ISJ Exclusive: The value of security and testing

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Peter Jackson, Managing Director at Jacksons Fencing discusses the common challenges faced by security experts surveyed in the firm’s latest report.

Perimeter security planning and design are too often treated as an afterthought. Our latest research into security in the UK found that a proactive approach to security planning is only taken by half of companies with security experts. Matt Brittle, Head of Security, Risk and Resilience at WSP UK Ltd., highlighted businesses’ inability to appreciate the value of security: “It’s a huge challenge and this means security still isn’t integral to building design.”

Almost half of the security experts surveyed said their employers were either ‘passive’, ‘indifferent’ or even ‘ignorant’ in their approach to security, despite 22% believing compromised physical security could result in ‘severe’ consequences such as loss of life or major disruption.

Without a structured and systematic approach to security design, relatively minor mistakes can escalate, leading to injury or loss of life. Only when architects, specifiers and most importantly, businesses fully understand and appreciate the true value of security can it be implemented effectively.

The SABRE standard, recently developed by BRE Global, seeks to address this issue by providing planners, architects and end users with a framework against which to measure the management of security risks in the built environment. Much like the BREEAM standard for sustainability, SABRE rewards those who adopt a systematic, risk based and transparent approach to security design, where all stakeholders understand the merits of project security and the future operational needs of a building are documented and understood. Certification to one of the five ratings within the SABRE standard is a visible indicator of a project team’s commitment to the issue of security.

Budgeting for security

Ken Graham, of the Association of Security Consultants, sums up one of the major barriers to appropriate security measures: “A massive chunk of organisations out there don’t recognise risks and will only begrudgingly spend money.”

76% of architects believe budget constraints lead to cutting corners with physical security. Factoring in risk-appropriate, sustainable physical security early on can actually cost less in the long run than make-do solutions. Lower upfront costs rarely pay off in the medium and long-term when maintenance, repair and the cost of security breaches are considered. Architects also state that budget restrictions are their greatest challenge when designing for security purposes.

Consultants, manufacturers and professional bodies

While financial factors have a major impact in designing safe places, there are other challenges faced by those looking to design and commission physical security solutions. Our research found that one in five architects say their clients’ ignorance of potential risks and threats are a real problem when designing security solutions. While the government is understandably reluctant to overdramatise risks, there is valuable information not reaching those involved in security planning and design.

Industry bodies need to continue investing in raising the profile of security standards and certifications to make sure that risks, threats and the availability of certified products are communicated clearly and that key audiences have grasped the message. Our research found that architects cite lack of information on security standards (24%) and clients’ lack of understanding of the product (23%) as challenges. This suggests that manufacturers and suppliers need to be better at educating and supporting not only specifiers, but also their clients.

Unfavourable media attention, reputation protection and the blame culture mean that security measures are often a knee-jerk reaction taken without proper planning and based primarily on an emotional response. Businesses and specifiers need to transition to a more considered and proactive approach using objective and logical professional assessment.

“I see more mundane threats, such as theft and burglary, than terrorism,” says Ken Graham, “but [security consultants] are having to make sure places, whether they’re schools, factories or museums, are secure and people within are safe.”

Testing situations

Demonstrating the reality of risks and threats is one of the most compelling ways to communicate the importance of effective physical security. Even for those already employing security solutions, it’s not always possible to know if those measures work until they are tested, which could be too late.

Certification to standards, such as LPS 1175, PAS68 and IWA14 through independent bodies such as LPCB, demonstrate a product meets the security performance and other related criteria set out within that standard, whether in terms of resistance to manual forced entry (LPS 1175) or vehicle impact (PAS68/IWA14).

David Rubens, Executive Director of the Institute of Strategic Risk Management, advises anyone wanting to model a complex crisis environment to “do it right with a consultant”, but despite the benefits, we found that as many as 20% of companies have never tested their security.

Security simulations and tabletop exercises are important processes which can help businesses appreciate the value of physical security. Workshops such as Project Argus/ACT Strategic offer a “real-life” experience of, for example, a terrorist attack, offering those responsible for security a chance to experience and assess a situation. Participants can watch a situation unfold and then assess the response, seeing in real time how people act, where the building is vulnerable and how effective security measures are.

Physical penetration tests can also help specifiers and risk and security experts to make informed and effective decisions. Currently, 46% of security professionals surveyed run simulations, 38% bring in experts, 37% undertake penetration testing and 30% use crisis modelling. However, while almost half of our sample are running simulations, it is not a panacea; physical security needs continual investment, maintenance and analysis to ensure that the current solution is right for today’s threats and in anticipation of those in the future.

Our study also found that a fifth of companies don’t test their security measures at all, perhaps under the impression that the worst will never happen to them.

Jacksons Fencing
Peter Jackson, Managing Director, Jacksons Fencing

Thinking long-term

In a perfect world, security solutions shouldn’t be driven by media pressure, isolated events or budget constraints; in line with best practice, decisions should be made with a long term strategic viewpoint, utilising the knowledge and experience of specialist experts, industry bodies and comprehensive risk analysis.

In order to effect change, security will need to be considered on equal standing with other factors such as sustainability. Without embedding security at the earliest stages of the design process, projects risk poorly implemented security measures, inappropriate budget, corner cutting and increased costs in the future.

For an organisation determined to cut costs, there are numerous examples of the consequences of removing funding for or reducing security; the London Bridge attack stands as a reminder that the value of adequate security measures far outweighs any cost or other concerns.

This article was published in the May edition of International Security Journal. To view more industry insight and analysis, register for your complimentary digital subscription on the link here

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