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Applying the strategy in Designing and Constructing Integrated Security System for Buildings

Imagine yourself living in a palace where it is surrounded by high walls, guarded by a troop of soldiers whose loyalty is unquestionable and the only entrance is a thick and gigantic wooden door that takes four people to open and close. Not only that, beyond the walls is wide and deep trench purposely dug along the walls to deter enemies from breaching into the city walls, which is a nearly impossible feat in the first place.

You might think that only a powerful emperor can afford to live like that and for the rest of us, we have to learn to live with the fear of being victims of other people’s heinous crimes.

But by applying the right technology, devices and method, today we may achieve and live the life of what we once thought the  privilege of ‘the chosen one’. The keyword is ‘defence in depth’

From Wikipedia:

“Defence in depth is a military strategy; it seeks to delay rather than prevent the advance of an attacker, buying time and causing additional casualties by yielding space. Rather than defeating an attacker with a single, strong defensive line, defence in depth relies on the tendency of an attack to lose momentum over a period of time or as it covers a larger area.”

Now, a lot of products and services available in the market today have very specific purposes or ‘narrow’ usage. What is the purpose of installing a High Definition CCTV camera but giving you VCR quality footage when viewing the recording? Or even worse, you thought it was recording all the time but it was not. How about a CCTV system that captures and stores images with absolute clarity but renders useless since the crime is taking place somewhere else?

In order to apply the principle of defence in depth principle in our security system, we need to select a number of products from different subsystems and later integrate them together to become one single functioning system.

For example, in a modern high class condominium, we apply several security tiers to make it really difficult, if not impossible for intruders to break-in.


a) Tier 1

Employing trained security personnel to man the security booth and to conduct scheduled patrol all over the premise. They will be ‘the first line of defence’. No matter how advanced technology has become, it still requires men to operate it. Electrical or electronic devices can only help to reduce manpower and increase their productivity. The technology today is still far from being fully automated.


b) Tier 2

Along the perimeter, we may install CCTV cameras that can detect unwanted objects and movements. The angle and distance between two cameras will be calculated to eliminate any blind spots or ‘grey area’. Powered by Video Analytics software, we do not need to have our eyes glued to the monitors for 24 hours a day. An alarm signal will be generated to alert the security personnel on duty to take action.

Redundancy is the key factor when applying Defence in Depth principles. One should not feel safe yet unless there is a backup or fail safe mechanism. What happens if the CCTV system fails?

Perimeter fencing is quite a common solution these days, thanks to its practicality and usefulness. One of the most popular devices is the optical beam detector that can detect any sign of intrusion and send signal to the alarm panel or controller board. This device, however has some flaws; a craftier burglar may crawl under or jump over the projector beams undetected. False alarms are also expected to be generated since anything that interferes with the projected beam such as animals or falling leaves will trigger the alarm.

High security facilities such as military headquarters or rehabilitation centres may opt for fibre sensors. Fibre sensors that are laid along the fences have high sensitivity and accuracy as compared to beam detectors. The software that runs the system provides algorithms that are able to distinguish between ‘false’ and ‘genuine’ alarms.


c) Tier 3

When a visitor wishes to enter the premise, he will need to register at the security booth where his particulars are recorded. It is quite tedious for a premise that receives hundreds of visitors per day to record all the information manually.

Visitor Management System is a software that stores the photo of each visitor and other information in a secured database. Better still, if the visitor has a MyKad where the information can be read using MyKad reader. This will save a lot of time and the data is more reliable.

Consequently, this system will link to Access Card System of the premise in order to limit or authorized access to the registered visitor. The movement of visitors or residents can be tracked and alarm signal will be sent should there be any access gained by force. These two systems are not only limited to visitors who come on foot, but for those who enter with vehicles as well. This is where the Automated Barrier Gate System will come in handy.

The Automated Barrier Gate System is meant to restrict the access or direct the flow of traffic. It is integrated with Access Card System so that only authorised visitors or residents may enter and exit the premise.

In some Mixed Development premise where residential, office and retail buildings are brought together, some facility management companies would like to earn an extra income by imposing parking fees for the visitors. A third party software, ticket dispenser machines and auto pay machines will be installed. This is called Car Park Management System. This system works not only, to make money but it is proven useful to discourage visitors who come with no real purpose.


d) Tier 4

Now, let us move on to Tier 4 which is ‘the last line of defence’. There are at least 2 systems that we can apply to this tier namely, Intercom System and Home Alarm System.

Before a visitor may enter your house, they need to page you on the intercom unit installed at the lift lobby or right outside your door. You can then see the visitor’s face on the intercom unit in your house and grant him access by pushing a button upon recognition. If it is someone you do not expect, you can then page the security room by using the same intercom unit.

For the safety of your loved ones and your valuable belongings, it is highly recommended to install Home Alarm System. This will be in your house guard especially when you are away. Today, there are a lot of products in the market that enable you to arm and disarm the system by internet and alarm notifications can be sent via email or SMS. Should you receive any alarm notification, you may call the security officers in charge to assess and inform you of the situation.


e) Additional Systems

There are some systems that do not really belong to any of the mentioned tiers. Far from being unnecessary, these systems work to complement all the other systems mentioned above. One of them is Panic Button System.

Panic button systems usually covers the areas where crimes are more likely to take place such as parking areas or emergency staircases. Yes, there are CCTVs installed all over the place but redundancy plays a vital role in designing a comprehensive security solution. If you feel you are being threatened or followed, just press one of the buttons installed and a loud siren and strobe lights will attract the attention of the nearby security personnel. The more interesting part is, panic button system works more effectively as a preventive measure rather than corrective. Imagine yourself as a criminal, would you harm that lady if you see any panic button near her?

Guard Tour System is another system to consider. It works by ensuring that all the security personnel mentioned in Tier 1 make their scheduled patrolling and cover all the premise area. A security personnel will carry with them a recorder which looks like a typical baton. This recorder will be brought near to location tags that are placed at strategic places. Each location tag has a unique ID that when the recorder data is downloaded to the PC, the generated report will then show which areas did he really went to.

The final and most important part is to bring all the systems mentioned above and integrate them into one single platform. It is not a comprehensive system if each one of the systems just operates on their own and not knowing what other systems are doing.

Physical Security Information Management or PSIM provides a platform and applications created by middleware developers, designed to integrate multiple unconnected security applications and devices and control them through one comprehensive user interface.

This means that a single user can monitor or control all the systems and manage all the sensory input, devices and output to get the best result from every component, all in one platform!

To sum it all up, ‘Defence in Depth’ strategy helps us to improve our design by emphasizing the importance of having a fail-safe and redundant mechanism. The strategy can be applied not only in security system, but in many other engineering fields such as mechanical, civil and even software.