Facility Security

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Facility Security

Facility security is the protection, and the measures taken toward the protection, of a building or other physical location. Among the components of facility security are access control, or the protection against entry by unauthorized persons, fire detection and suppression, and emergency-response planning. Facility security planning involves both the use of personnel and technology, but though both are important, the quality, training, and trustworthiness of personnel is of greater significance ultimately than the sophistication of the equipment used to protect a facility.

Personnel. Facility security is the business both of government agencies and of private firms. The skills required for facility security work in the public and private sectors are essentially the same, and personnel with experience in one area are usually able to move easily into the other. Not all facility security personnel are the same: the more sensitive the area being guarded, and the more valuable or potentially dangerous its contents, the greater the skills required of the individuals who ensure its security.

One of the thorniest issues of personnel policy in facility security is pay, a factor that involves greater subtlety than initially meets the eye. Although there is not a direct correspondence or correlation between pay and honesty, in general. the higher the pay, the greater the amount of qualifications an employer can demand.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as the federal government began to reconsider the security screening process at airports, many observers questioned the reliability of security personnel.

Qualifications. An effective facility security officer must be of unquestionable honesty and trustworthiness, such that no amount of money or other inducements would be a temptation to betray an employer. The potential officer should expect to undergo background checks, which would typically be intensive on a level commensurate with the sensitivity of the job. These checks may include examination of the individual's financial and credit history; family and domestic history; arrest and police record, as well as other government records on the individual.

Whereas American citizens have a legal expectation of privacy, if not a constitutionally specified "right to privacy," such is not the case for an individual who offers his or her services to guard valuable or sensitive materials.

Beyond these considerations, a facility security officer should be resourceful, and capable of thinking in a non-linear fashion. He or she should be able to consider the possibility that a given action will have more than one possible result, and that a given event may have more than one possible cause. In testing the abilities of facility security personnel for highly sensitive roles, it is not enough that the officer be able to protect his or her facility from invasion: he or she should be capable of penetrating other facilities. Some private firms advertise the fact that their operatives have been able to penetrate supposedly secure buildings.

In a test of post-September 11 building security, government investigators were able to enter four federal buildings in Atlanta using false law enforcement identification equipmenta clear indication that those facilities were not properly protected by the personnel in place. As noted at the time in Security Management, the General Services Administration, which provided security for those federal buildings, was notorious for its low pay and minimal benefits, and this made it difficult to attract highly qualified personnel.

Procedure and equipment. Though the importance of personnel to facility security can hardly be overstated, people are not the only dimension. There are also procedure and equipment, though these can only be used to a degree of effectiveness commensurate with the capabilities of the security staff.

In the realm of procedure, there are necessary steps to be taken when securing areas containing valuable or potentially dangerous materials. It may be deemed wise, for instance, to keep sensitive areas and items as separated as possible, so as to maximize the amount of time and work necessary for an intruder to obtain the goods sought. On the other hand, a facility security plan may call for centralization of sensitive areas so as to maintain a closer watch on those areas.

Equipment may be necessary for access control, surveillance, detection, communication, and incident response. Access control can be as simple as a lock, or as high-tech as biometric scanning devices that read handprints or the iris of an individual's eye. Surveillance equipment usually involves cameras, and may be augmented by motion sensors, alarms, and other forms of equipment for detection.

Personnel must be equipped with devices for communicating with one another, and with a central monitoring station. In the event of a serious security breach or other incident, they should also be able to contact outside services. Communications equipment also aids in incident response, for which a facility security can also prepare with fire suppression items (handheld extinguishers and/or sprinklers installed on site), as well as first aid kits. Incident response, depending on the nature of the facility and the qualifications of the persons guarding it, may also require that personnel be equipped with weapons or defensive equipment such as tear gas.



Kozlow, Christopher, and John P. Sullivan. Jane's Facility Security Handbook. Alexandria, VA: Jane's Information Group, 2000.


Gips, Michael A. "Options Reviewed for Federal Building Security." Security Management 46, no. 7 (July 2002): 14.

Thompson, Cheryl W. "Lawmaker Faults Nuclear Facility Security Policies." Washington Post. (March 25, 2002): A17.

Wolkowitz, Dave. "Facility SecurityPlaying It Safe." Area Development Site and Facility Planning 37, no. 9 (September 2002): 72.


Architecture and Structural Security
Biological and Biomimetic Systems
General Services Administration, United States
Security Clearance Investigations