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What's the appropriate approach?


STATE-OF-THE-ART" and "high-tech solutions in a high-tech environment" are phrases we have all heard. They have a pleasant ring and they sound fine in a presentation. We all want to keep up with the rapidly changing technology in our industry, whic is why we are active in professional societies such as ASIS. Unfortunately, the American love affair with the new pervades our professional lives as well as our personal lives, leading us to overlook time-proven, simple solutions to problems in favor of the flashier high-tech solution.

The artificial complexity of products is not limited to the security industry. It is a society trend. Try to find an alarm clock with no extra functions, a wristwatch that simply tells time, or any device that performs only a basic function. These devices are out there, but you have to look long and hard. They are hidden behind the new, improved model complete with more bells and whistles than the mind can imagine.

Do not misinterpret my meaning. I am not against progress, product improvement, or technological advances. I see a real need, however, to maintain a perspective in problem solving - my preferred term for the physical security survey. Perspective, reality, and balance will provide a security system that is effective, economical, user friendly, and real. Without perspective, reality, and balance, systems designed as a part of the problem-solving process not only will not solve the problem but will in fact exacerbate the problem being addressed.

In training personnel for tasks requiring physical effort, you must consider agility and ability in formulating a lesson plan. In formulating a training program in personal protection for an 80-year-old CEO, you would be hard put to include wind sprints, five-mile runs, and rappelling. The agility and ability concept applies equally to problem solving and system design. You must consider the personnel who will use the system daily. If it's too complex, they will ignore it, circumvent it, or break it.

How many times have you seen one lone security officer sitting in front of 20 closed-circuit television monitors? And for what purpose? That security officer is as effective at that console as he or she would be patrolling a 20-building complex on foot. Despite the officer's best efforts he or she is tasked to do the impossible and cannot do the impossible and cannot a system serves no useful purpose and destroys a person's pride. These factors must be considered and assigned a high priority in any problem-solving process.

From my perspective the following is a clear approach to the problem-solving process:

* Identify the problems or potential problems.

* Assess the capabilities of the users.

* Establish a test scenario to validate your assessments.

* Review available solutions.

* Obtain bids and select the best option.

* Notify users of the new system.

* Begin system installation with users involved.

* Test the new system.

* Train users to understand why the system exists, what it does, what it doesn't do, and how best to use it.

By involving the users in the system from the start, you promote the system and maximize its effectiveness. Testing the system during all phases is critical. Imagine the chagrin of the security manager whose staff processed nearly a thousand people for identification and access cards, only to learn the factory had loaded the wrong software in the state-of-the-art product - the identification function was perfect but nearly a thousand people could not access their work area. After that problem it would take a great deal to sell security to these thousand frustrated employees. Problems occur - that is a reality - but problems that occur can be prevented. Simplicity, forethought, and practical approaches work well.

As I visit various facilities, I constantly see evidence of technology running amok. For example, exterior areas protected by pressure switches in regions where heavy snow or ice is likely to occur, concealed underground surveillance cameras that rise eight inches when activated in 12 inches of snow, apartment-complex keypad codes that would befuddle a rocket scientist, closed-circuit video equipment installed on rotorized pans set three inches from a structural beam - all these are poorly planned security efforts.

The practical approach is important. Although technology advances and people must advance with it, we must recognize that some people cannot or will not make the change - they cannot be forced. When we design solutions to problems, we must make those solutions palatable to the least able of the user population. At the same time we must not assume ignorance.

Practicality has many different meanings. The necessity to forecast growth as usage changes is often overlooked. The manager who installs an access system only a month before his or her employer adds two more employees than the system can accommodate is not being practical. Forecasting "what-ifs" is critical in developing practical problem-solving techniques. You must anticipate. Anticipation requires input, and input requires open lines of communication. If you are not familiar with your firm's five-year plan or a similar document, or if you are not aware of the status of proposals, marketing efforts, production schedules, employee scheduling, shipping dates, and other business milestones, you cannot forecast properly. You must have access to this information to do your job properly. If formal communication channels are closed, it is imperative they be opened.

In many cases the sheer volume of work coupled with the rush to find new solutions pressures us into impractical actions. We must hold our ground. We must assess our needs and solve our problems with a long-term approach, in a manner that mixes the best of technology, practicality, and simplicity.

About the Author . . . John J. Nolan, Jr., CPP, is a project manager for CONSEC II Security Consultants in Alexandria, VA. He is currently regional vice president for Region IV of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:appropriate use of high-tech security systems
Author:Nolan, John J., Jr.
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:column
Date:Oct 1, 1989
Previous Article:Handbook of Loss Prevention and Crime Prevention, 2d ed.
Next Article:Security in Commerce and Industry: Controlling Losses for Profit.

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