I am continually approached by resellers and even new integration partners to explain the difference between what we’ve coined as “layered” security systems versus the conventionally termed “integrated” security systems. Simply put, all layered systems are integrated, but not all integrated systems are truly layered. The rationale behind this is that a layered security system is comprised of various software solutions that were all natively developed by the same source. Hence there is no need to integrate these systems, as they were designed from the groundup to work together as well as independent of one another with the intent that they could scale together when the user was ready. It’s a significant difference for both users and integrators who are tasked with implementing complex solutions.

As more and more software players enter the security market, security professionals have more solutions than ever to choose from when planning a holistic security system solution. Aside from achieving specific security objectives, this can be a challenging task when deciding the priority in which selected solutions are deployed relative to purchase and installation costs, manpower training and operational expenses.

Unfortunately, there is no right formula or single bundled solution to meet the specific criteria of every user and facility, although most security experts agree that a layered security approach works best to limit vulnerabilities and improve the safety and security of staff, guests, property and assets. Although each system solution will vary from one location to the next, there are foundational elements from which to build a layered security approach upon.

Access Control

In today’s technically advanced security environment, access control management is a core solution for layered security. An access control system records all access activity, so security professionals have a complete record of who has entered a facility, which areas within the facility they accessed (or attempted to access), and how long they stayed. In many cases, door locks are connected to a centralized access control system and the doors can be remotely monitored and locked in the event of an emergency or incident. Assigning different access permissions for employees, visitors and First Responders provides even greater levels of protection and tracking. Entry control points can be easily established to only allow authorized individuals initial access to a facility or specific areas within the facility.

Access control solutions allow authorized individuals to manage doors and alarm points and can easily be integrated with visitor management solutions to check the background of each visitor, automatically post watch lists, and provide specific access privileges based on time, date and location.

Even more, new input/output (I/O) boards for access control systems can expand functionality and provide real-time operations for speed, performance and reliability. Using the same footprint, I/O expansion boards will work with alarm monitoring, alarm annunciation, building management, interfacing to burglar and fire panels, and numerous other applications to ensure security. Additional safeguards to control entry points may include the integration of turnstiles or security entrances, mantraps, video surveillance with analytics, wireless locks, intercoms and intrusion detection devices, among others.

Emergency Communications and Lockdowns

Regardless of whether an emergency occurs because of an intruder, a threat or severe weather, systemwide communication is essential for every organization. Additional information such as the real-time status of specific locations within a facility helps responders quickly evaluate a situation and determine the most appropriate response. This level of system communication and interaction vastly improves real-time situational awareness which enhances overall physical security and operational efficiencies.

Selecting an alert level of an emergency can also trigger a physical lockdown of perimeter and interior doors using costeffective wireless locks. The technology advances included with I/O boards for the access control system can help further expand situational awareness by allowing users to configure and program any door that needs specific monitoring at any time of the day with siren alarms and strobe lights.

Integrated Solutions

An organically developed layered security system is the foundation for a safe and secure learning environment. When layers within a system are seamlessly integrated onto a single platform it allows for improved response and smoother management. Emergency notification solutions initially designed for the education market are proving to be a highly effective resource for facilities across a wide spectrum of applications to issue alerts and manage a variety of situations such as inclement weather, natural disasters, chemical spills… and more.

Emergency notifications provided with the latest access control technology deliver vital emergency status details so responders can best manage events. As mentioned here, I/O board technology facilitates easier expansion and utilization of the number of alarms, doors and panic buttons, for example, to assist with planning for crisis situations. Also, having the latest I/O board technology gives users the option of easily adding more devices such as gunshot detectors, to further supplement awareness and life saving measures.

Higher levels of layered/integrated systems allow security management to issue alerts to responders of conditions in real time while communicating status based on the level of the alert. For example, occupants within a facility can report status at their specific location enabling responders to view detailed facility maps with compiled roomby- room, color-coded conditions that update in real time as the situation evolves. A chat feature enables two-way communications between staff and first responders to exchange detailed information. The emergency notification solution can also issue messages with response instructions specific to each alert level via email or text, and override any computer on the network to ensure the highest visibility of alert status.

A browser-based application that functions across LAN, Wi-Fi, WAN or high-speed cellular service for maximum accessibility, new emergency notification solutions are designed for standalone or integrated system operation. Advanced integrations are enabled providing authorized responders with the additional ability to view live cameras, change access control permissions, lock doors, and more. Audit trails can also be provided with chronological event sequences that can capture who/what/when/where an incident occurred, providing valuable forensic details.

There’s no question that integrating systems provides a vast range of operations and capabilities that no single source could possibly develop natively with sustained levels of expertise in each respective system category. But the foundation system you build will determine the strength of your entire system structure, and nothing compares to a foundation of layered solutions originating from the same source.

Read the article in the ISC West Show Daily