Security for Facilities

By Mark C. Ode | Jan 15, 2008
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With all that has been happening in the past few years, homeland security has become one of the most important aspects of our lives. Especially important are the security and safety at our schools and facilities of higher education, local and federal facilities, as well as other vital infrastructures that, if destroyed or incapacitated, would disrupt national security, the economy, and public health or safety of our communities. These all are basic concepts of new Article 708 in the 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC), covering critical operations power systems (COPS). Assessment and evaluation of the facility, design of the security system and careful planning of controlled access to the facility will provide more secure premises. When coupled with security staffing, communication and careful response planning with local police and emergency personnel, the public can rest assured that security has been enhanced as much as possible.

However, an aspect that is often underemphasized when determining the probability of unauthorized entry and the occurrence of crimes at the facility is simply determining the accessibility of the property by the general public, both during the day and at night. Check if fences surround the buildings and structures, if gates in the fences are locked and if there is any control over who has access to keys for any gates in the fences. Know if any key access points within the facility can easily be breached in spite of security fences surrounding the area.

Ensure sufficient lighting has been installed on the grounds, access points and in the buildings to discourage potential intruders. Security lighting systems should be protected to avoid breakage and damage that may defeat the purpose of the security lighting. Know if regular maintenance is provided to replace burned out lamps, and ensure proper operation of the lighting system. Bushes and other landscaping should be trimmed back to discourage burglars and intruders from hiding in these areas while gaining access to the perimeter of the premises or to the buildings. A very careful survey of the premises with these aspects in mind should provide answers to these basic security questions.

Lighting can be an inexpensive yet effective method of enhancing security. Incapacitating any of the primary power equipment can cause temporary disruption of security and could cause high-pressure sodium (HPS) luminaires to lose power for a brief period of time until the lamp can restrike. Installing incandescent quartz lamps as part of the HPS luminaire that will light during the restriking time will overcome the temporary loss of illumination.

Tamper-resistant access panels or hand holes should be installed at all pole lights to discourage anyone from tampering with or cutting the conductors supplying the pole lights. An evening visit should be part of a security evaluation because only then can a true assessment be made on the effectiveness of security lighting. Make a sketch to show any dark areas on the site. Shrubs or bushes that could create shadows and areas of potential concealment should be included in the security sketch to ensure these areas will be adequately lit.

Security lighting outlets must be carefully chosen based on the lighting characteristics, the amount of lumen output the fixture will deliver, the color of the light produced and the illumination cutoff of the fixture. Some fixtures employ a lens that will provide a sharp cutoff of the light, so the illumination will be directed in three directions but not in the fourth. Other lights should be installed to provide illumination in all four directions. Ensuring the fixture will not provide “spill-over” light onto someone else’s property is part of a responsible lighting design. Most lighting manufacturers have accessories that can be added to the luminaire, providing the proper cutoff to accomplish the adequate coverage. While obviously providing security functions, the lighting system also can be decorative and provide a pleasant effect by enhancing the landscape design of the site.

After addressing the exterior area of the premises, the configuration and layout of the buildings and structures on the premises must be studied. Additional fencing may have to be added in various locations surrounding the facility, thus enhancing any security systems provided at the buildings or structures. The height of fences may have to be increased to discourage unauthorized people from gaining access to the grounds. Again, visit the facility during evening hours, so the overall effect can be analyzed, the new lighting systems can be adjusted and any additional areas can be addressed. Once the fencing and lighting have been accomplished, then security and alarm systems can be added, which will be covered in next month’s Code Applications.  EC

ODE is a staff engineering associate at Underwriters Laboratories Inc., in Research Triangle Park, N.C. He can be reached at 919.549.1726 or at [email protected].

About The Author

ODE is a retired lead engineering instructor at Underwriters Laboratories and is owner of Southwest Electrical Training and Consulting. Contact him at 919.949.2576 and [email protected]

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