As a business owner or property manager, how can you keep your people and your property safe? By developing a physical security plan. But what counts as physical security, and how do you know that you have an effective, comprehensive plan?
Let’s break down how to build a physical security plan: what to ask yourself, what components you can’t do without, and how to manage your plan for maximum effectiveness.
Who and/or What Is Most Vulnerable In Your Facility?
A physical security plan will be most effective when it clearly identifies the personnel or equipment that it most needs to protect.
Banks have special security measures to protect their tellers, for instance. Technology companies often strictly control access to server rooms and even who can log onto their in-house computers. Drinking water distribution facilities take extra steps to prevent intentional contamination.
To refine the scope of your physical security plan down to specifics, ask yourself:
What security threats has the company or facility already faced? This could also include security incidents in your neighborhood, such as threats, violence, or vandalism.
Which of your assets are most important (or most difficult) to protect? This could be anything from intellectual property stored on company servers, valuable inventory waiting to be sold or shipped, raw materials in storage, or expensive manufacturing equipment that needs an extra layer of security plus a backup generator.
What’s your budget? While some security measures are expensive, such as security guards, there are many that are more affordable and still very effective, like CCTV cameras, burglar alarms, and door-locking keypads.
Three Pillars of Physical Security
- Your building
- Your personnel (or tenants)
- Your equipment
- Your materials
- Your information
In any areas where an intruder could cause damage or theft, you can limit access to these valuable assets by using physical barriers like fences, gates, walls, doors, and locks.
You can then supplement these physical barriers with technological measures like smart card credentials and readers, keypads that require a password or PIN number, or intercom and telephone entry systems. New biometric technologies like fingerprint or eye scanners make things even more secure.
Adding surveillance to your facility is a huge boost for overall security–which is why it is often the first step that companies take towards improving their physical security plan.
High-quality CCTV cameras in the right spots will:
- Detect (and often deter) crimes
- Record visual evidence for later identification of perpetrators
- Increase the effectiveness of your security guards, if you have them
- Reduce business liability in case of false claims
- Record incidents in case of legal/insurance investigation
- Monitor work progress, safety protocols, and quality control on the work floor
Cameras are especially useful for monitoring the physical security of areas where there may be a lot of employees and non-employees coming and going:
- Parking lots and garages
- Loading docks
- Entrances and exits
Cameras can also increase the safety of high-traffic areas in offices, business locations, apartment buildings, and other multi-family dwellings:
- Exterior walkways
For workplaces that deal with especially sensitive information or technology, you can up the game with license plate reader cameras, which allow you to identify each vehicle that comes onto your property. You can even use these cameras in combination with an access control measure such as an electronic gate sensor to control what vehicles are allowed to enter your parking area.
You can choose to make camera observation a duty of your security guards, or to contract with a security company for dedicated around-the-clock monitoring.
In either case, it’s best to work with a professional CCTV installation company to handle the initial setup of your camera network. These experts are adept at identifying where and how to position cameras in order to get the best surveillance coverage of your facility, and they will be able to add the necessary hardware–like cables and camera mounts–with the least amount of disruption.
The only way to know if your physical security plan will actually boost your facility’s safety is to actively test it. You don’t want your security plan’s first test to be an actual emergency!
Security plan testing encompasses a number of simulated events that prepare personnel and equipment for emergencies, such as:
- Fire drills
- Active shooter drills
- Facility lockdown tests
- Simulated forced entry
- Inspection, maintenance, and integrity testing of access control components
Each of these should happen on a regular basis. Build a testing schedule into your physical security plan to keep yourself, your security equipment and personnel, your employees, and/or your tenants up-to-date on your security incident response plan.
How to Manage a Physical Security Plan
Now that you have a plan for physical security in your facility and some hardware in place, it’s time to talk about how to manage your plan both during the setup phase and going forward into the future.
Integrate Your Security Systems for the Best Physical Protection
You may already have one or more components of a good physical security plan: cameras, alarms, locks, or security guards. But do any of these components talk to each other?
System integration connects one part of a physical security system to another, so that each part can communicate and work together–for example, linking burglar alarms to CCTV cameras, so that the alarms can respond both to incursions they detect and to incidents captured on-camera.
This integration has multiple benefits to a security plan:
- Customizable components
- Cost efficient
- Stronger security from multiple obstacles and deterrents
- Reduces liability by creating a more comprehensive security system
- Easier to manage and observe in real time, from an app or desktop
Put People In Place
You might feel like the last thing you want to deal with is another committee. However, when it comes to establishing the physical security of your facility and employees, you need designated people who are responsible for knowing your safety plan, monitoring its effectiveness, and implementing it in emergencies.
Your Physical Security Committee will include some or all the following, depending on the scope of your business and the purpose of your facility:
- Chief Security Officer
- Chief Financial Officer
- Chief Information Officer
- Facility owner
- Security organization
- Public works
- Electronic security engineer
- Procurement and contracting specialist
- Fire/safety representative
- Emergency management
- Human Resource representative
Chief Security Officer
Of these, the Chief Security Officer is the lynchpin. This person is responsible for:
- Analyzing security issues
- Establishing and implementing security policies
- Creating and maintaining security training for staff
- Establishing procedures and policies for protecting your personnel and property from theft, damage, misuse, espionage, or loss
- Coordinating with the different members of the committee
Review and Update Your Plan Regularly
Set a timetable for these reviews to make sure that it doesn’t slip by. Depending on your facility and the sensitivity of the business it contains, you can schedule these reviews to occur as frequently as once a month down to once a year.
Questions to ask during a physical security plan review include:
- What changes have occurred in the facility since the last version of this plan?
- Does any equipment need to be replaced, repaired, or updated?
- Have any security incidents occurred at this facility or at another similar one that have exposed weaknesses in the current plan?
Security Plan Insurance
While the goal of a physical security plan is to prevent loss or damage to your company and/or facility, it is realistic to be prepared for a less-than-ideal outcome. Here’s how you can back your physical security plan with legal protection:
- Only contract with licensed and insured security companies for equipment, installation, and monitoring.
- Discuss liability issues with your company attorney as you develop a security plan.
- Invest in commercial property insurance that covers theft, sabotage, vandalism and other property damage.
Working With A Security Company
For some companies and business owners, it makes sense to develop and maintain a physical security plan in-house with the help of expert consultants. For others, it is more effective and less stressful to enlist the help of a security company to oversee the various components that make up their access control and surveillance measures.
Professional security companies are able to remotely monitor your system around the clock. When a camera, alarm, or sensor is triggered, an agent will investigate, determine if the alarm is legitimate, and alert local authorities if necessary.
This option is especially good for smaller companies, landlords with multiple rental properties, and facilities that rely on CCTV without security guards.