear of isolation and distance. Are these boxes well illuminated and marked? Are they easily seen from all areas of the parking facility? Are the call boxes regularly checked to make sure they are working? Is there someone always ready to answer an emergency call from the call box? If the call comes in, will the person answering know where the call is coming from if the person making the call cannot speak?


Mechanical Security

The use of security hardware can greatly enhance your security program if there is a high risk to your property. How many entrances are there to your building? Are these entrances monitored? When we say monitored we could mean a lobby receptionist, a CCTV camera or an employee that can observe the entrance from his or her desk. Could an office creeper or stalker enter your facility without ever being seen or recorded by anyone or any system? Don’t forget about the back doors and the loading dock. These back doors can be a problem when they are left propped open by smokers. Limit the number of access points to your building and use some form of natural or mechanical surveillance so that those approaching and entering the facility have the feeling they are being monitored. You want to make the unsafe individual feel uncomfortable.

When using mechanical security systems, such as CCTV, look for systems that will give you the best bang for your buck. Which would be more helpful, a CCTV system that records individuals walking down a hallway at three in the morning or a system that records and alerts your monitoring station that someone is walking down that hallway and advising them what action may need to be taken? Make sure you are using all the features available in your security systems or that you purchase a system that meets your needs.

Access control systems provide a positive confirmation that the persons entering your facility or a particular strategic area are authorized. In very high-risk buildings or areas, the use access cards, combined with Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) key pad or a biometric reader will confirm a stolen access card is not being used to gain access.

Depending on the level of risk at your facility, you may want to introduce an inspection layer in your lobby. You may want to install signage that indicates you plan to randomly inspect packages carried in by visitors. You may have visitors walk through a magnetometer. Again, this will be defined by the potential threats to your facility.

One other access point is your air intake vents. This is not about a disgruntled ex-employee entering the facility through the vent, but instead introducing some toxic substances to your building to disrupt your operations. Are your air vents on the roof or at ground level? Many of these vents are in buildings built in the 1960’s, in the loading dock area where a badly positioned vehicle could introduce exhaust into the HVAC system. Are your ground-level air intakes monitored?

How quickly can you turn off your HVAC system in the event a foreign substance might be introduced to your system? Remember that question asked earlier about being near a railroad track, freeway or toxic manufacturing plant? If a toxic cloud were floating in the immediate area of your facility, how quickly could you turn off your HVAC system so the cloud is not sucked into the building? Before you say your HVAC system is automatically turned off when you sound the fire alarm, remember that audible fire alarm is also telling your employees and tenants to head outside into the toxic cloud when it might be safer to keep them inside your airtight building until the cloud disperses.


Levels of Response

Now that you created a balanced security program for your facility you have one additional concern. What will your security levels of response be? What we have described so far are the layers of security planned for your building on the average workday. What if your facility comes under some form of alert? The alert may come from some form of specific or general threat directed towards your building, company, tenant, area, city or country.

You need to develop a plan for additional layers of security in the event of such threats. It is important to pre-plan this higher level of security and have your staff pre-trained on the increased response. Don’t try to handle it on the fly. Will you add security staff? Will you shut down some access points? Will you increase access control? Will you start or increase package inspections? By having an increased security plan already in place with your staff trained in their new duties, when a threat comes around, you are ready.


As you can see, planning the security of your facility comes from using layers of organizational, mechanical and natural security. By using all these aspects of physical security, you can develop a physical security program that is both effective and COST effective.


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