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Locked Onto Security

14 February 2011

The key to good security is selecting the most appropriate option, ensuring the whole building is protected and seeking advice from Master Locksmiths who can provide accurate, up-to-date and cost effective advice, as Dr Stefan George explains

THE REALITY OF EMPLOYEE NUMBERS and resources being slashed is an increase in responsibility for those left behind or left with limited resource. Whilst it is, of course, a relief to be in employment in such a difficult climate, it can make day-to-day tasks that little bit harder than we would perhaps like.
Building security, for example, is a key role for the FM, ensuring security is not only in place but it is regularly reviewed, upgraded where necessary and appropriate for a articular building or a number of properties.
The first port of call when looking at security is to look at the building from the outside in, making sure all elements are considered and noting where improvements can be made. Carry out a review with a trained security professional such as members of recognised trade associations like the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) to ensure you have not missed any pointers.
A trained professional will be well placed to advise on how to make sure you spend your money most effectively, while they have the experience and knowledge to be able to think laterally about maintaining security and ensure measures are tailored to staff and visitor needs.
Access systems
External security advisors are well placed to advise on suitable access systems, the correct application for different hardware and current lock and access standards which may need to be adhered to.
In recent years there have been some remarkable technological developments and a great deal of time and money invested in the research and development of advanced locking systems. However, without simple measures such as appropriate locks on doors and strengthened access points which stop unauthorised people entering the building in the first instance, even more advanced security systems can become severely compromised.
With rows and rows of locks on the shelves in DIY shops across the country, it is not enough to simply select one you think will work and get the maintenance staff to fit it. Without the right application, fitting, quality door/window, or solid frame, the effectiveness of a lock can be severely compromised and you may end up losing more than you bargained for. Also keeping track of keys and the potential danger of easily copied keys which former employees, managers or even suppliers can use at a later date is of growing concern.
One solution to regulating access is to install a locking system where keys can’t be easily copied. This ensures individuals can’t readily make copies of keys while in their possession for unauthorised use. Patented keys carry legal protection preventing copies being made without proof of ownership, while restricted keys are unlikely to be copied due to their unusual design and unique mechanical features.
In the ideal scenario a patented system would be used throughout a building, office or series of buildings. Patented systems can be managed in several different ways but most manufacturers offer systems that record details of key codes which can only be copied when ownership identification is provided.
To further reduce the chances of rogue keys being in circulation, many manufacturers also only lease key blank cutting equipment to locksmiths under strict conduct guidelines
ensuring only trustworthy and trained professionals have the means to copy these keys. When keys are retained by an employee or go missing, the existing key would be deleted from the database, the lock re-configured and new keys issued to the FM, ensuring there are no rogue keys in circulation. These types of locks can be reworked numerous times and regular maintenance checks by a specialist are recommended.
As long as the original key and any official copies are returned or accounted for, there is very little chance of additional sets being in circulation. As locks won’t need to be changed each time an employee leaves or there is concern over a security breech, cost and maintenance time is also minimised.
Master keying
A master keying system enables keys to access some locks and not others. Even in the 1700s master key systems in stately homes were common practice. Such systems would allow servants to go to certain areas of a building such as kitchens, but they would only allow trusted individuals like the butler to access the wine cellar or bedrooms, while the master of the house would have a key to access all of the rooms. Today such systems work incredibly well in business, particularly in large buildings with a lot of employees or in multi-tenanted buildings as it enables FMs to control where individuals or groups are allowed to access.
Master keys can be used to enter a number of units, storage rooms or offices ensuring only those with permission can gain access to certain areas preserving the security of personal details, high value supplies or research data. In some instances electronic key systems would be the ideal choice – key fobs, coded entry or swipe cards can be given to selected employees.
A master keyed lock system is designed so that locks can be opened by their individual keys as well as a special ‘master’ key that opens some or all of the other locks in the system.
Master keys allow those who need to access a number of locks or rooms to only carry one or a couple of keys reducing the need to retain, store and differentiate between a host of keys.
Electronic systems
In some instances electronic key systems would be the ideal choice – key fobs, coded entry or swipe cards can be given to employees to gain access and prevent unauthorised entry.
Electronic systems can even be hooked up to HR or building management systems to gather data such as what time people arrive and leave the building. This data can be collated and advanced systems can link to a BMS to ensure that when the last person is leaving the office at night all of the lights, heating and office equipment is turned off, while lights in the car park can be programmed to come on accordingly.
FMs cannot be experts in every specialist field so it is also important to know when extra help is needed and where professional advice can be an advantage. A qualified locksmith can advise on which security will best suit individual needs and also be able to consult on the appropriate application for hardware in order to meet H&S regulations. This includes being able to advise on the correct use of hardware on emergency exits and escape routes.
By seeking advice from a professional security advisor you are assured they are up to date with current regulations, and aware of the latest technology. They can offer the best solution to suit your needs and they will take responsibility for their actions.
An expert locksmith will also be able to review your insurance documents to ensure your security meets any stipulations made. In addition, the locksmith can ensure systems work to their full capacity, lock integrity is not compromised through unskilled maintenance and the longevity of a system is optimised.
● Dr Steffan George is development director for the Master Locksmiths Association. For further information or to find an approved MLA company please visit:

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