How Facilities managers can keep their estates more secure

Facilities management (FM) is in danger of turning into a branch of the crime-fighting profession, as the number of crimes rises, with both buildings and land being increasingly targeted. This is no longer a threat that can be addressed in a piecemeal way – beefing up the locks here, adding CCTV there. It needs a strategic response.

Security roles need to be identified 

The strategic security plan needs to address the entire estate, and involve the whole organisation, including senior management. Roles and responsibilities will need to be clarified, and a rapid escalation path for security issues must be identified. A security assessment of all the premises and land in the estate will enable the FM professional to rank those where the threat is greatest and prioritise remediation action if their security isn’t strong enough.

That personnel who are identified as having specific safeguarding and security responsibilities will need training and must have the new duties added to their job descriptions so that no one is in any doubt about their responsibility. This has the benefit that if recruitment needs to take place, the jobs described will have the security role already embedded within them.

Equally, security action must only be taken by those qualified to do so – otherwise, staff may carry out potentially disastrous steps such as padlocking fire exits.

Simple measures can be surprisingly effective

Some of the most effective measures are also the simplest – for example, ensuring that doors are properly closed. Electronic door closers and push button openers can make a significant difference, without costing a great deal. Similarly, keypad access control is effective because the entry codes can be changed frequently at no cost.

However, for a determined intruder, keypad access is not much of a deterrent – they will look at the strength of the physical access system and determine how easy it will be to break it. Many keypad systems are not designed to prevent attempts at physical entry, only to ensure that certain groups of people can pass through and others cannot. So don’t use a keypad system when what you really need is protective security.

Is smart access the answer?

There are now access systems that use facial recognition, smartphone codes, swipe cards, fingerprints and other biometrics. These systems can be integrated with alarm and CCTV systems and used to log data such as entry and exit times. The weakness of these systems is the biometric aspect. In the US, a group of hackers have hacked a facial recognition system by identifying employees, then using their images from Facebook to fool the recognition system. Meanwhile, the theft of vehicles with “smart” keys, by gangs equipped with scanners, is rising hugely.

It’s no surprise then, that the old standby, the physical lock, is enjoying something of a resurgence – but in a smarter form. Smart locks can combine the best of the physical and digital worlds, especially now we have the Internet of Things. They can store and transmit data about when they were activated, and by whom. And of course, their key can be changed immediately, without any costs.

In the battle against smarter thieves, smarter locks are certainly helping – as are smarter and more security conscious FM managers.