The Human Element of Physical Security Design

How the Human Element Affects Physical Security Design

Architects/Glaziers/General Contractors

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“Too often people look at security as a fix that can be dropped in place,” notes Jim Richards, CEO of Total Security Solutions, the nation’s leading custom bulletproof systems designer, fabricator, and installer. “People assume it’s mostly a matter of swapping out standard windows and doors for bullet resistant ones. They don’t see this for what it is: a system of components. The barrier is a component of security. Cameras are another component. Access control systems, fire suppression, the security guards are a component—as are their security protocols and policies. All of these components go into creating that system.”  

The “human elements” in the system are the ones the designers really need to focus on. And the attacker is the least challenging human element. The truly challenging part of corporate ballistic security design is accounting for the actions and attitudes of office visitors, company planners, and day-to-day staff.

Bullet Resistant Barriers that Accommodate and Welcome Visitors

Every company wants their building to immediately and clearly communicate their identity to visitors, workers, and potential clients. Subsequently, it’s where most clients focus—especially in a corporate environment. They want any renovation of their facility to work with their existing aesthetic, and to support their corporate identity.

“There are a lot of different missions and visions and corporate identities out there,” Jim allows, “but I’m willing to bet that none of them are going for a ’70’s liquor store’ or ‘county lockup’ aesthetic. You don’t want it to feel like a prison.” But you also don’t want a system that, for the sake of appearances or convenience, allows for loopholes and bypasses. By the same token, no one wants great looks and sterling security if it causes countless workaday headaches for visitors and staff.

According to Jim, “What’s most important is to understand that this is not a balancing act. Companies do not have to choose between safety and looks, or sacrifice functionality as they increase security.” Well designed ballistic security systems are part of a comprehensive security system. They work with the building as a whole and that includes working within and around the rhythms of the people that pass through and work in those spaces.

Comprehensive Planning for Disaster Recovery

In an earlier interview, IBI Group life safety systems engineer T.J. McComas mentioned that “Many of our clients have had their security system in place for 30 years with no changes. Since nothing has happened, the conclusion is that the security works. But, in many cases, it isn’t that the security works, it’s just that they’ve been lucky. There’s always a threat that’s not being considered, and unless you periodically look at your systems and appropriately update them, I don’t think you’ll catch that. And, unfortunately, in some cases that can be very devastating.“

This certainly meshes with Jim’s experience. “We usually only get a call after something happens. There’s usually a triggering event that causes people to reconsider and really look at how they’re doing things. For corporations and manufacturing, unless you’re dealing with sensitive information, sensitive data, then security usually isn’t top of mind. But waiting for something to happen, that’s not a good strategy.”

FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has noted that 40% of businesses never reopen after a disaster. Of those that do reopen, less than 30% remain open two years later. In other words, roughly 70% of all business that suffer a major incident—natural disaster, fire, large security breach, workplace violence, etc.—fail within three years. (source)

While we should hope that planners will always keep current with evolving security issues in their industry, we also know that a good physical security design can mitigate, if not prevent, new and unforeseen threats.

Staff Training: the Most Critical Component of a Bullet Resistant Barrier

Jim Richards and T.J. McComas also agree about how important proper training is to truly secure a building.

“Training is imperative,” Jim concurs. “It’s no different than when you get a new piece of software, or a new machine in the shop, or a new fire detection system. How are you going to use it? What are the procedures? What do you do and don’t do?”

Jim concludes, “Security is just being prepared.” And being prepared doesn’t stop at installing the right door or window. Being prepared never stops.

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