Electronic security for government facilities

Security in classified and sensitive areas should meet several requirements

Planning is critical for all electronic security systems, but it is most important for high-security applications that must comply with special requirements - which describes many government facilities. Requirements handed down by the government or code requirements make the funding for an electronic security system easier to obtain, but often those requirements make the electronics more complex and sophisticated.

Each classified government area has a specific level of security it must meet - the higher the level of classification, the more stringent the requirements become. Each level of classification will not be specifically addressed here - instead the focus will be on typical concerns and issues for electronic security systems in a government setting that can be resolved with a solid, well-thought-out plan to meet a given set of requirements.

High-security, government-classified areas must typically incorporate the following requirements:

- Security-in-Depth;
- Sound emission control;
- Limited access;
- Documentation of personnel movement; and
- Detection of unauthorized access.

There is not a single solution that works in every application, but various approaches can be used to ensure the desired results. Since each classified area is unique, so too will be the electronic security system for that specific installation.


Security-in-Depth is an official designation that a given facility's security program consists of layered and complementary security controls sufficient to deter and detect unauthorized entry and movement within the facility. Examples include the use of perimeter fences, employee and visitor access controls, use of an intrusion detection system, random guard patrols throughout the facility during non-working and working hours, and closed circuit video monitoring or other safeguards that mitigate the vulnerability of unalarmed storage areas and security storage cabinets during non-working hours.

This layered approach is sometimes referred to as the "onion" design. As you peel away the various layers of the onion you get closer and closer to the center.

The layers usually start at the property line. The first layer of security starts at the site perimeter. Security measures here typically include access control - which would encompass a fence that must comply with certain standards, gates for vehicles and pedestrians, etc. The buildings typically have limited access, which is controlled by an electronic access control system, and/or security personnel.

Video surveillance measures should also be deployed, monitoring traffic, vehicle license plates, even the perimeter of the facility and visitor/employee faces. Cameras should be running at all times, and they must be properly placed to ensure operation in various light levels and the desired field-of-view. They should be strategically placed to view the various entrances and critical areas, such as docks, power substations, etc.

The second layer is added around the interior of the facility. A third layer might be at various areas inside the building. There may even be more layers of security - if the buildings contain highly classified security areas that contain compartmentalized, higher-security space within them.

Controlling Sound Emissions

Sound emissions refer to the ability to stand outside the classified area and be able to hear what is being said within the classified area.

The actual requirement will state a certain decibel level (db) that sound within the area must be attenuated. The scale uses a base-10 logarithmic scale, similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes. Each number change on the Richter scale means that the earthquake is ten times as strong. On the db scale, every 3db reduction is 1/2 the power or sound level.

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