Combining electronic and physical methods for a comprehensive security strategy

Combining electronic and physical methods

In a tumultuous world, where news of terror attacks continues to dominate our headlines, ensuring that security measures are ‘fit for purpose’ and adequately able to protect both people and goods is of the utmost importance. Here, James Kelly, Chief Executive of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) – the trade association for the United Kingdom’s private security sector – looks at the benefits of a layered approach to security.

Perimeter security – the first line of defence

Over the last year, we have seen terrorists increasingly use vehicles as their main weapon of attack, with Vehicle Borne Attacks claiming lives in Nice, Berlin, Westminster and most recently, Stockholm. In all of these events, terrorist used their vehicles to attack people in open spaces, highlighting the need for increased Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (HVM) to protect our streets. In terms of protecting buildings, HVM solutions can help protect a premises from being the target of a vehicle-borne threat. According to the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), vehicle-borne threats can range from vandalism to sophisticated or aggressive attack by determined criminals or terrorists. As such, it can be wise to consider installing security barriers outside of a premises in order to prevent such attacks. HVM can come in multiple different forms, including bollards, concrete planters, concrete benches and other physical architecture. Placed suitably, these methods can be extremely effective, so long as careful thought is given to the security and operational requirements of the site, with these requirements being considered at the earliest stages of project design. Other considerations will be around existing infrastructure and utilities, as well as the proximity to points of egress or access, as well as integration with the existing streetscape and how it could impact on pedestrians. There are also standards to be aware of if choosing HVM equipment, providing a quality benchmark as well as guidance for the installation of such products. PAS 68:2013 ‘Impact test specifications for vehicle security barrier systems’, acts as a benchmark for HVM equipment and is the specification against which equipment should be tested. Under the standard, barriers are subjected to a single horizontal impact in order to test their performance, with the equipment needing to meet with an array of performance criteria in order to be granted a classification. PAS 69: 2013, ‘Guidance for the selection, installation and use of vehicle security barrier systems’ is also an essential standard relating to the installation of such equipment.

Perimeter security is often seen as being the first line of defence against an array of threats; when it comes to securing the building itself, the smallest details can make a large difference. Physical security measures can be deployed to restrict access and direct visitor flow through the desired entrance and exit points. Gates, barriers, doors and fences are important methods of perimeter protection, but are only effective if of a high quality. Doors should be fitted with high quality cylinder locks or five-lever mortise locks, and should always comply with PAS 24-1 a standard entitled ‘Doors of Enhanced Security’. This standard sets the minimum requirements that both doors and windows must meet in order to provide an appropriate level of security. The standard ensures that doors and windows are fit for purpose measured by an array of key performance markers, including weather tightness, strength and operation. External doors should be solid in their construction and should not be easily smashed or ripped away from locks, hinges or hinge bolts. Areas not easily secured with lockable doors – such as turnstile entry points – should be covered out of hours with a security grade grille or shutter.

Raising the alarm

As well as employing physical security measures, it can also be wise to install electronic security measures, such as a properly installed intruder alarm, to help protect a premises around the clock. The key purpose of an intruder alarm system is to monitor and detect unauthorised entry to a premises, consequently alerting the police or other response services as first responders and/or authorised people – such as a facilities manager – to attend the property as part of a response plan. An intruder alarm can often incorporate a panic alarm (PA) facility. A panic alarm, which is sometimes referred to as a hold up alarm (HA/HUA), is an electronic device designed to assist in alerting somebody in emergency situations where there is a real threat to a person or property. This could mean alerting the police, local security guards or another response service.

Intruder alarms are often remotely monitored and linked to an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), where trained operators can assess the situation and respond accordingly. Such monitoring can give peace of mind that the property is being closely monitored outside of hours, and if an incident should occur, it will be dealt with. In order to decide which security system is most effective, it is important to undertake a complete risk assessment of the building. The risk assessment must address the specific security risks that are present or foreseen, as this will have a direct impact on the ability of the installed security system to function effectively. In this case, it can be good practice to engage with a security consultant in order to assess the various risks the facility is facing. It can be useful to have an outsider’s perspective in order to identify all of the potential risks; services offered by reputable consultants are vast, including threat and risk assessments, security audits and reviews, crisis management and business continuity planning.

When choosing an alarm system, the monitored intruder alarm must meet with the specific requirements set out by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) in order for a police response to be issued when an alarm is raised. In Scotland, requirements are specified by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS). Such requirements include the fact that the installation of the alarm and the services provided by the installing company must be certified by a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited certification body. When using an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) for monitoring, systems must also comply with either British Standard BS 5979 (cat II) or BS EN 50518 in order to be issued with a Unique Reference Number (URN). Intruder alarm systems issued with a URN will consequently receive a level 1 priority police response, until there have been three false calls – or four in Scotland – within a 12 month rolling period. A level 1 priority police response can provide essential peace of mind that a property will be attended to immediately should an infiltration occur.

It is essential to be aware of British and European standards when procuring a security product or service, ensuring that the security method chosen is of a high quality standard. More information about standards can be found on the BSIA’s website:


Combining electronic and physical methods for a comprehensive security strategy