Planning A Physical Access Control Implementation

Here are the aspects of planning that project planners and end-users often overlook.

To begin the planning stage start by asking the fundamental question:
“What am I looking to accomplish with this system?”

Are you a security manager looking to protect your facility from intruders? Or a human resources manager looking to integrate your time and attendance system with access control? Or looking to achieve regulatory compliance with HIPAA, SOX, FIPS-201 or numerous others? Or did your organization recently have an incident that an access control system may have prevented?

Security projects are frequently reactive. Before making the final decision to implement access control be sure you have weighed the cost/benefits ratio for your organization. Seeking solutions that employ access control requires significant resource coordination. A properly planned and implemented access control system can significantly mitigate risk and potentially improve efficiencies to the bottom line—unless the system is either overkill or insufficient for the specific needs it is intended to address.

Planning Stage Project Improvement Questions and Considerations:

1. Who will oversee the project in all of its phases?

Trying to delegate out the necessary interactions with contractors, contract negotiations, project oversight, and planning is a frequent and big mistake. Even in small office environments, access control projects will touch many departments and systems: building/facilities, the fire alarm system, various contractors, human resources and a host of other examples. These aspects of the project should be handled by an individual or by a coordinated team if practical. Poor project oversight will result in misinformation and wasted time.

2. Who will need to be involved?

Access control project require coordinated efforts of numerous individuals and departments. An individual knowledgeable about your facility layout will play a critical role. This person will need to convey requirements to the access control system integrator and should be familiar with your fire alarm system, electrical systems and general building systems. In specialized environments, other individuals must also take part identifying requirements, such as building management personnel in leased environments or the Human Resources department when integration with time and attendance systems is on tap. A missed requirement by a crucial individual or department can easily cost weeks of time to capture.

Note: For key employees, involvement will extend through the later stages of the project. Understanding and communicating these requirements now will help set their expectations and will help you schedule necessary meetings, inspections and sign-offs down the road.

3. One crucial party often overlooked is the organization’s information technology department.

All access control systems reside at minimum on a PC, Server or on the Cloud and almost always transmit data across the network, even in smaller environments. Consult with the IT group during the planning stage and schedule their involvement during the later system implementation phase.

4. The fire alarm system is oftentimes particularly challenging to successful access control implementations.

Building codes from the National Fire Prevention Association such as NFPA 72 and NFPA 101 Life Safety Code must be consulted during the planning stages of an access control project.

5. Do you have enough copies of your blueprints?

Blueprints are oftentimes the bane of an access control project. Have your facility blueprints available in duplicate copies, enough for all your bidders and other parties to work with. Blueprints usually take a long time to obtain and typically need to be sent out to a third party capable for quality copies.  Without blueprints your contractors will be making pencil sketches of your facility, you won’t have anything formal to submit (if required) to the AHJ, and you will not have an accurate layout of your system for future use.

6. Who will manage the access control database (and how)?

In the planning stage you should put together your list of employees who will need access to the facility. You should give particular thought to the organizing of this database. Almost all access control systems will have a very granular ability to manage your employees’ ability to pass through the various controlled doors in your facility. It is practical to set up employees’ facility access in accordance with their schedules, and also take holidays into account. Whatever schedules your facility operates under should be taken into account.

Also consider temporary employees, janitorial services, and any other non-employees who may need access to your facility. Having as much detail as you can available during the planning stage will save significant time later when you program the system. If you are switching to a new access control system, be sure to save the databases in existing systems for the transition.

Acumen can integrate to your employee information in your business system or time and attendance system to import to your new database prior to installation; this can be a major time saver! Why not have your cards and users programmed in and ready the system to go online as soon as it’s powered up?