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5 security tips for managing challenging and high-risk environments

14 June 2018

When managing a vulnerable or high-risk site, such as those often found in the utilities sector, security is paramount.

Paul Sweeting, Technical Director with security solutions specialist Bradbury Group, shares five tips for securing high-risk premises.

If you manage premises or facilities for the electricity, gas, water or nuclear industries, then you'll already know just how important it is to have effective security measures in place.

Power stations, industrial plants, and substations can be extremely vulnerable to trespassers, as any damage or vandalism can have potentially catastrophic consequences. And, as they tend to contain a lot of expensive equipment, they're often targeted by thieves, too.

A holistic security strategy — combining carefully selected physical security measures with effective detection systems — is a vital part of keeping assets secure, and staff and members of the public safe. In addition, it will help to protect your facilities from costly damage.

In this article, I'll share five tips all facilities managers and security specialists of “at risk” sites should know, including how to achieve a balanced and appropriate level of security. Read on to learn more.

Understand the threat or risk

Firstly, risk assess the site and its location. There are some key pieces of information to ascertain that will help determine the best approach to securing the site. Some of these questions might include:
• Is the site in a remote location or in a built-up area? How easy would it be for a member of the public to get close to the site?
• What are the environmental conditions? For example, is the site at risk from harsh elements such as those in coastal regions?
• What is the value of the asset held within the site? Conversely, what is the effective cost of a possible disruption to service caused by an unauthorised access?
• How valuable is the equipment to thieves? Can it be easily removed and sold?

These are all questions that a Facilities Manager, Estates Manager, or Head of Security should be asking in their initial security audit of any high-risk site.

The answer to which will help determine the correct security strategy and protective infrastructure required. Plan your security strategy accordingly Once you understand the risks, you can start to develop your site security strategy.

The nature of your security requirements will depend on how the site functions on a day-to-day basis and the frequency of access required. If there are a lot of personnel accessing the site, you’ll need to consider how they should do this.

Perhaps certain areas of the site will have more restricted access than others, where only a limited number of authorised personnel have the keys or access codes.

Utilities companies often have their sites located in remote regions, where they remain undisturbed by the public. However, this means they are often unmanned, making them a prime opportunity for vandals or thieves who can spend more time trying to access the site without being disturbed.

Therefore, your strategy needs to consider how much time an opportunist would need to breach the perimeter.

High security rated doors, that can withstand a prolonged attack using industrial hardware like disc grinders, plate shears and jigsaws, are a good solution for these sort of environments.

If unauthorised entry to the site is gained, your strategy should include the infrastructure of particularly sensitive areas.

This might involve security rated kiosks to cover sensitive equipment, bar sets, or grilles for internal access points like windows and openings or ventilated and flood doors for areas that need to be secure but are at risk from the elements.

Periodic audits of the site security should be added to your strategy to ensure that the site remains highly secure in the event of any environmental, commercial or legislation changes.

Achieve the correct balance – Detection and Delay

A common mistake is to approach security only from an access prevention point of view.

While physical security measures provide a very effective visual deterrent to would-be attackers, when a real risk situation presents itself, it's crucial that these are combined with detection systems.

The physical security product — be that a door set, a cage, fence or window bar system — is there to delay anyone trying to gain unauthorised access.

Given unlimited time and an astute attacker, even the highest security product can eventually be compromised. That’s why ensuring that the correct detection measures are in place plays a key role in the overall security of a site.

Essentially the security product must provide a greater period of delay than the expected response time from the point of detection.

The most common example of this sort of security is a CCTV system, although vibration, movement and many other forms of detection can be effective.

In this example, after an attacker is caught by the cameras, the physical security measures only need to resist unauthorised access until the relevant authorities can arrive on site. Clearly, the more remote the site, the longer the delay period needs to be.

Install security in layers

Unfortunately, all utilities plants and stations are vulnerable to trespassers. Intruders may be opportunistic thieves in search of expensive equipment or tools, or just looking to deliberately sabotage or disrupt operations.

Vandalism can also have a huge financial toll, particularly if any damage to costly equipment will disrupt everyday operations.

So, finding reliable ways to secure your site from intruders is a crucial aspect of protecting your premises, as well as keeping staff and members of the public safe from any dangerous incidents that could result from a break-in.

Security solutions are most effective when installed in complementary layers, as this reduces the likelihood of an intruder making it into high-risk areas.

An outer site perimeter line can be used to resist low level threat and maintain distance between the asset and the threat.

Moving inwards, the use of an increased security level around the external building fabric will serve to keep unwanted people from the building itself. It could then be appropriate to have a specific security enclosure around a high value asset itself should the building itself be penetrated.

In addition to maintaining an effective security system, you should also pay close attention to the overall condition of the building.

This must be maintained to a high standard, with no faulty or damaged areas (like broken windows, or broken gates and doors), as these could lead to a breach.

Always seek third party certification

By using security products that are certified, you are adding reassurance to your security plan. For a door, cage, grille or other product to become security rated, they go through rigorous and prolonged testing by third party authorities to ensure their integrity.

Any manufacturer supplying a product under these schemes will also be audited by the regulatory body to ensure continued compliance, beyond the tested samples.

Authorities such as the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) and the Secured by Design police initiative are examples of crime prevention agencies that ensure security products and deterrents remain suitable for the ever-changing risks that affect commercial and public-sector industries.

A security accreditation scheme such as LPS 1175 helps to give reassurance to site managers that their infrastructure is secured and safe, based on third party evidential certification.

In addition to security accreditation, the same principle also applies to risk factors such as fire and flood prevention. To achieve accreditation, the product must withstand extreme testing against the elements.

For an example, an FD 240 fire door has been tested to withstand high intensity flames for a period of up to 4 hours. This buys more time for the source of the problem to be addressed before a fire spreads and causes additional site damage.

Always ask to see the original certification for the product to ensure full compliance whenever being supplied third party certification.

The commercial and public sector is ever-changing, and the risks that come with managing building or site infrastructure remain a challenge.

So, it’s important to bring in trusted, experienced advisors that can consult and offer appropriate security solutions, tailored to the unique characteristics that each site has.

When it comes to national infrastructure such as utilities, telecoms, and rail, the cost of a site breach could be catastrophic.

It therefore has to be right first time. Planning, assessment, knowledge and regular reviews of site security and infrastructure will help to prevent criminal and environmental breaches.

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