Your Comprehensive Guide to Building Security

How secure is your business? Your people? Your building? Are you sure?

If you own or manage a building, you know security matters more than ever. Excellent security not only protects people, buildings, and assets – it reduces risk, increases safety, saves money, and enhances both your building’s perceived and real value. People work better, data and equipment losses are reduced, and insurance premiums are lower when you prioritize security.

Security threats are on the rise. How well do you anticipate and meet threats? Anticipating and managing threats is a critically different challenge than managing your security system.

You can’t afford to be complacent because that’s when bad things tend to happen. The reality is that you’re either actively working to keep security current or falling behind – there is no middle ground.

Keeping your building security current can be easier than you think, thanks to sophisticated intelligence, integration options, and managed services like cloud-based monitoring. Security is a fast-growing, complex information technology field, and your options can be tailored to meet your needs and budget.

The Six Top Focus Areas for Outstanding Security

What does comprehensive building security involve?

Security, just like your building, is multi-dimensional. Addressing one or two security focus areas, like exterior perimeter security combined with interior cameras, for example, might feel adequate, but it’s likely just giving you a false sense of security.

It’s simple: security has to address ALL of your building’s vulnerable areas and account for people, property, and management.

The most robust security systems provide strategies to address these six security focus areas:

  1. Security Inside Your Building: Access Control, Communication, and Signage
  2. Surveillance and Monitoring Inside and Outside of Your Building
  3. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design: Landscaping, Walkways, and Parking Areas
  4. Make Employees, Occupants, and Building Users Part of Your Building Security
  5. Security Site Surveys and Continuous Monitoring and Improvement Are Critical For Building Security
  6. How Security Agreements Offer the Ultimate Protection and Convenience

Security can be dauntingly complex to assess, design, install, monitor, and continually improve.

It’s easy to focus on the newest, most sophisticated security tools and equipment and lose track of the basics that form the core foundation for any security system. It’s also easy to underestimate the potential for human error, intentional or not, that creates security vulnerabilities and problems.

Your best security solution is a customized plan for YOUR building and situation built on the six security focus areas.

Security Inside Your Building: Access Control and Communication

Controlling access to your building and movement within are some of the best ways to protect your building, your people, and everything inside. You don’t have a security plan without them.

Access Control

Access control is fundamentally essential. You need to know who is in your building, who is allowed beyond the main entry points or lobby, and where people are. Access control allows you to lock building areas down should the need arise.

The key elements of access control include controlled entry points, visitor and employee systems, informational signage, and appropriate policies.

Your building lobby should be the exclusive entry and focal point for consultants, vendors, customers, and visitors and the primary entry point for staff. A lobby lets visitors know that they are in the right place. Requiring staff to meet visitors in the lobby and to escort them, should they be invited in, provides security and good business manners.

Focusing incoming traffic through a lobby plays a critical role in building access.

Visitor Management System

You want to be the decision maker when deciding who gains access beyond your building lobby which is why visitor management is so important.

An electronic visitor management system tracks and records which non-employees are allowed past your lobby, where they can go, how long they stay, and when they depart.

Electronic visitor management systems can go beyond record keeping and tracking – they can screen visitors, allow entrance to only approved visitors, increase workplace safety, and deter crime. Building guests may be less inclined to wander or cause problems knowing that their presence is being recorded, and a digital log can be invaluable should an emergency occur.

Electronic visitor ID badges can be set to allow entrance past the lobby via enabled doors or turnstiles and to limit access to sensitive areas within your building.  Attempts to access unauthorized locations could be blocked by any combination of doors that don’t unlock, alarms, internal security alerts, or security calls to police or fire. 

Employees benefit from knowing their work areas are secure, and you benefit by protecting your assets and data and preventing inventory theft.

Employee Access Systems

Does your building security include access management for employees? It absolutely should.

Employee access systems, like electronic visitor systems, use unique identifiers, like access cards, to let employees access building areas where they are meant to be.  It’s common practice to have access cards worn as badges, displaying each employee’s photograph and name.

If your building has areas containing sensitive or classified information, delicate equipment, or hazardous materials, employee access systems can help ensure that only those with appropriate clearance are allowed in. Your employee access system would keep a detailed log so you’ll know who enters or leaves and when.

Determining what level of access employees need to have should be part of your security plan. It’s normal to allow access to common areas to everyone, such as bathrooms and lunch or break areas. Access to potentially dangerous manufacturing, testing, laboratory, or data storage and processing areas could be evaluated case by case.

Visitor access may differ quite a bit from employee access.

Informational Signage Inside Your Building

The physical security of your building, data, people, equipment, and other resources significantly improves using effective signage.

Signage is a very effective way to put specific policies into action. The most effective signage is located close to where the desired action happens, clearly communicates expectations, and the requested behavior is convenient.

Prominently display your company name and logo so visitors know they’re in the right place. Mark transition points between public and access-controlled areas and mark controlled areas ‘employee only.’ Use signs to identify common access areas like bathrooms or break rooms. Provide clear instructions on how to call for help if access or assistance is needed, especially if you have an unattended lobby or entry.

Communication Systems

Never underestimate the value of a building-wide intercom system when it comes to your building’s security and safety.  An internal communication system makes sense and can save thousands of dollars in business liability and workers’ compensation insurance.

When might you need an internal communication system? Access control, security, and emergency response are three big reasons.

An effective intercom system allows someone to request assistance or reach staff. Think of all the times someone forgets an employee access card, a salesperson drops in, a delivery gets made, or a job seeker arrives. If your lobby, visitor, or delivery areas are not staffed, then an intercom system can be a significant time saver.

Communication systems can be linked to monitoring and or surveillance systems. Real-time monitoring, live cameras, and security logs enhance access control, reduce risk, and help prevent unwanted access.

You need to be able to communicate building-wide in the case of emergencies. You want managers and employees to be able to instantly connect, share critical information, and coordinate internal and external emergency responses.

Consider including a panic alarm in your communication system, especially in security areas, receptionist areas, areas where money is handled, receiving areas, and anywhere where chemicals or hazardous materials are used or stored.

Surveillance and Monitoring Inside and Outside Your Building

Surveillance and monitoring are essential elements of every security system. Surveillance can involve hidden observation methods, while monitoring usually involves highly visible security cameras and combinations of hidden cameras, security guards, door and window contacts, motion detectors, alarms, glass break detectors, and access control systems.

Visible Camera Monitoring

What’s the most obvious indication that your building uses a security system? Cameras. Cameras, in logical places, are very effective crime deterrents in both inside and outside locations. Cameras let everyone know that someone is watching.

Visible cameras provide two main benefits: deterring crime and recording events. Your employees and building visitors will probably feel safer knowing that they are being observed, especially when moving through parking garages or similar areas.

Your camera system can record events and provide invaluable information if on-the-job injuries or accidents occur. That record can be incredibly valuable should accidents or claims need to be reviewed and processed.

Hidden Surveillance Monitoring

Hidden cameras can do a fantastic job of capturing activities that people don’t want you to see, like theft, vandalism, tampering, or harassment. The overall effect of hidden cameras is more subtle because people don’t realize that they are being observed. And despite being hidden, you’ll still get a recording of every event the camera records.

Does your state have laws regarding the use of surveillance cameras? Find Law can help you understand what legal constraints exist, if any, in your state.

Security Guards

Should your building use security guards? Security guards, like visible cameras, are potent crime deterrents but significantly more powerful. While a camera is a fixed inanimate object, security guards are real people, able to process information on the fly, respond to threats as they happen, and move wherever their presence is needed.

Security guards can be invaluable regarding visitor assistance, access control, threat detection, emergency response, and much more. 

Motion Detectors, Window Sensors, and Glass Break Detectors

Motion detectors sense motion and are considered interior security system elements. On the other hand, glass break detectors and window sensors are considered part of an exterior security system.

Using each of these three types of detectors and sensors together gives you the most robust security system. Glass break detectors and window sensors do nothing to detect someone inside your building – and motion detectors only come into play once an intruder is inside your building. When used together, these sensors complement and enhance your ability to keep intruders out of your building and detect if someone manages to get inside.

Access Control Systems

Controlling unauthorized building access and knowing who is in your building is vital to protecting your assets and your electronic information, preventing inventory theft, and, most importantly, protecting the people inside from potentially dangerous scenarios. Follow this link for a robust explanation of the different kinds of access systems and why your building needs them.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design: Landscaping, Walkways, and Parking Areas

Deterring unwanted activity, including criminal activity, should be your top security system goal. Carefully chosen and maintained environmental design (CPTED) provides unparalleled efficacy for crime prevention. The design of both exterior and interior spaces has been proven to influence human behavior. While design elements can seem obvious, a ‘no brainer,’ a less rigorous approach can result in less than optimal results.

How can you use environmental design to influence whether your building seems vulnerable to criminal activity?

Landscaping for Safety

Landscaping affords you both natural access and natural surveillance control of your property. Criminals appreciate the opportunity provided by obscured sightlines! Designing and maintaining landscaping that allows for clear sightlines around your building, especially around doorways and vulnerable access points, automatically puts potential intruders on the defensive. Keep the exterior of your building well maintained, and pay attention to the pruning and shaping of shrubbery. Overgrown or out-of-shape landscaping can give potential criminals the impression that you ignore details.


Light It Like You Mean Business

Exterior lighting provides so many benefits— beautification, attraction, illumination, safety, and crime prevention. Exterior and interior lighting are two of the easiest and best ways to keep both people and property safe and secure. Strive for uniform illumination levels without glare or dark spots, consider motion detectors that effectively warn trespassers that they’ve been noticed, light any area or walkway that customers and employees use, and make sure to adjust lighting schedules to seasonal daylight changes.

Lighting is one of the most observable and impactful of all security improvements, helping employees feel safe, respected, and cared for while giving a clear, NOT HERE message to potential trespassers.

Manage People and Traffic Flow with Physical Barriers and Natural Access Control

Physical barriers help people understand the difference between public and private space and expectations for traffic flow. When you demarcate where the “right place” to be is, then it’s quite obvious and attention-getting when people are in the “wrong place.” Outside controls include parking control signage, clearly delineated traffic lanes and parking spots, hedges, pathways, plantings, and lighting, all work together to direct vehicle and human traffic toward appropriate places. Inside controls include restricted access to internal areas, monitored employee access, visitor check-in locations, and orientation of traffic flow or work areas so that those inside can observe who and what is happening outside.

Signage: Make It Obvious

Security has both physical and mental elements, and the best prevention approach uses both subtle and obvious ways to discourage unwanted activity. Be blatantly obvious about posting stickers and signage alerting everyone to active security systems. Signs of security systems and surveillance were given as one of the top reasons not to burglarize in a study of convicted burglars done by the University of North Carolina. Security system signage combined with visible cameras and/or guards is even more effective (signage without cameras may work against you).

Make Employees, Occupants, and Building Users Part of Your Building Security

Are your building policies clear and actionable? Do you have an ongoing, regularly scheduled process for reviewing building policies with staff and building occupants? Is familiarity with building policies part of your building culture?

Your workforce and building occupants both deserve and want to know what they can and cannot do.

Your building occupants and workforce could be one of the most underutilized security elements at your disposal. Employees and occupants can help you identify suspicious activity both inside and outside of your building.

Have clear-cut security policies and make sure to update and review them with everyone at least annually. Embed the policies in your corporate culture, making it safe for employees to anonymously report suspicious activity. Make sure to investigate all reports promptly and follow through with stated consequences.

Security Site Surveys and Continuous Monitoring & Improvement Are Critical For Building Security

Keeping your organization’s overall operation running smoothly and efficiently is an all-encompassing task. As a building owner or manager, it can be almost impossibly difficult to find the time to focus on something like security but your building’s security is an area you can’t leave to chance.

Great security requires attention. When was the last time you had a security survey done? Do you have a continuous monitoring and improvement practice in place?

Wouldn’t you enjoy the security of knowing you’ve got a great security game plan that keeps improving?

Why Your Building Needs Regular Security Surveys

The adage ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ can be painfully true when it comes to your security system! You may simply overlook security risks because you see your building every day, be unaware of technological advances, or blissfully ignorant about new threats.  Did you know you should do a security survey at least once a year, at a minimum?

That’s exactly why a security site survey is one of your best security investments.

A security site survey is a comprehensive on-site inspection that identifies and analyzes risks and threats in and around your building, evaluates your existing security system, and makes recommendations for improvement.

A vital piece of the puzzle in conducting a security site survey is evaluating your facility’s threats and weaknesses. This should be the first step in your site survey and should be based on potential threats and risks unique to your operation and geographical location.

While a rigorous security survey should always closely examine your building and your current security system it may make sense to also evaluate building use patterns, emergency power supply, access control, intercom and communication systems, alarm system, exterior parking lots and grounds, and possibly even neighboring buildings or traffic.

Who Is the Best Qualified To Do Security Site Survey Work?

You’ll achieve the most insightful and usable security site survey by working with a company with real expertise and up-to-date knowledge. Look for an outside firm specializing in security surveys and security solutions to do your security surveys for several reasons.

This is truly a time to call in the experts.

Your end goal is safety, security, and staying ahead of threats. This is where expert eyes come into play. A trained security professional can take an objective view in fleshing out your facility’s threats and weaknesses and see things your in-house team might miss.

Continuous Monitoring and Continuous Improvement to Stay Ahead of Threats

Continuous monitoring and continuous improvement are necessary key parts of your effective security system.

Your building benefits when you identify security elements that aren’t working as well as you want, make improvements that reduce how often less-than-optimal events occur, and eliminate as many sub-optimally performing areas as you can.

Continuous monitoring takes a look at the systems your building security uses and ensures that everything works as planned. It can be as basic as making sure all doors are locked and security systems engaged by a set hour each day, cleaning and refocusing existing video cameras, or requiring appropriate access passes to get past the lobby.

Continuous improvement comes from making changes that continuous monitoring observations have shown to be necessary. These changes could seem simple – like requiring your cleaning crew to stop propping open doors while carrying out their work – but could result in reduced theft of company belongings or employees who feel safe.

Why Security Agreements Offer the Ultimate Protection and Convenience

In a perfect world, you’d never lose a minute of sleep wondering if your security system had all the proverbial t’s crossed and i’s dotted. You’d have complete confidence that everything was capably anticipating and meeting all risks and threats, up-to-date, and functioning well.

The irony is that you wouldn’t need a security system in a perfect world.

Let’s talk about reality; mistakes occur, weather can be violent, power surges flare, accidents happen, people share with best intentions, people steal, and things break. It’s our imperfect world that makes a good security system necessary and a great security system invaluable.

Why not take the vulnerability and variability out of your company’s security system? A security agreement does just that — it makes the safety and security of your employees, your data, your equipment, and your buildings a top priority.

What Is a Security Service Agreement, and What Benefits Does It Offer?

Security service agreements, agreements between a security service provider and a property owner or manager, can be as basic or as sophisticated as the needs of your building dictate. The security needs of a convenience store are intrinsically different than those of a hospital or commercial office building, but the end goal is the same – safety and security.

FICO can design, install, and remotely manage security equipment and systems for you— a done-for-you managed approach— or they can maintain, clean, and service equipment that you already own. Your system can be entirely cloud-based, with remote servers and access and leased equipment, or it can be more streamlined to meet specific challenges.

A security agreement gives you peace of mind by knowing that your security equipment is working as it should. Your equipment has been checked, cleaned, and validated, your security software is fully updated, and your cameras and backup system are working as intended.

When you rely on an expert, you gain confidence that your security system is optimally performing and coverage gaps have been closed.

Managing Security Is Increasingly Complex and Challenging

As security and communication become increasingly sophisticated, the challenges in managing them become exponentially more complex. Security software management and upgrades, equipment compatibility, performance issues, and outdated equipment can multiply minor snags into real problems.

Think about your whole security process: risk assessment, prevention strategies, continuous monitoring and improvement, and system management. Is there someone on your team who can capably manage all of these? Can you depend on them to get it right? How up-to-date are they when it comes to new threats and technology? Do you really want to invest in an all-out in-house effort? 

IT management should be a key part of your security service agreement because security depends on working IT. Systems and software constantly evolve, making it essential to keep upgrades current. Integrated security systems might need to accommodate and manage hardware and software from multiple manufacturers. Security software upgrades – or failure to keep up with upgrades – can crash your system.

Safety and Security for Everyone in Your Building

Your employees expect a safe and secure workplace, and OSHA considers safety and security an essential worker right. When people feel safe at work, they’re more productive, less stressed, healthier, and miss fewer days away from work.

People want to work for companies that care about them and protect them. Being proactive about safety and security lets your workforce know you value them. When workers feel unsafe, morale suffers, turnover increases, and mental health declines. Employees appreciate that you, their employer, have taken clear steps to keep them safe. Building company loyalty while reducing employee stress is a clear win-win for everyone.

When the Convenient Solution is the BEST

Wear and tear happen to all equipment, including sensitive security equipment. Cameras go down, door sensors get dirty, alarms get falsely triggered, and software updates fail to install correctly. Neglecting routine maintenance can lead to premature equipment damage or loss.

Keeping up with all your security system’s ongoing maintenance needs takes dedication and time. The consequences when something doesn’t get done can be severe. A non-functioning camera or hacked door card reader can have consequences that far exceed the cost of a security preventative maintenance agreement.

Working with highly trained, specialized security experts like those at FICO means less stress and more security for your company and for everyone who works there. And that’s a very, very good outcome.

FICO provides turnkey building management and system integration services for technically complex buildings in Montana and beyond. From design and installation to ongoing maintenance and security, our best-in-class people and products help you achieve operational savings and minimize risk as you work to provide reliable and safe environments.

We're Hiring!

We’re growing our team of resourceful and innovative self-starters. Sound like you?

Apply Today!

Contact Us!

1211 NW Bypass
Great Falls, MT 59404

© 2022 Facility Improvement Corporation - All Rights Reserved