In today’s digital age, security tends to be thought about in terms of firewalls, malware, encryption and other safeguards for electronic systems. But the security of those systems, as well as an organization’s facilities, people and other critical assets depends significantly on physical security as well. We are delighted to share below some thoughts from an ASIS board certified expert in security management, Scott Soltis, CPP and CEO of HMS Security & Risk Management Solutions.

The protection of assets in all forms, people, property and information is critical to the success of all organizations. This article highlights access control and physical security models and summarizes many industry “best practice” concepts.

The need for physical security and premise protection has been in existence for thousands of years. Access control can be found in historical architecture. Dating back to the time of Caesar, the need to protect a physical structure can be found by use of gates, walls and other barriers. In the dark ages, many kingdoms were protected atop high mountains or hills, or used motes and drawbridges to keep unauthorized persons from gaining access to their castles.

With modernization, physical security has quickly transcended from traditional locks and keys to the most sophisticated computerized and network based electronic access control systems, which can utilize unique credentialing approaches to identify/authorize an individual into an area. As companies expand and compete in the global marketplace, security program are being pressured for more efficiency and cost reduction. Companies with global competition, also face the threat of industrial espionage.

Workplace violence and active violence in the workplace remains a consistent threat to U.S. companies and organizations. While this article doesn’t focus on the importance of organizations having a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program, the existence of a successful physical security program provides a core-mitigating factor to protect employees against the threat of harm. Physical security programs help to reduce business risks and susceptibility to lawsuits and civil litigation, and assist in the protection of the assets of an organization.

Developing a Physical Security Program

A typical physical security program requires multiple layers of protection with layers becoming progressively more difficult to access closer inward toward the asset. Each layer will have multiple controls that will aid in the protection of the assets. The function of each of the physical security layers is to deter, detect, delay, deny, and defend against loss.

In order for the physical security program to be effective, it is incumbent on the organization to develop and maintain controls to include policies and procedures, personnel management and training, physical barriers and controls, access control equipment, and adequate reporting and records management processes or systems.

Prior to deploying a physical security program, it is recommended that a qualified security professional conduct a Threat, Vulnerability/Risk Assessment (TVRA). This assessment should include but not be limited to:

  • determining the existing levels of security,
  • identifying areas of improvement in the physical security program,
  • establishing the appropriate levels of protection needed, and
  • recommending controls to enhance the overall security program.

Following the completion of the TVRA, a security program can be designed/modified to meet the needs of the organization and ensure that the security program and is adaptable to manage existing as well as future threats. A well-implemented security program will include a continual improvement process that ensures the program is adjusted to environmental changes, and ensures regular updates that tests the effectiveness of the program elements.

Having a qualified security professional implement a security program will reduce an organization’s security risks and more importantly provide a method for organizations to meet the duty of care, which would be expected by its employees.