Emergency Access Control: How Do I Account For Everyone?

A member is asking about how to account for everyone in an emergency. This falls under the general topic of mustering.

Specifically, though, they will not require everyone to badge out normally so there is a risk that some people will go unaccounted for but will be fine (e.g., they went home early, they had an off-site appointment, etc.).

So what ways can you ensure that you account for everyone exiting a building in case of an emergency?


RFID Tags with the ID Cards and RFID Gates at entrances and exists?

And of course a systems to read all that.

Ps: I agree you could use analytics but that will miss someone eventually. =)

Until tailgating is eradicated, the PACS will remain porous and an accurate muster will not be achievable through access control reporting. While the systems in place may not be able to report “who” is still in the building with absolute accuracy, a network of simple PIRs would be able to report that “somebody” was still inside (assuming they are moving and within PIR range).

To work reliably, a mustering system requires the use of "in" and "out" card readers as well as some form of tailgating control (such as a turnstile of revolving door) at every facility entrance or exit point. Even then, you have to find a way to deal with points such as overhead doors where employees can enter or exit improperly. Very few clients, except maybe those at exceptionally high-risk facilities, have the appetite to spend this kind of money or subject their employees to this kind of hassle.

A true "presence" detection system, where the location of every employee can be positively tracked within a facility has long been the holy grail of the security world. I have seen many systems that claim to be able to do this, but none that are actually practical for use in a commercial or industrial environment.

Michael, thanks!

Considering that accuracy is critical, if it cannot deliver that accuracy, what is the point of using mustering at all?

I agree completely. I would rather not have a situation where emergency responders failed to search a building because an inaccurate system told them that everyone was already out.

This is another area where sellers of access control systems sometimes misrepresent the capabilities of their wares, if not intentionally, by failing to correct the false assumptions of their customers. For example, I have seen many cases where an end-user was under the impression that their system would tell them "who entered and exited the building and when" despite the fact that their system did not use exit card readers or have any type of anti-tailgating measures in place.

I agree with the feedback that Mustering can be practically useless if poorly implemented.

At its core, Access Control is just a big database. As with any database, garbage in = garbage out with regards to collected data.

To the original post: If the customer wants infallible data, they have to support it with more rigid engineering controls. Otherwise, perhaps comparing records of which cars are logged in the parking lots vs. which badges have been scanned in to doors/where can provide some granularity of who is onsite and where, but it is going to be approximate and nothing better.

To Ricardo's point above about RFID tags with ID cards, how feasible is that to solve this problem?

RFID is a category, not a specific solution. Common contactless cards use passive RFID, so adding another RFID system to the system does not guarantee anything.

Even long range RFID systems (more than 10 inches away) have a pretty narrow detection area, and they aren't able to read more than a very small number of chips at once, perhaps two or three and that's it.

In an emergency situation, you can easily have tens of people crashing through an opening in a quick panic. I would not trust (without digging deeper) a manufacturer that claims they make a reader that can passively read many chips at once from even just a few feet away.

What about a mustering system that incorporated an automated phone call / text message to everyone who had not carded in? Like the verification messages you get from your bank, you could send these out and if people were ok but simply away from the building, they could quickly confirm / verify that they are fine.

Currently our thoughts are to include with our access card system (currently Prox Cards), continue withthis and add RFID readers on both sides of each door way (in / out), and small RFID stickers to each prox card. Or through research we also know that HID is planning on releasing new smart cards with built in RFID in mid JAN.

The problem is how to program the system to do the following:

Assuming reader #1 is in and reader #2 is out. We need the system to do the following:

If reader #1 first and Reader #2 second ignor #2.

If reader #2 first and reader #1 second ignor #1.

This will then give us the true picture of who left the building and who did not.

Accurate mustering reports is the access control equivalent of object left behind in video analytics.

Both of them sound easy and achievable, especially to a person with a basic (but not in-depth) understanding of the related technologies.

A big problem with mustering (IMO) is that in a true emergency situation you really can't count on people to take ANYTHING with them. Phones, wallets, access cards, etc. The more people you have in the building, the higher the probability that you have some number of persons that come out with "only the shirt on their back". There is also the possibility that the emergency situation renders some or all cameras, access readers, PIRs, etc. inoperable.

Much like object left behind, it becomes a sitution that you can mock up for a demo, and achieve "in a perfect world", but it will never be reliable enough that you can 100% count on the system to provide the information it was intended to provide 100% of the time.

IMO, it's the kind of thing that if it can't be relied upon 100% it's practically valueless. The stakes are too high to let people get lazy and trust the system.

Almost no system is 100%. Currently we have a very time consuming paper based accountability system. However even this is not 100%. So We know no system is 100%. However we want to at least get to an electronic solution that will provide the following:

1. Streamelined

2. Timely

3. 80-90% solution

Honest question, what is an "80-90% solution"?

Accounting for ~85% of all employees?

Accounting for ~85% of all employees known to have been in the building today?

Knowing that ~85% of desried persons checked in at their muster point?

Knowing that ~85% of desried persons passed an exit checkpoint at least once?

What about the "missing" 10-20%? They're accounting for manually? Are considered a rounding error? Something else?

The 80 - 90 % solution would be accounting for the known individuals. Employees and contractors. The unknowns I can't account for and never have been able to.

  • Delivery personnel
  • Visitors - who have not passed by a secure check point to be badged in.
  • contractors - who have not passed by a secure check point to be badged in.

And keep in mind the 80 - 90 % was a random percentage choosen. No actual calculations were performed to come up with an accual number or percentage.

The intent is to replace the paper accounability for the 1500 - 1700 employees, and contractors on any given day with an automated one. There are folks such as mentioned about that will constantly be an unknown. This facility will house the HR - applicant processing and interviewing function for the company. There will also be a bank on the ground floor of one of the buildings and this is open to the public.

We are implementing a similar system with in/out readers. We print on demand of 2 separate lists. The first list is admin staff who are "in", the second list is correctional officers who are "in". We also add the entry time in the list to help identifying someone who left without carding out - determined manually by checking the duration since entry. The reason we split the list is admin staff are expected to leave while the officers are expected to stay and deal with the situation. Visitors/contractors are monitored with "visitor" cards and the correlation to names is a paper sign-in sheet for now. We have it easy in that there is one primary entry to a prison and one secondary delivery/sally port. We can also recall and review the entrance area video if necessary.

Tailgating should be minimal as the entry is controlled with metal detectors, x-rays, etc. No bypass for employees.

Where I work we have a low tech solution. Every floor has a fire marshall who is responsible for clearing the floor in case of an emergency. Hanging on the wall outside his/her office there is a cricket bat (don't ask where the suggestion for that particular item came from, I have no idea) that they are to carry when clearing the floor. It is also there so that if that person is absent during the emergency then somebody else is designated to do the floor clearing.

I know this will not work in larger offices, but it has worked well during all of our drills. YMMV.