Best Practices for Entry Protection

Article by Bruce Czerwinski on Mar 17, 2017

It takes layers of security - from door locks to intercoms and access control software - to properly secure an entryway. An experienced integrator plays a vital role in making recommendations and being a trusted advisor.

“Integrating the access and alarm systems can be a very effective way of protecting a commercial building." - Dario Santana, Layer 3 Security Services.

“If we must run new cable throughout the building, the cost of the project could nearly double." - Matthew Arnold Sr., Academy Mail Box Co.

“Protecting the perimeter provides an opportunity to improve emergency communications and procedures." - Rody Rosenbaum, HighCom Security Services.

Bruce Czerwinski serves as U.S. general sales manager for Aiphone Corp. Request more info about the company at www.securityinfowatch.com/10212724.

Every building has at least one door – some may have dozens – through which employees, customers and visitors pass daily. But these doors can also serve as portals for criminals, making entry protection one of the most important challenges facing dealers and integrators.

Manufacturers offer a variety of solutions. One system is not enough by itself – it takes layers of security to do the job. How these layers fit together will vary from building to building, depending on their location and how they are used. This is where an experienced integrator plays a vital role in making recommendations and being a trusted advisor to the end-user.

That says, talking with three leading integrators, they agree that there are basic principles which apply to virtually all facilities. With their combined decades of industry experience, these integrators helped identify best practices for securing building entries. They are:

Matthew Arnold Sr., president of Hicksville, N.Y.-based Academy Mail Box Co., a security provider for multi-family residential buildings in the New York metropolitan area; Rody Rosenbaum, director of the security systems division of Oakland, Calif.-based HighCom Security Services; and Dario Santana, president of San Diego’s Layer 3 Security Services.

 

The First Step

The three integrators all agree that a security evaluation is an important starting point. “An evaluation lets you know how the building is used, which doors can remain open and which should be locked,” Arnold explains. “The evaluation is key to the planning process; however, unfortunately, evaluation requests are most often made after an incident has occurred.”

Rosenbaum says the evaluation also helps identify other security issues. “Protecting the perimeter also provides an opportunity to improve emergency communications and procedures,” he adds.

 

The Doors

Doors are a building’s first barrier inside the larger security perimeter. The integrators agree that exterior doors should be made of solid core wood. For most sites, there is no need for expensive anti-ballistic metal doors. The goal of any door is to delay a criminal’s entry – particularly an active shooter – until those inside can find cover and first responders can arrive. Glass doors were not favored.

“The door itself has to be considered – is it secure enough?” Santana says. “There is no point adding security elements and technology to a door that is inherently insecure.”

Santana adds that if the door is large enough, a car or truck could be driven through it; thus, he recommends bollards and other physical barriers designed to stop – or at least slow down – any vehicle headed in the entry’s direction.

 

The Locks

All three integrators say electronic locks offer greater protection than key-based locks. Arnold says it is surprising how many older buildings in the New York area still rely on keys, which have the downside of being easily lost, stolen or copied. He says one of his selling points for electronic locks is how easy and inexpensively remote fobs can replace lost or stolen keys.

“We can create a new key fob for $5,” Arnold says. “They are much more secure than keys and we can immediately go into the computer and disable any lost or stolen fobs. Electronic locks and fobs provide greater convenience for little added expense.”

He adds that the electric strike locks he chooses for his projects always follow a “fail safe, fail secure” standard. “During 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, many of our buildings lost power – some for up to two weeks,” Arnold says. “During a power loss, it is much better that doors remain locked on the outside. People can still exit if necessary.”

Santana says when he is specifying a locking mechanism for his customers – which include manufacturing and biotechnology facilities – he often relies on trusted locksmith subcontractors experienced with many different models to help him choose the best solution.

The integrators also agreed doors not required to be unlocked for business or operational needs should always be kept locked.

 

Video and Audio Intercoms

Intercoms provide valuable two-way voice communication between security guards and tenants, employees and visitors seeking building access. Video intercoms also enable the appropriate person to view the visitor, providing more information before deciding to remotely unlock the door.

Arnold says his company has installed dozens of video intercoms at multi-family residential building entries – particularly those where management wanted to reduce the expense of a 24-hour concierge or doorman. A master station mounted at the main entry can be answered by residents with tenant stations in the apartments.

Many of Arnold’s jobs are retrofits – frequently buildings looking to replace 30-year-old, audio-only systems with video intercoms offering more features, convenience and greater security. When possible, Academy looks to re-use existing cabling, saving the building owners time and money. “If we must run new cable throughout the building, the cost of the project could nearly double and it would add weeks to the completion time,” Arnold says.

Many of those buildings also have a service or delivery door, where a video intercom enables service personnel to call the doorman, superintendent or a tenant to gain entry.

Rosenbaum has helped secure many houses of worship in the Bay Area. Even in facilities that openly welcome people, he recommends a single visitor entry that remains locked except during services.

In one combination house of worship/school, HighCom combined a video intercom and single-door access control system at the main entry. “The congregation and staff members were given codes to enter into a keypad for access,” Rosenbaum says. “Visitors, vendors and parents push a button on the video intercom to gain the attention of office staff.”

 

Access Control

Doors used by employees may be best controlled by an access control system. Santana says a stand-alone access control system enables employees and regular vendors to enter doors using a card key, fob or PIN.

Access systems offer the ability to quickly delete and replace lost or stolen cards and PINs. Also, the systems provide an audit trail, showing who entered which doors and when.

Santana says he often integrates access systems with other equipment to increase security and convenience. “Integrating the access and alarm systems can be a very effective way of protecting a commercial building while at the same time facilitating access,” he says. “For example, when the first person entering the building in the morning uses his or her key fob to open the door, that action disarms the alarm for the day.”

Integration may also include security cameras to provide video for comparison with each door event, Santana adds. Additionally, integrating the alarm system with the door locks can create events and convey them to a central station.

 

Policies and Procedures

Employees must understand how to operate the entry systems and be careful the equipment is not intentionally or unintentionally defeated. This might include a tenant propping open a door while unloading items from a car. It is important employees understand the potential consequences of leaving doors unlocked or open.

Santana says an employer’s message should be clear: “If you let someone in, you are responsible.”

Arnold says the same is true for residential buildings. Residents should be trained to use video intercoms to monitor visitors, checking for potential piggy-backers entering simultaneously.

 

More Advice

Here are a few other entry security suggestions from the integrators:

Santana: “Lighting is important, as bad guys love darkness. Effective illumination around the door should be considered while still respecting the building’s environment and aesthetics.”

Arnold: “In a residential building, develop a good relationship with the superintendent. He can make any security installation go much more smoothly.”

Rosenbaum: “With the addition of speakers and horns, intercom systems can also be used to share emergency messages at the entry, throughout a building or across the entire property.”