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Physical Security Essay

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Physical security starts with a rather simple basic premise; those who do not belong on your institution’s property should be excluded from your institution. This may happen in three often interrelated ways: when those who do not belong are identified, stopped and denied admission, when those who do not belong are denied admission by a physical device, such as a locked door. When those who do not belong are denied admission because they decide that your institution is too difficult to enter and thus they do note entry.

This section will consider the various methods of excluding those who do not belong: access control, key control and locks, protective devices and alarms, windows and doors, fencing and gates, protective lighting, general deterrence.


Access Control

Access control means that, when your facility is open, no visitor, delivery service person or unknown individual is able to enter your facility without being both observed directly or indirectly.

Several techniques to accomplish that goal may include any or all of the following.

Security Desk

A security desk should be setup in them in lobby of each building which has an open-access or open-door policy. A sign-in and outlet supervised by an employee who validates identification prior to allowing visitors to proceed into the building, is highly advisable. Most supermarkets, five star hotels, foreign embassies, parliament buildings and major organizations have this measure in place in order to monitor the staff and clients as they come in and out to ascertain no harmful contrabands are sneaked in or pilferage of equipments and other relevant materials from the organization. When entering a building like I&M where Standard Group have offices or Nation Centre where NTV is housed you have to produce your National ID, register your name, office and purpose of your visit then insured with a visitors pass in order to gain access to the premises.

Monitored Entrances

Ideally, an institution should have a single entrance only, monitored by staff personnel and equipped with an intercom system for communicating with anyone who comes to the door. Simply, an open door policy does not mean that every door need be left open and unlocked. You realize that hospitals, police headquarters, military barracks among others have personnel who are assigned on daily basis to check and verify individuals and motor vehicles that come in or leave the premises.

Its purpose is to deter criminals and take note of every visitor for purposes of accountability when things go amiss. When entering the Times Tower where the Kenya Revenue Authority is housed, the security guards at the gate verifies visitors by their National Identity cards and or travelers passport and then a separate group of guards checks for any harmful materials by use of metal detectors.


At no time should visitors be allowed to roam freely through your property unescorted or without being observed. That is especially true for individuals who expect to work on your most sensitive systems such as burglar alarms, fire alarms, communication systems or computers. Special diligence should be applied to those individuals when they visit your institution even if they are legitimate. For larger institutions, certain areas should be considered off-limits to all but authorized personnel.

Allowing visitors free access to your facility does not mean that they should be allowed to go anywhere e.g. into restricted areas such as office spaces or that they should be given a sense that their actions are entirely unnoticed by the institution’s personnel. Some premises require having out of bound locations i.e. military barracks, production factories railway stations, air and seaports for purposes of security. Thus visitor should only be directed to designated zones only. Military barracks have their armories protected while airports have garages and main control rooms protected for security purposes.

Employee Photo Identification Cards and Badges

All employees should have and wear identification. Such badges make identification of non-employees immediate. Moreover, such cards will not only enable visitors to immediately identify those who work in an institution but will psychologically help employees understand that they are part of their agency’s security team. Photo identification should only be provided with accompanying education regarding their care, the procedure to be followed if they are lost, as well as the manner in which employees should approach unknown individuals. Creating ID badges requires thought. Cards should have clear pictures along with the employee’s name.

The institution’s name should not necessarily be placed on the card. In any event, employees should be instructed that their card should be prominently worn while in the building and, for their own safety, kept from view when away from the building. In major hospitals like Nairobi hospital, Matter hospital among others every employee has a job ID which enables them access to all areas and distinguish them from patients, this reduces the chances of an admitted patient running away from the premise without paying the medical bill.

Perimeter wall

The perimeter wall, culverts and drainage units, lighting and other essential physical security areas. The drainage system and culverts can conceal entry and exit points for potential criminals. Culverts should be grilled to make it difficult for Criminals activities to occur.

Parking lot

Here the security personnel should be in a position to see how vehicles entering the premise or exiting are inspected. In some organizations parking badges are issued while in many more identification from drivers is not produced.

In some organizations it is indicated cars parked at owner’s risk which injects confidence to car vandals and absorbs security responsibility. Parking should be offered to personnel with previous security background.

The adjacent buildings and windows.

The buildings and windows near a facility should not serve as a spring board for criminals to gain entry. The windows should be well and adequately secured to deny criminals an opportunity to access the facility under surveillance.

Key Control and Locks

Knowing who has which keys to which locks at all times is a vitally important issue. Failure to maintain such control may defeat the entire purpose of creating a security system. Institutions often simply assume that no one leaving their service either an employee or volunteer will subsequently break into their building or office. A sound key-control policy is essential to an effective security program. There should be a central key control location where masters are kept and access to which is strictly controlled. Registry.

A central key control registry should be established for all key sand combinations. Employees and leadership should be required to sign for keys when they are received and the return of keys should be an important part of an exit process. Issuance. Supervisory approval should be required for the issuance of all keys and locks. Spare keys and locks should be kept in a centrally located cabinet, locked under the supervision of a designated employee. Master keys should be issued to a very restricted number of employees and these should be inventoried at least twice each year. Re-keying.

When key control is lost, it may be worthwhile to have an institution’s locks Re-keyed or key should be surrendered incase employee is terminated or retired. Combination Locks and Codes. Where combination locks and coded locks are used, those combinations and codes should be changed at least every six months or when employees or leadership leave your premise. Combinations should also be kept under strict control of management.

Computer systems and access.

The computer system has become a concern in computer industry today. The security of electronic gadgets is pivotal in the growth of organizations, sabotage and shrinkage. The system should be protected from intruders or unauthorized access. The surveyor should include know who uses which computer, which services would be jeopardized by failure of a certain computer.


Are unpredictable hazards to organizations, homes and industries. The degree of vulnerability varies from one organization to another. The surveyor should check on the existing fire hazards, verify a match between hazards existing and fire suppression devices.


The area containing valuables is of paramount importance to a security survey. The protection of valuables should be consistent with security physical measures and criticality of a potential loss occurs. Safes and valuable storage areas should be fitted with adequate alarm systems.


Surveillance devices, CCTV’s and motion picture cameras are key to criminal activities detection, apprehension and deterrence. The surveyor should know their existence, location, protection and who monitors them.

The security survey should capture the various departments in the organization, their operations and internal controls.

Protective Lighting

The value of adequate lighting as a deterrent to crime cannot be overemphasized. Adequate lighting is a cost-effective line of defense in preventing crime.

Some Considerations on Lighting

Lighting, both inside and outside, is most helpful and can be installed without becoming overly intrusive to neighbors. All entrances should be well lit. Fences should also be illuminated. For outside lighting, the rule of thumb is to create light equal to that of full daylight. The light should be directed downward away from the building or area to be protected and away from any security personnel you might have patrolling the facility. Where fencing is used, the lighting should be inside and above the fencing to illuminate as much of the fence as possible. Lighting should be placed to reduce contrast between shadows and illuminated areas. It should be uniform on walkways, entrances, exits, and especially in parking areas.

Perimeter lights should be installed so the cones of illumination overlap, eliminating areas of total darkness if any one light malfunctions. Fixtures should be vandal-resistant. It is vital that repair of defects and replacement of worn-out bulbs be immediate. In addition, prevent trees or bushes from blocking lighting fixtures. You may wish to use timers and/or automatic photoelectric cells. Such devices provide protection against human error and ensure operation during inclement weather or when the building is unoccupied. A security professional should be contacted to help you with decisions on location and the best type of lighting for your individual institution.

James K. Broder (200), Risk Analysis And The Security Survey 2rd Ed. Butterworth-Heinemann. USA.
Lawrence J. Fennely (2003), Physical Security 3rd Edition. Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann. Burlington, UK. Marc Weber Tobias (200), Locks Safes and Security, An International Police Reference 2nd Ed. Illinois USA.

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