20 Common Physical Security Terms For Grant Applications

Many non-profit organizations, schools, community centers and houses of worship apply for security grants to help fund their much-needed security improvements. Before you sit down to fill out RFPs or grant applications, you should get familiar with physical security terminology.

Below is a list of twenty of the most common security features/protocols used to harden buildings against threats.

Physical Security Feature Glossary



  1. Access Card Readers scan badges or ID cards, granting your employees access through a control point, typically a locked door. Card readers can scan bar codes, magnetic stripes, smart cards, and biometrics.
  2. Biometric Access Control systems scan an employee’s fingerprint, retina or face (biometrics) and compare the results against previously stored data. If the data matches, the employee gains access through a control point.
  3. Bollards, steel or concrete security barriers, protect your property and pedestrians from vehicle-ramming incidents. Manufacturers offer a variety of finishes and shapes to blend in with the surrounding architecture.
  4. Bulletproof Barrier Systems offer UL-rated ballistic protection. They typically comprise bullet-resistant glass, doors, frames, countertops and other accessories to allow for safe, easy interactions with customers and visitors.
  5. Emergency Call Boxes, wall-mounted safes often called Knox Boxes, hold building keys for fire departments, emergency medical services and law enforcement to retrieve in emergency situations.
  6. Emergency Public Address Systems allow you to broadcast emergency information throughout a building and/or outdoor space. They’re often used in conjunction with intercom systems for effective two-way communication.
  7. Fencing protects your facility’s perimeter. High-security commercial fencing is often made of metal and stands up to 10 feet high. It typically offers ramming protection and can feature spikes or razor wire at the top to prevent climbing.
  8. Fire Alarm Systems detect smoke, fire and carbon monoxide, automatically sounding an alarm to warn your employees to safely evacuate a building. Alarm systems must meet national and local fire code requirements, and many commercial systems offer remote monitoring services.
  9. Lighting, particularly motion-activated systems and exterior floodlights, can help you detect and deter intrusions on your property. They also provide a greater sense of security to employees and visitors in parking lots or poorly lit areas.
  10. Locking Devices feature keyless systems that use keypads, card access or biometrics to help you manage access control. Unlike traditional locks, keyless systems can easily be reprogrammed. Magnetic locks are better suited for low-traffic entryways.
  11. Mantraps are small rooms, or vestibules, with two doors designed to “trap” your visitors before they are cleared to enter a secure location, either by a security guard or card reader system. Similar sally port systems are often used in prisons.
  12. Metal Detectors screen your visitors at access points to find concealed metal weapons, including knives and firearms. You can purchase stationary walk-through models or portable systems, which conduct random screenings in any building location.
  13. Security Alarm Systems use motion sensing and other technologies to alert business owners and law enforcement when an alarm is triggered. Many providers offer round-the-clock monitoring and remote access to video footage.
  14. Security Guards serve many functions, from attending parking lots, to access control management, to patrolling indoor and outdoor locations. To determine your needs, you have to weigh the costs and benefits of using guards versus automated technology.
  15. Shelters in Place, once used primarily for tornado protection, are now built with ballistic steel to protect against shootings and explosives. Secured to your building’s foundation, they vary in size and can easily fit in a meeting room or classroom.
  16. Storage Safes protect your valuable items against theft, fire and water damage. High-quality models feature UL ratings and steel construction. They typically use digital or mechanical combination locks and can be bolted down or remain portable.
  17. Training and Employee Awareness Programs are essential to effective security planning. Regular fire and weather emergency drills, as well as active shooter response training,  helps prepare your employees in the event of a real emergency.
  18. Video Surveillance Systems help deter and identify criminal activity. They’re usually positioned at entrance points and areas where you interact with visitors or customers. Their effectiveness depends on the number and location of cameras, and how often they are monitored.
  19. Visitor Management Systems track people entering and leaving a building. The technology allows you to screen and monitor visitors using ID scanners, image capturing, electronic signatures and more.
  20. Window Security Film, applied to your existing windows, can boost your facility’s forced entry and blast security. It makes windows more difficult to break, offers shatter resistance and provides UV protection.


Before Submitting Your Security Grant Application

Before you submit your budget request or security grant proposal, you should conduct a formal vulnerability/risk assessment with your local law enforcement agency or other security experts. Identify your assets – people, property, information – and determine the likelihood and impact of potential threats against those assets.

Once you identify your high-priority threats, you should lay out a strategic security plan and then identify the right security solutions for every layer of access to your facility.


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