What's the Key to Your Security?

Whether you're building a new facility or upgrading an existing one, the most difficult security challenge is to provide the appropriate type of access. The demands of educational facilities can be especially complex. You must make areas accessible to those who need them, while offering a fully integrated locking system that meets each security objective for each sector of the facility with an appropriate locking segment.

To create a functional system for the full facility, you must create an overall security plan and then consider how a number of different critical elements can work together to provide a secured integrated locking system.

Through a clear understanding of each of these critical elements and the use of a cross-referenced table — like the Facilities Security Worksheet shown here — you can simplify your decision-making process and feel confident in your choices of locking devices.

Meeting Security Objectives

First and foremost, occupants today want to be assured that while they are in a building, their safety has been provided for. As a result, educational institutions have made it a high priority to establish and meet the security objectives of the building's occupants.

The more clearly the building’s future occupant's security objectives are outlined, the more thoroughly you can determine ways to meet those objectives. From the outset, you must also be aware that different parts of a facility can have different security objectives.

Six security objectives are generally considered in developing an integrated system for a building or a multi-building facility:

1. Authorized Access. This is the highest level of security, authorizing access to a specified area only to selected individuals. Access is granted only those individuals who have the proper identification and who have been issued a key, token or access card. Such an area can be as small as a closet or a room, or it can encompass a full building.

2. Key Control. This refers to an accurate accounting of all keys within a system. Maintaining such control is recognized as one of the most important elements within a secured locking system.

3. User Friendly. This is the most common and accessible locking device. Does not require any special knowledge to gain access when locked. Key blanks and locking components are readily available through all distribution channels.

4. Serviceable. Service to the locking component accomplished by individuals with locksmithing skills. Service does not require an alarm license or any electrical knowledge.

5. Audit Trail. Confirmed usage of all transactions. Each time access to a secured area is granted or denied, it is documented.

6. Time Zones. Time limited access. Access into designated areas is allowed during specific times only.

Once those security objectives have been established, you must consider how you will meet them. It means assessing the features of the locking device for each door in a building. Certain locking devices can meet more than one security objective, depending on the type of security required for each sector.

Establishing Security Sectors

Your overall objective is to provide the highest level of security possible, while allowing each department to function smoothly. That means you must determine the necessary level of access for each door by identifying the relationship of this sector to the overall security plan of the entire building and/or campus.

Some of the most common sectors in a building include:

Perimeter. Traditionally, the“building envelop" including all exterior doors, roof surfaces, gates and fences, and adjacent buildings.

Operations. Sensitive areas crucial to daily operation (such as physical plant, engineering and the lock shop).

Management. Various departments that are vital for daily business activities — primarily administration, information technology, and finance. Since these areas frequently are visited by members of the public, internal integration with controlled access to the public is a must.

Services. Services (restrooms, medical treatment areas, housekeeping, foodservice, retail space, etc.) for students, faculty, staff members, and visitors while they are on the premises. While occupants expect convenient and easy access to these services, security must be ensured at all times.

Applications. From classrooms and multipurpose rooms to dorm-room entry doors, each has their own security needs. The ability to separate unique applications that require different security objectives and the awareness of who will access them will be important when selecting the appropriate locking device.

For each of these sectors, access hardware solutions can vary from mechanical cylinders to integrated electronics.

Selecting the Appropriate Locking Segments

Since today's security objectives require each security sector to have a unique responsibility, it has become increasingly difficult to meet all a building's security needs with just one locking segment. You can select the appropriate locking device for a sector and for the doors within that sector only after you identify the security objectives for each door within each sector.

Once you have identified the requirements of each sector, you can consider the advantages of the various available locking segments:

Patented Locking System: The most secure mechanical cylinder and keys. Incorporates a patented security feature that provides restricted access to system components through authorized distribution channels.

Authorized Access Control: The highest level of security for stand-alone locking devices. Authorizes access to selected individuals within specified time periods. Access is granted with a key, card or token. All usage transactions are confirmed and audited. Security is assured through authorized and certified distribution channels.

Integrated Electronics: A centralized facilities management system capable of managing security and access control functions for multiple doors. Electrical locking components interface with multi-door controllers and switches to meet the security and access control needs. Systems support and services require highly trained personnel, and maintenance usually requires an alarm and low voltage license.

Mechanical Cylinders: The most common type of cylinder, providing the lowest level of physical security. Requires a minimum of knowledge to re-key and service. Availability and access to service items is non-restrictive.

Determining Access through Master Keying

At educational facilities, one of the most popular and effective ways of determining who can gain access to a sector is by master keying — used with the cylinders of a Mechanical Cylinder System or a Patented Locking System. The master keying system fulfills many facilities’ requirements for user-friendly access, ease of service and specified access limitations. It allows you to determine the level of access which will be granted to teachers, staff, students service personnel and the general public by issuing of a key that will operate only designated cylinders.

Master keying requires that you give special consideration to the locking segment’s level of access for each sector. Then by using industry-recognized symbols that identify master keying requirements, you can determine how the cylinder for each sector is to be pinned and how the cylinder fits within the overall master key lay out.

Within a master keyed system, the types of keys and cylinders that grant access at varying levels of security are designated by industrywide master keyed symbols. For example,

    • The cylinder's change key, the key which is given to authorized personnel for their own daily use — designated by“AA1,” “AB1”, (etc.).

    • Master keys, generally given to top-management or supervisory personnel — designated, “AA,” “AB,” (etc.).

    • Top master keys, recommended for distribution only to senior management — “A” (Grand Master), “GMK” (Great Grand Master), (etc.).

    • Special purpose cylinders/keys that have specific uses — “SKD1” (Single Keyed). A cylinder with this designation cannot be operated by any other key in the system, including master keys.

    • Special maintenance/combination cylinders — designated “MAINT.” (Maintenance) together with another symbol. For example, “AA1-Maint” indicates a cylinder can be operated by the cylinder’s change key, master key and maintenance key.

    Controlling the KEY to your Security

    No matter how carefully you plan your security system, its ultimate success in practice will be determined by two factors: 1) the provider of your system and 2) the administrator of the system.

    System Providers. Finding the right system provider is as important as selecting the appropriate locking segment and security objective for each sector. Not all distribution channels for locking systems are the same. The locking segment you choose will determine the type of distribution and the system provider for that segment.

    In many cases, more then one system provider is needed to fulfill the requirements of a secured system. Since each locking segment requires its own specialized knowledge and servicing techniques, it is unlikely that one system provider will be able to furnish all four of the different locking systems you may need.

    Moreover, after developing a detailed plan with specifications for each door, you will frequently find that there are two system providers who can provide the same locking segment. The choice of which provider to use may be determined by the systems administrator or by the specific terms of the facility’s security plan. Or the choice may fall to the architect.

    The architect is responsible for contract documents, including project specifications, which identify the type of locking devices that will be supplied. When the facility's security plan or system administrator does not implement a building's locking system and does not communicate requirements to the architect, the architect is free to make the final selections — including the selection of provider.

    No matter who makes the choice of provider, it is important to remember that the provider you used yesterday is not necessarily the right one today. As technology becomes more and more advanced, and as the number of available locking segments increases, you may need to review the capabilities of current providers. In particular, to maintain your system's integrity, two service elements are critical — certified training of service personnel and the availability of those individuals to your system.

    That means you should ask to see a copy of systems provider’s Security Policy, and verify that the policy is upheld by asking for references from other systems which they are currently servicing. If the provider is an authorized distributor for the locking segment, ensure that the manufacturer from whom the provider is purchasing systems components maintains a similar Security Policy. You will be required to furnish this supplier with authorization to receive systems information, and — unless the system components are shipped directly to you — for the supplier to receive products on your behalf.

    Systems Administrators. Once you have identified and implemented all the elements of a secured locking system, you must give each administrator the authority to manage the disciplines of the system — issuing keys, access-control tokens or cards; policing unauthorized cut keys; auditing key holders, etc.

    However, a bigger task still remains — education There are good reasons for the common phrase, “Educate or Tolerate.”

    Unless structure or disciplines are established, the integrity of your carefully developed security plans are easily jeopardized. That is why it is so important to educate the systems administrators, who are typically members of the educational facility’s Operations staff.

    In particular, the heart of a secured locking system is key control. Unless the ownership of each key, card or token is carefully tracked, the risk of unauthorized access runs high. Part of the educational process at most educational facilities is helping the systems administrator choose and implement one of the many computer-based systems that provide a method of tracking these access-items — from a simple spreadsheet format to an elaborate software-based system.

    Continuous Updating

    Once such a system is in place and all users of the system are educated in how the security system functions, day-to-day operations should go smoothly. Administrators, faculty, staff, students and the public should be assured that their safety is guarded.

    But even then, your job is not finished. You must continue to recognize that there is a heightened awareness of security in all systems today. You must also be aware of new security products being introduced to meet the needs of educational facilities. Knowing that such changes are constantly going to occur, it is your job to continue to play a role on the facility's security team and make recommendations for improvements to your system whenever they are called for.

    Like the world of education, in the fast-changing world of security systems, no system is ever complete.

    Lee A. Garver, AHC (Architectural Hardware Consultant), is a technical expert in cylinders and keys with Yale Security Group, who conducts certification programs on Master Keying and Systems Design. He has extensive experience in the design and implementation of systems for educational facilities — from university campuses to elementary schools.