Active shooters are meticulous planners with an “MO” of going inside buildings to seek out targets. An effective strategy for commercial office buildings to mitigate the risk of penetration and mayhem is the effective deployment of security entrances. However, not all security entrances work the same way. Their different capabilities have an impact on an organization’s overall anti-tailgating strategy in terms of capital outlay, manpower needed, annual operating costs, ROI, user education and preparation, and, ultimately, how effective they are in preventing the tragedy an active shooter might wreak.
There are three critically important components to a successful anti-tailgating strategy: Guard force, employee education, and technology mix. An effective security strategy requires all three components to achieve results. So, what is the best recipe for successful implementation of an anti-tailgating strategy, one that will be most effective in keeping your employees, customers, and visitors safest?
Key Question: “Detect or Prevent?”
The table below lists the four Capability Levels along with its associated security entrance type. A Capability Level can be summarized as a goal: “Do you want to detect tailgating or prevent it from happening?” For our purposes, and because they are the most popular for commercial settings due to their high throughput, we will focus on entrances that detect and those that prevent tailgating, which are optical turnstiles and security revolving doors.
Optical Turnstiles = Detection
Optical turnstiles are typically installed in main entrance lobbies. They allow tenants/employees to pass through them, but the presence of the cabinets and barriers indicates that visitors need to “check in” with the reception/security staff to get access. It’s important to know that tailgating is possible regardless of the height of the barriers; when the barriers open for only a few seconds, a second person can rush through. Therefore, turnstile entrances require the presence of a guard to deter attempts and/or respond immediately. If not, the potential trouble has already breached your perimeter.
Optical turnstiles have sensors inside the passage lane to detect tailgating. If they sense an extra person has followed after an authorized user, they issue an alarm. This is why we classify them as “detection” solutions. However, here are some pitfalls that optical turnstiles present, that are worth thinking about:
- The barriers, regardless of height and shape, are not bullet resistant
- Waist high barriers can be jumped over
- Busy, rush hour periods and distracted staff present an opportunity to tailgate successfully
- Guards must always be vigilant and ready to respond appropriately – there should be ironclad SOPs around their response to alarms as well as employee/tenant education
- Alarms, if they happen often for non-serious infractions (forgotten badge), can cause “fatigue” and staff will ask to turn them off, defeating the purpose of the alarm
- Optical turnstiles require staff to monitor them, which cost money year over year
Optical turnstiles are very popular, but it’s important to understand their operation and the implications. If you consider your buildings at risk, consider the scenarios that can play out and determine the SOP. You may determine armed security will be necessary.
Security Revolving Doors = Prevention and More
Security revolving doors provide true tailgating and piggybacking prevention based on how they operate. When a user provides valid credentials and enters the door, if someone tries to follow in the next compartment, the door’s ceiling sensors detect the presence and stop the door’s rotation. The valid user steps out and the unauthorized user is rebuffed. Thus you have an automated standard operating procedure that works every time. In addition, if let’s say an active shooter grabs a hostage and tries to forcibly piggyback in the same compartment, the door will sense two people and reverse rotation. So, either way, there is no need for a guard to stand vigilant at a security revolving door.
Here are some additional benefits to consider:
- Full height door cannot be jumped over or crawled under
- High level of simultaneous, bi-directional throughput (22 per minute each direction)
- Reduction in guard force can provide ROI, offsetting higher entrance expense
- Ideal for employee-only side entrances
- Can be outfitted with bullet-resistant glass to protect people inside the door
- Highly sophisticated technology calculates risk of “false acceptance”—probability that someone successfully could piggyback and fool the system
We hope this short overview of detection vs. prevention will motivate a discussion in your organization about your current vulnerability to tailgating and help you devise an active shooter policy. The very real potential costs of the wrong person getting into your building must be explored and active strategies and technologies deployed to greatly increase your ability to create and maintain a secure building perimeter. It’s not a matter of if there will be violence or even an active shooter tragedy, it’s only a matter of where.