Tips for mass transit security

When the conversation turns to convergence, IP cameras and NVRs, it’s easy to see why even the most experienced transit security director would look for a proven, professional systems integrator when the time comes for a new installation or system upgrade.

But how do you go about selecting one? The Internet? Yellow Pages? A security directory? Any of these might work, but then again, they might not.

Selecting a quality, experienced integrator is crucial to getting the job done correctly the first time and saving money in the long run. Many transit agencies have to follow highly structured bidding procedures that ultimately lead to working with a low-bidder.

However, most bid processes allow for the rejection of disqualified providers. And a provider that has never met the special needs of a bus, subway or train system may be a dangerous choice.

An alternative to the bidding process is offered by organizations such as the National Joint Powers Alliance. The member-owned NJPA establishes and provides nationally leveraged and competitively solicited purchase contracts between municipal agencies and suppliers across many industries, including security.

But before going with the standard bid process or the NJPA, carefully check out your potential partners for a security project. Ask for references from other transit agencies and, if possible, ask to and see the integrator’s work. Make sure they are Safety Act certified.

As physical and logical security converge, your IT people will become more and more involved with any decisions related to security. Make certain the integrator and/or staff has experience working with an IT department. Then once you have made a selection be sure to set up means for regular communication.

Try to avoid multiple contacts. Rather than dealing with several people on the integrator’s staff, ask to have one representative — ideally the project manager — to contact. You should demand regular updates that include information about milestones being met and problems or potential snags that may affect the ultimate timing or cost of the project.

It is reasonable to expect that the integrator’s staff will work in a manner that causes as little disruption to your employees and passengers as possible. If the job requires the use of subcontractors, the integrator should handle all interactions with those other workers. At the end of the day you only want one throat to choke and a reduction in the layered complexity of dealing with multiple project entities.

The relationship with the integrator does not end when the last camera has been hung or the final monitor connected. The integrator should provide training on the new equipment and ongoing support. And since buses and trains operate during the night and on weekends and holidays, so should your integrator. If all or part of your security system crashes, you need repairs immediately – not the next morning or on the next business day.

Follow these basic recommendations and you should be able to connect with a competent and experienced systems integrator that will help make your employees and passengers safer and more secure.

(Larry Mays is group director for transportation and logistics for ADT Security Services.)