Mitigating Mistakes: Unsecured electrical panels

April 6, 2020
Sudden loss, return of power could be catastrophic for certain facilities

Editor’s note: “Mitigating Mistakes” is a new column series from security consultant and author Paul Timm featuring photos of security vulnerabilities discovered in the field followed by a discussion on the problems they present to a facility’s security posture and how they can be addressed.

Finding: When conducting a physical security assessment, I often find unsecured electrical panels in public places. Electrical panels control the flow of electricity to parts of a building. Each breaker can stop the flow of electrical current to specific circuits or pieces of equipment.

Problem: Unauthorized access to an electrical panel could obviously lead to someone flipping a breaker that stops the flow of electricity to vital equipment or parts of a building. Imagine a room or area suddenly going dark because someone tampered with a panel. Consider what might happen if power to important equipment was suddenly interrupted by an unauthorized act. In fact, the sudden return of power, and the surge associated with it, could be catastrophic for sensitive equipment and costly for the building owner.

Lesson: Electrical panels should be locked and only accessible by authorized personnel. Reduce the risk of malevolent actions, tampering, and accidental acts by prohibiting unauthorized access.

Remedy: Keep public area electrical panel doors closed and locked. In fact, take inventory of all public area electrical panels and access points to determine whether access should be restricted. Ensure that panel keys are both accessible to authorized personnel and stored in secured areas. Require designated personnel to periodically audit public area electrical panels to ensure they are secured. Make your facility safer today!

About the Author:

Paul Timm, Vice President of Facility Engineering Associates, is a board-certified Physical Security Professional (PSP), the author of School Security: How to Build and Strengthen a School Safety Programand a nationally acclaimed expert in physical security. In addition to conducting numerous vulnerability assessments and his frequent keynote addresses, Paul is an experienced Crisis Assistance Team volunteer through the National Organization for Victims Assistance (NOVA). He is certified in Vulnerability Assessment Methodology (VAM) through Sandia National Laboratories and the ALPHAÔ vulnerability assessment methodology. He is also a member of ASIS International’s School Safety & Security Council and the Illinois Association of School Business Officials’ Risk Management Committee. Paul recently earned his Master’s degree from Moody Theological Seminary.

(Image courtesy Paul Timm)
Door props, like the one pictured above, can permit unauthorized access and render electronic access control systems valueless.
(Photo courtesy Paul Timm)
Open padlocks like the one pictured above can present significant security vulnerabilities to facilities.