The consultative approach

Assa Abloy’s Lester LaPierre discusses the steps to installing a comprehensive access control system

As a professional security integrator, it’s only a matter of time before you receive the ultimate compliment from one of your customers when they say, ‘we need a new access control system and want you to design and implement it for us.’ Yet, along with that vote of confidence comes a huge dose of responsibility. Here is a comprehensive blueprint for how to move through the process efficiently and ensure that the client gets the best possible system to meet their specific requirements. Putting together a comprehensive access control system is far from a one-person job. To do it correctly requires the input of numerous experts, including:

• Architectural consultants who can assist with developing guideline specifications that establish product standards for your customer and are written to Construction Specification Institute MasterFormat Division 8 and 28 systems specifications.

• Electro-mechanical specialists who can provide product demonstrations of the latest advanced locking solutions, such as those that incorporate WiFi communications or power over Ethernet technologies.

• Vertical market specialists who can assist with your visits to K-12, campus and university, or healthcare accounts. They can conduct site surveys and audits to ensure compliance to building and fire codes and provide an evaluation and report of the mechanical operation of all openings.

• Brand ‘champions’ who are available to choose from familiar names like Corbin Russwin, SARGENT and Yale. They also know the codes from the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) to ensure the selected hardware is rated for the traffic loads and operational characteristics expected from the owner and occupants.

Listen to your customer

To begin with, find out what the customer expects from the installation. What’s their five year plan? What’s their short-, mid- and long-term vision for their access control system? Is it based on open standards, like 802.11b/g or 802.3af, for the most affordable infrastructure? What type of credentials are they using? How many are issued? What type of format are they using?

Observe your customer

Essentially, you’re trying to find out about the culture at your customer’s location. It can range from an open, accommodating environment to one with strict and limiting access control. Consider convenience versus security and make both part of the plan. The challenge is to create procedures and rules that balance these two disparate goals. During your observation, did you notice the employees holding doors open for each other? If so, how are they able to verify their current employment status? Did they open the door for persons carrying large packages? Did they bother to check their IDs? Did visitors sign in at the reception desk? Were they escorted by staff members? Ask this and more.

Conduct a site survey and security audit

Taking a walk through the customer’s facilities is a prerequisite toward developing a comprehensive access control plan. Here are a few things to look for during your travels:

Mechanical security--If the openings aren’t mechanically secure, any additional funds spent on electronic access control are wasted. Some things to address include looking at the specific keying system they use. Find out if it is a patented, high-security type and ask when they last time they re-cored or re-keyed the locks.

Identify assets and value--Many consider assets to be tangible items that can be sold for quick cash. Assets include anything that someone might want to steal or destroy and range drastically from site to site and customer to customer. The important thing to remember is to put a price tag on the loss of the asset, plus the cost of lost productivity and potential liability that could result from the loss.

Identify the threat--Consider your customer’s surroundings. Have the surroundings changed or do you notice any graffiti or other evidence of gang activity? See if there is an increase in shuttered businesses around the area as the effects of the economic downturn spread. If so, perhaps an increase in perimeter security is in order.

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