Bridging the Security Gap

Protecting the nation’s iconic bridges

Interdepartmental input during design and involvement in the equipment evaluation and testing is essential. This buy-in process among stakeholders frequently uncovers unknown operational interdependencies that can cripple even the most promising and proficient security technology.

The importance of coordinating potential technology applications among various bridge stakeholder entities cannot be overstated. Everyone needs to clearly understand what each technology is capable of, what it is designed to do and how it is integrated with other systems and why. One important rule of thumb when designing systems with multiple technologies: “The usability and effectiveness of each individual system should become better with the integration of each additional subsystem.”

More and more sophisticated technologies require specialized training and use of proprietary graphical interfaces to achieve the full benefit of these products. For more advanced systems, it is necessary to delve further into what specific integration capabilities these systems possess and how to best take advantage of the synergies. For many manufacturers, executing non-disclosure agreements may be necessary to gain access to the detailed integration schemes, command sets and code linkages. Only after reviewing this advanced information can designers fully understand what these systems are capable of from an integration standpoint and how best to accomplish the desired synergy.

Deploying too much of the wrong technology or technologies that do not work well together can place additional unnecessary risk on protectors of critical assets. It is incumbent on every security technology stakeholder to remain fully aware that advanced technology deployment is a significant responsibility that affects a great number of stakeholders indefinitely.

Lessons Learned

Know what you don’t know. Believe what you see, not what you hear or read.

Bandwidth calculators and storage estimators are nice tools for concept discussions but there is no substitute for real-world field testing and commissioning of equipment and systems. Do not rely on confirming e-mails or letters from manufacturers on what their systems are capable of or what they are willing to do to make their system work with others. Do not limit your thinking to current conditions, but rather anticipate what the future may bring. Complement your systems to operational and physical measures and predict the impact your systems will have on others.

No matter how much advanced technology is deployed and how well it works, ultimately it is the people who are the difference between an effective technology application and one that creates more problems than it solves.

James R. Black, CPP, PSP, CSC, CET, serves as senior security consultant for TRC Solutions’ Irvine, Calif., office. Over the past 15 years, Mr. Black has assessed threats and designed security systems for the nation’s critical infrastructures. He holds numerous security licenses and regularly writes and lectures about current and emerging security technologies. He can be reached at