Building Security 101: Tools That Protect from Outside Threats

Property owners and managers have to consider and manage the risks that threaten their buildings, including a number of man-made and natural hazards and various security threats. The overall goals of building security include protecting people and property from injury and damage, controlling access and preventing loss. Terrorism and information theft also make for strong motivation to provide physical security as part of a comprehensive building security plan.

In “The Facility Management Handbook,” David Cotts and Kathy Roper suggest property owners and managers conduct physical security surveys to properly assess security issues and plan for improvement. The most effective security procedures and programs incorporate these current security tools:

Barriers: Fencing and Bollards

You can block access and prevent property damage to vulnerable points of entry (including entrances, loading docks, mechanical areas and large windows) with barriers such as fencing and bollards. In the "U.S. Geological Survey Physical Security Handbook,” the U.S. Department of the Interior recommends protecting every vulnerable point of a building with physical barriers. These Vulnerable points include manholes, tunnels, basement access, ventilation openings and any openings six square feet or larger, from building's foundation to 18 feet up.

While fencing is familiar to most people, bollards are a more specialized form of barrier specifically designed to prevent damage to buildings from moving vehicles. These solid posts are spaced far enough apart to allow people to pass, but permanent and strong enough to stop or significantly slow down moving vehicles and prevent them from passing beyond into entryways, doors or vulnerable areas of buildings. Typical building types protected by bollards include storefronts, office buildings, universities, hospitals and research facilities, airports and courthouses, as well as military and government buildings. Bollards are also used to protect open spaces like playgrounds and sports fields that require restricting access of moving vehicles. Design for these barrier devices includes a range of features such as permanent or removable structures, utilitarian or decorative appearance, and varied heights and widths.

Deterrents: Outdoor Lighting and Alarms

Security lighting is a physical and psychological deterrent to those trying to damage, steal or deface buildings under the cover of darkness. It is important to building security, especially around a building's entrances and around its video surveillance equipment, to provide lighting for quality video.

The issues associated with outside lighting include light pollution, local regulations and energy consumption, and should be considered with design of outdoor lighting systems or upgrades. There's an additional safety benefit to providing ample lighting: It can also help prevent slips and falls.

Door alarms provide a secondary level of security over locks by protecting against and alerting to unwanted/unauthorized access. They are a proactive way to monitor access and activity at entries, and help monitor and prevent loss of equipment and merchandise and control when access is free and when it is restricted.

Surveillance: Intelligent Video and Surveillance Radar

Intelligent video developed for military surveillance is in use in commercial building security. It is programmable, and it notifies operators of any activity that falls outside of programmed patterns. Real-time notification by computer, cell phone and other communication technology enables fast response times from fewer security personnel, which saves time and money. Wireless closed-circuit television equipped with motion detectors can be placed almost anywhere, preventing everything from vandalism to event disruption to theft.

Surveillance radar is a cost-effective way to detect movement in the dark that may otherwise go unnoticed by a human security presence. It provides continuous coverage of large areas such as parking lots and fields surrounding buildings, and provides for advanced notice of suspicious activity and additional response time.

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