Guards, Gates and Technology: Protecting the Nation's Critical Infrastructure
The nation's critical infrastructure includes facilities and core assets that are essential to our society and economy
And you may be surprised at the number of industries on a national, regional and local level that may fall into this category: Energy and utility companies; telecommunications; water supply systems; agriculture and food production and distribution supply chains; government offices, hospitals and public healthcare facilities; financial and banking institutions … and even transportation systems. The disruption of one or any combination of these services can result in massive liabilities.
In some cases, the protection of critical infrastructure sites expands beyond typical security considerations to also include compliance with standards imposed by the federal government. For chemical companies, adherence to federal Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) regulations is mandatory. Failure to comply results in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) imposing penalties that can affect a company’s bottom line. And CFATS compliance is no easy task -- it requires fulfillment of a Site Security Plan that addresses eighteen published Risk-Based Performance Standards (RBPS).
Compliance also isn’t a single-part solution; it requires a holistic approach to address all the performance standards collectively. On-site guards, systems and processes all play roles in the solution. A substantial amount of responsibility falls on the contracted security company to support compliance standards, so critical infrastructure facilities need to exercise due diligence with an eye on experience and expertise when selecting a partner in security services.
The following are some best practices to consider in fulfilling the core security mission of protecting critical infrastructure:
Define the perimeter
Security begins at the perimeter; the first of multiple concentric circles of protection. Deterring and preventing intruders from crossing the perimeter, as well as detecting intrusion, is a proactive approach to avoiding more serious security incidents. Security officers in vehicles or on foot are one element in protecting the perimeter, as are physical elements such as fences and other barriers.
In addition, technology provides options in development of the perimeter protection solution. For example, video or sensor-based intruder detection systems can provide an alarm when a person or vehicle enters the perimeter, and a control room operator can assess the alarm condition and initiate a response. As the circles of protection get smaller (or closer to the critical asset), the security protection and response measures become more intense.
Vehicular control and monitoring
Controlling entrances to critical infrastructure sites requires the services of well-trained and attentive security officers. In most cases, automatic gated entrances simply do not provide sufficient control and accountability as stand-alone measures. Security officers that operate gate entrance facilities may be tasked with conducting vehicle searches, verifying shipping and receiving arrangements, verifying driver and contractor safety training, performing weighmaster duties and other site-specific requirements before granting admission to a facility. There is also a technology component, as we will see.
Pedestrian control and monitoring
Entry of pedestrians into critical infrastructure facilities is a security function that combines manpower with strategic use of technologies. Security officers may be tasked with confirming visitors’ credentials and providing visitor passes, among other duties. Networked access control and visitor ID systems may also contain watch lists or high-tech analytics that instantly alert security officers when a known offender, wanted individual or even recently dismissed employee attempts to enter a facility using false or expired credentials.
Access control and technology applications
Critical infrastructure sites typically help manage pedestrian and vehicular access using card-based systems that employ proximity cards, biometrics or newer smart cards (which may facilitate the use of biometrics). Access systems can include a “propped” door alarm to alert security to an unsecured door or mantrap/turnstile systems to reduce the likelihood of “tailgating” of individuals through a secure portal.
A variety of technologies such as x-ray systems, metal detectors and weapons and trace detection systems may be used to screen pedestrians entering a facility. Vehicle control and monitoring includes a range of technology options such as under-vehicle surveillance systems and radiation scanners. Smart analytics like license plate recognition (LPR) and objects-left-behind software can also be integrated with video surveillance systems to add additional layers to a total security solution.
NFPA and 4-digit placard recognition
The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) uses a system of placards to designate the risks posed by nearby hazardous materials. Security officers should be trained to recognize NFPA and 4-digit placards to determine what, if any, special equipment should be used, procedures followed or precautions taken during an emergency response.
Communications are vital to security operations, emergency responses and technology. A robust and dependable centralized control and communication network is needed. Guard monitoring solutions ensure that officers complete their tours. Security officers can also use mobile and smart phone devices for incident reporting and notification and time and attendance and safety and facility inspections.
Technology tools enable security officers to record incident information -- including photos -- and then send real-time notifications to the appropriate parties. Additionally, security officers armed with information gathering tools can make a substantial contribution to risk-management and general facility operations, as well as safety. The ability to capture, record and track incidents – from cracked sidewalks to lights left on at night – can help companies more effectively manage their facilities and correct potential liabilities.
Security officers protecting critical infrastructure require rigorous state-of-the-art training for their specific environment. It goes without saying that the best security officers at critical infrastructure facilities should have military and/or police experience. They are trained at some of the best, state-of-the-art training facilities in the nation that provid them with the credentials and ability to ensure protection of sensitive facilities and resources. Well trained security officers are also better equipped to utilize more advanced security technologies and systems.
Each critical infrastructure site is unique, and requires a site-specific approach that includes a combination of highly trained personnel, advanced technology and innovation to deliver a holistic security solution.
Terence Wood is Director, Engineering and Security Applications, at G4S Secure Solutions USA.
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