What Is Physical Security?

Posted by Blake Mitchell on December 12, 2019

What is physical security? It's an often-overlooked element of a company's security program. Today, businesses focus their energies on cybersecurity to protect their systems and data from hacking. No one questions this because no company wants to become a news headline because someone hacked their systems and stole their customers' data.

But companies have another expensive item they need to protect. Their physical assets.

Why Physical Security Matters

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation says there are four burglaries every minute. Prepare and Protect Your Business estimates that crime is a factor in as much as 30 percent of business failures.

It goes on to list a company's top five vulnerabilities:

  • Robbery and burglary
  • Liability
  • Employee theft
  • Fire and emergencies
  • Vandalism

In addition to these five, companies also contend with natural disasters, sabotage, and service or utility disruptions. Implementing an effective physical security program can help prevent these from happening or at least reduce the risks.

Physical security offers these benefits:

  • Increased employee productivity: A Steelcase report reveals that engaged employees have greater control over their experiences at work. Security contributes to control.
  • Enhanced operations: Physical security solutions can find redundancies and areas to improve from an operational standpoint.
  • Deterred crime: The cost of crime involves more than the damage or stolen items. It affects the company's reputation and can lead to business closure.

A business with a bottomless budget for security cannot completely stop these threats. After all, no one has the power to stop flooding, earthquakes, or tornadoes. But they can take steps to prevent trespassing and deter crime. These four ways to mitigate threats will help minimize the damage and drastically lower risks.

1. Review the Property Layout

Few businesses have the luxury of building a fortress in which a wall surrounds the property. Still, they can create a low-profile design to limit trespassing and withstand harsh weather conditions.

The first part of a low-profile design is privacy. How much can outsiders see into the property? What about into the building. Are there computers on the first floor? If so, can someone peer into the window and see confidential information on the screens?

The second part to optimizing the layout is landscaping. Trees and shrubs may pep up the place, but they can also create hiding spaces. This isn't to say that the property should do away with landscaping. Rather, think smart landscaping design that does not negatively affect security. Equally important to designing smart landscaping is maintaining it. Overgrown shrubbery can conceal someone with harmful intentions.

Another part of the property layout is lighting. Is there a parking lot or parking garage? How's the lighting in there? The stairwells? What about the lighting between parking and entering the building? You want employees and visitors to feel safe walking around the property. Another factor to review is the lighting on the building.

What many don't realize is the importance of the type of lighting and the hue. Brighter is not always better. Too much lighting wastes the budget. Too little lighting produces shadowy spaces.

Another option to explore is the use of motion-sensor lights. You don't want all the lights to be motion-sensor because some areas require constant lighting to help people find their way. Motion-sensor lighting can scare away trespassers.

Lighting offers one of the most effective and affordable ways to enhance security. It requires careful planning to do it right.

2. Plan for Power Outages

Power goes out. It's a fact of everyday life. It's not a matter of if, but when a power outage happens. Sometimes Mother Nature causes it. Other times, the utility company runs into problems.

A power outage is no longer just an inconvenience. It affects security. Can people get inside or outside of the building when it doesn't have power? Can they enter rooms with limited access?

Do you have live video camera streaming on the property? What happens to them during a power outage? Suspects take advantage of power outages to raid buildings. Don't let that be your property. Creating and testing a business continuity plan can help mitigate these situations.

3. Use an Access Control System

An access control system offers an effortless way to manage entry and access. It allows employees to enter the building while limiting access to specific rooms or areas in the building, including a parking garage. Employees can swipe their badges to go in the garage and then use them again to enter the building.

If you have a data center room or an area with expensive equipment that not everyone needs to use, you can control who can access those areas. When an employee resigns, retires, or gets fired, you can remove their access. You won't have to worry about changing locks or codes on a keypad.

Here are some benefits of an access control system:

  • Helps deter theft when integrated with video monitoring.
  • Helps prevent unauthorized people from entering.
  • Offers limited-access control for specific areas.
  • Provides better ROI than costly onsite security guards.
  • Ability to track people and cars entering the property for security and business efficiencies

An access control system, unlike other automated entry systems, keeps track of who swipes their badges. This can be valuable information especially in an integrated security system that includes video monitoring.

4. Implement Video Monitoring

An American Management Association (AMA) and ePolicy Institute survey finds that almost half of employers use video monitoring to deter theft and vandalism. Video monitoring has proven to be one of the best crime deterrents that delivers a quick ROI.

The reason companies choose video surveillance is because it allows them to monitor the entire property at once. Security guards cost far more than a video surveillance system. They can't catch everything because they can only see the area in which they patrol.

The way video monitoring works is that you work with a security consultant who can tell you where to place security cameras. There is a science involved in determining camera placement to ensure you maximize remote video monitoring.

If your physical security includes an access control system, it works well with video monitoring. The system can connect the time stamp from the access control system with the video monitoring system to see what happened at that time.

A bonus of implementing this system is that the visibility of the video monitoring cameras acts as a deterrent. However, it won't stop all suspects as some can't be stopped. They have a goal in mind and they're going to do what it takes to achieve it.

Trained operators can see trespassers approaching the property and act before they do anything. An operator can respond by issuing a warning on the audio speaker system. This adds another deterrent and it works some of the time.

Some criminals are so determined that they will keep after the goal of stealing, vandalism, or something else. At this point, the operator calls the police while tracking the suspects' steps. The operator keeps the police apprised of the suspects' location until they arrive and locate the suspects.

To ensure video monitoring succeeds, it's critical to select the right equipment. Not all cameras can make out identifying features or license plates. Not all cameras can follow suspects. Not all cameras can withstand harsh weather conditions. Ask the security consultant about these as well as whether they retain recordings and for how long.

Unlike other security solutions, video monitoring is a proactive solution. It supplies the highest level of security for your property while reducing liability. Video monitoring can be up to 60 percent more cost-effective than security guards.

Where to Start in Implementing Physical Security

Before you invest in physical security measures, conduct a risk assessment. This identifies the strengths and vulnerabilities in your security. It also helps you develop a plan. Draft the layout of your property highlighting any current physical security measures in place.

The assessment also looks at factors that can affect your business such as analyzing crime reports to see what kind of crime occurs around your business. You may need to study weather patterns and history if your business is in an area at risk for flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other things involving Mother Nature.

Another thing to review is who comes and goes in your business. Is it just employees? Customers? Vendors? Visitors? You want to make it easy for everyone to come to your property while keeping out the criminals.

Ready, a Department of Homeland Security website, provides valuable preparedness planning toolkits. They cover the natural disasters and power outages. The Ready Business videos tackle what you need to know about getting ready. They have videos for building construction, employee management, physical surroundings and more.

After capturing the weaknesses and risk factors, make a list of security solutions and prioritize them. You may not have a budget to implement everything, but at least you know where to start.

In short, your property has a responsibility for the safety of employees and visitors. An effective physical security program helps protect your assets and helps employees and visitors feel safer. The cost of not having physical security can affect your bottom-line and business reputation. Implementing physical security will help cut your risks while delivering a quick ROI.

To learn more about physical security and what options might work best for your business, please contact us.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Video Monitoring