Physical Security Guide

Guide to Physical Security in the Workplace

The modern business owner faces security risks at every turn. As technology continues to advance, threats can come from just about anywhere, and the importance of physical security has never been greater. While many companies focus their prevention efforts on cybersecurity and hacking, physical threats shouldn’t be ignored. Every breach, big or small, impacts your business, from financial losses, to damaged reputation, to your employees feeling insecure at the office. Even for small businesses, having the right physical security measures in place can make all the difference in keeping your business, and your data, safe.

What is physical security?

Physical security measures are designed to protect buildings, and safeguard the equipment inside. In short, they keep unwanted people out, and give access to authorized individuals. While network and cybersecurity are important, preventing physical security breaches and threats is key to keeping your technology and data safe, as well as any staff or faculty that have access to the building. Without physical security plans in place, your office or building is left open to criminal activity, and liable for types of physical security threats including theft, vandalism, fraud, and even accidents. 

In the built environment, we often think of physical security control examples like locks, gates, and guards. While these are effective, there are many additional and often forgotten layers to physical security for offices that can help keep all your assets protected. A comprehensive physical security plan combines both technology and specialized hardware, and should include countermeasures against intrusion such as: 

  • Site design and layout

  • Environmental components 

  • Emergency response readiness

  • Training

  • Access control

  • Intrusion detection

  • Power and fire protection

From landscaping elements and natural surveillance, to encrypted keycards or mobile credentials, to lockdown capabilities and emergency mustering, there are many different components to preventing all different types of physical security threats in the modern workplace. You can use a Security Audit Checklist to ensure your physical security for buildings has all the necessary components to keep your facility protected from threats, intrusions and breaches.

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Determining your risk level

Before implementing physical security measures in your building or workplace, it’s important to determine the potential risks and weaknesses in your current security. Detection is of the utmost importance in physical security. While it is impossible to prevent all intrusions or breaches, having the right tools in place to detect and deal with intrusions minimizes the disruption to your business in the long run.

To locate potential risk areas in your facility, first consider all your public entry points. Where people can enter and exit your facility, there is always a potential security risk. Baseline physical security control procedures, such as proper access control measures at key entry points, will help you manage who is coming and going, and can alert you to potential intrusions. Once inside your facility, you’ll want to look at how data or sensitive information is being secured and stored. Do you have server rooms that need added protection? Are desktop computers locked down and kept secure when nobody is in the office? Do employees have laptops that they take home with them each night? Even USB drives or a disgruntled employee can become major threats in the workplace. List out all the potential risks in your building, and then design security plans to mitigate the potential for criminal activity.

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Components of physical security control for buildings

The three most important components of your physical security control for offices and buildings are access control, surveillance, and security testing methods. While the other layers of physical security control procedures are important, these three countermeasures are the most impactful when it comes to intrusion detection and threat mitigation. 

Access control

Securing your entries keeps unwanted people out, and lets authorized users in. A modern keyless entry system is your first line of defense, so having the best technology is essential. There are a few different types of systems available; this guide to the best access control technology will help you choose the right system for your building. The main things to consider in terms of your physical security are the types of credentials you choose, if the system is on-premises or cloud-based, and if the technology meets all your unique needs. When it comes to access methods, the most common are keycards and fob entry systems, and mobile credentials. Some access control systems allow you to use multiple types of credentials on the same system, too. Access control that uses cloud-based software is recommended over on-premises servers for physical security control plans, as maintenance and system updates can be done remotely, rather than requiring someone to come on-site (which usually results in downtime for your security system). Cloud-based technology also offers great flexibility when it comes to adding entries and users, plus makes integrating with your other security systems much easier.

Surveillance tools

Surveillance is crucial to physical security control for buildings with multiple points of entry. The most common type of surveillance for physical security control is video camera surveillance. Video management systems (VMS) are a great tool for surveillance, giving you visual insight into activity across your property. When adding surveillance to your physical security system, choose cameras that are appropriate for your facility, i.e. exterior doors will need outdoor cameras that can withstand the elements. For indoor cameras, consider the necessary viewing angles and mounting options your space requires. Another consideration for video surveillance systems is reporting and data. To get the most out of your video surveillance, you’ll want to be able to see both real-time footage, as well as previously recorded activity. In physical security control, examples of video surveillance data use cases include running audits on your system, providing video footage as evidence after a breach, using data logs in emergency situations, and applying usage analytics to improve the function and management of your system. If you’re using an open-platform access control system like Openpath, you can also integrate with your VMS to associate visual data with entry activity, offering powerful insights and analytics into your security system. Because Openpath runs in the cloud, administrators are able to access the activity dashboard remotely, and setting up new entries or cameras is quick and efficient.

Emergency preparedness and security testing 

Education is a key component of successful physical security control for offices. If employees, tenants, and administrators don’t understand the new physical security policy changes, your system will be less effective at preventing intrusions and breaches. Once your system is set up, plan on rigorous testing for all the various types of physical security threats your building may encounter. You should run security and emergency drills with your on-site teams, and also test any remote features of your physical security control to make sure administrators have the access they need to activate lockdown plans, trigger unlock requests, and add or revoke user access. Communicating physical security control procedures with staff and daily end users will not only help employees feel safer at work, it can also deter types of physical security threats like collusion, employee theft, or fraudulent behavior if they know there are systems in place designed to detect criminal activity.

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Benefits of physical security measures

Beyond the obvious benefit of physical security systems to keep your building protected, the technology and hardware you choose may include added features that can enhance your workplace security. Especially with cloud-based physical security control, you’ll have added flexibility to manage your system remotely, plus connect with other building security and management systems. 

  • Prevent unauthorized entry - Providing a secure office space is the key to a successful business. Nearly one third of workers don’t feel safe at work, which can take a toll on productivity and office morale. Providing security for your customers is equally important. Not only should your customers feel secure, but their data must also be securely stored. Data breaches compromise the trust that your business has worked so hard to establish. Implementing a rigorous access control system as part of your physical security plans will allow you to secure your property from unauthorized access, keeping your assets and employees safe and preventing damage or loss.

  • Proactive intrusion detection - As the first line of defense for your building, the importance of physical security in preventing intrusion cannot be understated. Installing a best-in-class access control system ensures that you’ll know who enters your facility and when. With an easy-to-install system like Openpath, your intrusion detection system can be up-and-running with minimal downtime. Plus, the cloud-based software gives you the advantage of viewing real-time activity from anywhere, and receiving entry alerts for types of physical security threats like a door being left ajar, an unauthorized entry attempt, a forced entry, and more. With Openpath’s unique lockdown feature, you can instantly trigger a full system lockdown remotely, so you take care of emergencies quickly and efficiently. Cloud-based and mobile access control systems offer more proactive physical security measures for your office or building.

  • Scaleable physical security implementation - With data stored on the cloud, there is no need for onsite servers and hardware that are both costly and vulnerable to attack. Cloud-based physical security control systems can integrate with your existing platforms and software, which means no interruption to your workflow. Both for small businesses experiencing exponential growth, and for enterprise businesses with many sites and locations to consider, a scalable solution that’s easy to install and quick to set up will ensure a smooth transition to a new physical security system. Cloud-based systems are naturally more flexible compared to legacy systems, which makes it easier to add or remove entries, install new hardware, or implement the system across new building locations. 

  • Seamless system integrations - Another benefit of physical security systems that operate in the cloud is the ability to integrate with other software, applications, and systems. While a great access control system is essential to any physical security plan, having the ability to connect to other security tools strengthens your entire security protocol. For example, Openpath’s access control features an open API, making it quick and easy to integrate with video surveillance and security cameras, user management systems, and the other tools you need to run your business.

  • Audit trails and analytics - One of the benefits of physical security control systems is that the added detection methods usually include reporting and audit trails of the activity in your building. This data is crucial to your overall security. Being able to easily and quickly detect possible weaknesses in your system enables you to implement new physical security plans to cover any vulnerable areas. In the event that you do experience a breach, having detailed reports will provide necessary evidence for law enforcement, and help you identify the culprit quickly. Analytics on the performance of your physical security measures allow you to be proactive in finding efficiencies, enabling better management and lessening the burden on your HR and IT teams.

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COVID-19 physical security plans for workplaces

All offices have unique design elements, and often cater to different industries and business functions. However, the common denominator is that people won’t come to work if they don’t feel safe. The coronavirus pandemic delivered a host of new types of physical security threats in the workplace. When offices closed down and shifted to a remote workforce, many empty buildings were suddenly left open to attack, with no way to manage who was coming and going. Once buildings reopen with limited occupancy, there are still challenges with enforcing social distancing, keeping sick people at home, and the burden of added facility maintenance.

Building and implementing a COVID-19 physical security control plan may seem daunting, but with the right technology investments now, your building and assets will be better protected well into the future. Because common touch points are a main concern for many tenants and employees upgrading to a touchless access control system is a great first step. Even if you implement all the latest COVID-19 technology in your building, if users are still having to touch the same turnstiles and keypads to enter the facility, all that expensive hardware isn’t protecting anyone. Your access control should also have occupancy tracking capabilities to automatically enforce social distancing in the workplace. Use a COVID-19 workplace safety checklist to ensure your physical security plans include all the necessary features to safeguard your building, employees, and data during the pandemic.

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Key takeaways and best practices

Safety is essential for every size business whether you’re a single office or a global enterprise. The physical security best practices outlined in this guide will help you establish a better system for preventing and detecting intrusions, as well as note the different considerations when planning your physical security control procedures. Here’s a quick overview of the best practices for implementing physical security for buildings.

First, perimeter security is essential to preventing intrusion. Physical barriers like fencing and landscaping can help establish private property, while access control systems provide the next layer of security by keeping unwanted people out of the building. When selecting an access control system, it is recommended to choose a cloud-based platform for maximum flexibility and scalability. You can integrate your access control with other physical security systems like video surveillance and user management platforms to fortify your security. As a best practice, you should regularly test your physical security measures to ensure there aren’t any oversights. It’s also important to communicate any changes to your physical security system with your team. 

If you’re looking to add cloud-based access control to your physical security measures, Openpath offers customizable deployment options for any size business. Use the form below to contact a team member for more information.

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