Here's How Real Security Systems Should Be Designed

Author: Carlton Purvis, Published on Nov 13, 2013

One of the best books in our industry is Mary Lynn Garcia's Design and Evaluation of Physical Protection Systems where she expertly argues for rigorous security designs rather than the all too common technique of throwing up devices and hoping to deter adversaries. In this special interview, we speak with Garcia about her approach and how to practically apply it.

Security System Golden Formula

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****** **********

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Background: **** **** ******

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Comments (8)

I have been a big fan of the book for years, as it is an intellectually rigorous treatment of security design, which is extremely rare.

I still remain unconvinced about how to apply this to 'regular' facilities where the cost or logistical changes to make this work (detect soon enough, delay long enough for response to arrive) is infeasible for most.

That said, I do think the thought process is very valuable when trying to incremental improve systems (whether it's improving detection or looking for ways to delay attackers or using technology to speed up response, etc.).

I'll throw in my "2 cents" as a technology integrator, not just as a security integrator.

As most of us already know, lighting can be a deterrant. One of the technologies we always recommend as part of our overall security strategy is to have some kind of lighting control system respond to alarm systems. Not only does this help to scare away would-be criminals, but it also improves the ability for cameras to capture high-quality images (in a well-lit environment).

I'll illustrate with an example:

One of our clients has had a number of attempted robberies at their shop. We were called in after the second attempt to beef up security. We accomplished this by installing a comprehensive alarm system, a surveillance system, and a lighting control system. While this may seem expensive, the lighting control system consisted of one main processor and one RF light switch that controlled the main lights in the shop.

On the third robbery attempt, the perps smashed the front door glass. The acoustic glass break sensor triggered the alarm, the siren turned on, and the lights came on. The cameras were able to record the premises with full light, at 3 am, and the perp ran off with nothing.

Daniel, that's good feedback and underscores one of the tensions between the formula for maximum security facilities and 'regular' ones.

In maximum security ones, it is reasonable to assume that deterrence will not be enough and that if someone does choose to attack, that the attack must be stopped (i.e., terrorists trying to blow up a nuclear power plant) because the results are too catastrophic to accept.

However, in 'regular' ones, like your shop, deterrence does have value plus the owner is likely willing to accept some theft occurring rather than adding more severe / significant security measures that would be hard to economically justify.

Daniel and John, this may sound like a small point, but I would classify the activation of lighting as a a response action, rather than a deterrent. A deterrent would have prevented the attempt in the first place. The lighting was activated in response to the attempt, and in this case the total response was fully effective.

A few years ago I met a laundromat owner, who that year had bought a laundromat in a not-so-good neighborhood. He was new in our country, and it was one of the few businesses he could afford.

He installed a single PTZ camera and loudspeaker, electronic door control, all with remote control from his smart phone. The camera's home position was a wide view, but he could zoom in on faces if need be. Every time the door opened, he'd be alerted.

If some troublemakers appeared on the scene, over the loudspeaker he'd say something like, "Hey you in the blue jacket, you and your friends are on camera and if you don't leave, security and the police will be here momentarily. We already have your pictures."

He could spin the camera to look out the window, and if the troublemakers were still hanging around, he'd lock the door and make his calls.

This was an under-$1,000 system, but effective. At night he'd keep the door locked when customers were inside. They could let themselves out, or push a doorbell to alert him. The doorbell was also a customer service feature.

WIthin three months of his purchasing the business, it was booming—whereas it was dying before due to customers feeling unsafe. The previous trouble with vandalism was eliminated.

He now owns a number of similar laundromats, a success made possible by implementing security and service features that were "just right" for his business locations and customers.

John is right about the financial challenge faced by "regular" businesses. Customers must understand the security risks, and designers must understand the specifics of the business, in order to come up with an acceptable and effective solution.

Great article and topic!

Ray, that is a good story, but I think an uncommon circumstance where the owner is willing and able to dedicate his full time attention, remotely or while there, at almost any hour of the day. Certainly not a sustanaible solution as his business grows, unless he has enough trusted (often family) associates to help out.

Daniel

That's a good plan of attack for a small business which I have never seen implemented on my end of Law Enforcement other than a few high risk government and military sites. I would say that the addition of the light trigger is simple and used so little to never in the general business community that the shock value among common crooks is quite high.

Maybe not seen in the business community much but both my neighbors have some sort of light trigger on their property.

I know only because they will go off (on!) a hundred times a night during a severe thunderstorm, thereby causing the motion detection of my system to trigger a hundred events as well.

I'm afraid of implementing a camera based lighting trigger myself because of the fear of starting some sort of lighting feedback oscillation...

I'm almost not joking about that last bit.

C

the ability to trigger lights to turn on with an alarm is easier now than ever before... many alarm companies have integrated zwave into the panels making it easier for the installer to provide the feature... tbis can be done by changing out an existing switch or adding a plug in module... this is typically less expensive than the previous way of having an electrician connect a relay into a lighting circuit...

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