Do the students living in your residence halls constantly prop the doors open at night? Are the tenants in your office building plagued by frequent petty thefts? When a gunshot victim walks into your emergency department, are the healthcare workers terrified that gang members will arrive to finish the job? A security master plan is your ticket to anticipating and responding to threats and risks.
“A security master plan is a comprehensive, long-term strategy that covers all aspects of a security operation,” says Toby Heath, the security division lead with C&S Companies, a consulting engineering firm with a security specialty. “The goal is to provide sequential planning over a period of years to provide a safe, secure environment.”
A security master plan is a three-legged stool consisting of policies and procedures, equipment, and personnel, continues Heath. Your security team should focus on these three areas:
- What is the policy?
- Is it effective?
- If not, how can equipment or personnel enable compliance?
For example, a policy for college campus residence halls requires keeping the doors locked and never propped open. Yet every night, patrolling security officers must lock doors that have been propped open. In this case, an equipment plan may solve the problem.
You could mount cameras at the doorways where people will notice and place signs prohibiting propped doors. So you don’t have to monitor cameras, alarm the entrances with sensors that will activate when the door has been open for a couple of minutes. Upon detecting an alarm, the security center can review the video, identify the culprit, and send an officer to talk the person.
1) Start with an Assessment
The first step in preparing a security master plan is to update your security assessment. If you don’t have a security assessment, commission one so you have a snapshot of existing conditions. Determine which threats and vulnerabilities you must address.
“A security assessment lays the foundation for developing the master plan,” Heath says.
2) Form a Planning Team
Experts recommend retaining an objective third party to manage the planning process. “This individual will manage a team of people,” says Stevan P. Layne, a principal with Layne Consultants International. “The team should include a certified fire protection specialist and your top facilities person.”
You will also need a financial executive to advise budgeting and affordability matters, continues Layne. Security master plans typically encompass five years, with some upgrades occurring from year to year. Budgeting expertise will ensure that funds are available when needed.
Additional team members include the organization’s security director, an architect, and a construction coordinator. If a plan calls for new employees, have a representative from human resources serve on the team.
Department heads should participate as well. In a university, the college deans are the department heads. For healthcare settings, representatives from the emergency department and mental health services should participate.
3) Target Vulnerabilities
With the team assembled, the first order of business involves upgrades that address weaknesses identified in the security assessment.
Suppose a prominent office building with tenants that might draw the attention of terrorists is vulnerable to a truck bomb attack. The team should discuss the security policy addressing perimeter security. Does the policy address vehicular attacks? If not, it should be modified.
Next determine how equipment and people will enable the facility to comply with the policy.
To better protect patients, family members, and healthcare workers from gang attacks, an inner city emergency department might opt for locked doors and an armed guard who admits patients.
Some of the upgrades called for by the security assessment may take years to carry out. A college or healthcare campus may decide to install cameras and emergency call stations. Such an effort could take several years, with incremental progress made and paid for each year.
“In this respect, the master plan becomes a budgeting tool,” says Layne. “You plan the upgrades around available funding.”
Campuses grow. Buildings change tenants. Neighborhoods around buildings evolve. To keep up with the pace of change, you might decide to review your security master plan every quarter. At minimum, you should it review once a year. Just as your threats and risk will shift over time, your security master plan needs continuous updating.