Advice-06b - Securing your equipment - part 2

A practical guide to cost effective security measures ...contd

Locking Methods & Keying Options

For the purposes of this guide, locks can be separated into padlocks and other locking mechanisms.

Padlocks offer a flexible and convenient form of locking for some applications, but the quality of padlocks typically employed with cable or chain based equipment security systems offer little real protection against the determined thief, and even worse, some units (such as three tumbler combination locks) actually encourage even disinterested parties to try to crack the combination!

Locking mechanisms vary enormously in terms of cost, quality and security features. A good lock will offer a significant number of key differs (i.e. a minimum of 10,000 key differs being produced as standard, with many more differs possible), whilst cheaper locks may well only offer 50 - 200 differs (even less in the case of some locks sourced from the Far East). Most quality locks are available with an anti drill option which is a worthwhile investment for the small additional cost.

Each lock will normally be supplied to operate from its own individual key pattern (although the smaller the number of key differs available for the lock, the greater the chance of duplication where multiple locks are used). To ease the problem of key management where many locking units are involved, locks can be supplied in "Keyed Alike" (keyed to pass) suites where all locks within the suite operate from a common key pattern.

High quality locks are also normally available with "Master Keyed" facilities where within a suite of locks, each lock operates from its own unique key pattern, but all locks can also be operated by one master key. Whilst such keying options may seem attractive, there is obviously a security risk to be considered in selecting the keyed alike which could result in many items of equipment being put at risk in the event of the loss, theft or duplication of a single strategic key.

To save on costs and simplify stock management, some suppliers use only one or two key patterns to meet all requests for keyed alike lock suites thus seriously compromising security levels, whilst more responsible suppliers will advocate a balance between security and simplified key management and will probably recommend that a keyed alike suite should be restricted to 10 - 20 locks at most. Keys must always be stored safely - a key cabinet offers an inexpensive & convenient method of storage.

Smoke Generating Systems

The use of smoke in warfare to obscure a target for instance is well known, however there are now commercial systems on the market which can be used to generate a dense blanket of smoke to protect equipment and other items of value against theft (thieves can't steal what they can't see!). There is no doubt that such systems can be very effective, especially for protecting equipment store rooms, etc. These systems are however not appropriate for all locations and could be potentially dangerous unless carefully planned and professionally installed. Quality components, careful location, failsafe mechanisms / isolator switches, notification of interested parties (Fire Brigade, Police, Alarm Companies), etc., are all fundamental to a safe installation.

Local Alarm Systems

The main function of an alarm is to alert someone to the fact that something is wrong and that some form of action is required. The availability of someone to "Take Action" is often a factor overlooked when deciding to install ad hoc alarm protection. Used correctly Alarm products offer a real benefit, however professional thieves are unlikely to be deterred by such devices and are often able to immobilise such units quickly. By law all alarms must self terminate within a maximum of 20 minutes although quality alarms will be designed to immediately rearm themselves again after resetting and may re-trigger should the sensor(s) be re-activated. Local Alarm systems fall into three general categories:

          Local entry warning alarms
          Loop alarm systems
          Alarms installed in or on equipment

Local entry warning alarms

Many free standing door / window alarms are available which are typically triggered either by some form of contact being broken (i.e. a magnetic contact or reed switch), or alternatively by sensing movement, heat or vibration (some units incorporate more than one form of sensor to eliminate the possibility of false alarms). Local alarm units are normally battery powered, are typically stuck or screwed to a door or window frame, and emit a piercing oscillating siren in the 100 - 130 db range when triggered. Door alarms can be set to announce visitors with a gentle chime, many incorporate a delay trigger feature which may for instance be used to alert staff to the fact that fire doors have been left open. Control mechanisms normally involve either physical key operation, or codes entered via a numeric keypad. (Warning - many low cost units incorporate low grade components and may be prone to early failure)

 

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