Archive for CPTED

Simple Home Security Tips

For the most part and except for the rare high net worth executive or celebrity, our firm does not actively engage in home security consulting for residential properties.   We typically just aren’t cost effective, and there are plenty of other very good sources of information out there that can provide good service for your needs.   Still, I find that I get asked this advice from time to time, and even though we don’t typically provide this service, here are some ideas that can be helpful in protecting your loved ones and your home:

  • Have a Security Mindset.   A simple rule I learned from my father as a kid, “Leave your place the way you want to find it when you return”.   This applies to home security very easily.
  • Use Lighting. Leave the lights on if you’re coming home after dark (or have automatic lights that turn on a schedule or at dusk). 
  • Smart Lights. For techies, get light switches or sockets that can be controlled by Google Home or Amazon Alexa. Then set schedules or use voice commands to turn lights on/off. This helps make the home appear to be occupied.
  • Outdoor Lights.   Keep a light on the porch or in the yard.  Lights are a great deterrent for criminal behavior. Motion detection lights are useful too, although they tend to false quite a bit and may come on more than necessary.
  • Be Neat. Leave the house neat and orderly (it’s hard to tell if someone has ransacked your house if it’s already a mess…). There’s also a little bit of the “broken window mindset” here, that people won’t respect your home as a sovereign domain if it’s unkempt and in disrepair. Plus, don’t leave items in your yard that may help burglars or vandals break into or damage your home (ladders, tools, bricks/lumber, gas cans, etc).
  • Lock Doors.  Lock the doors before you leave.  If keys are a hassle, install a PIN pad for your deadbolt on your main or side entrance door.  They are easily installed and inexpensive.  Oh, and make sure you have a deadbolt lock on all doors.  Install one if not.
  • Use door barricades if needed. Metal exterior doors are best. For use when you are at home, using simple devices that function as a night latch are very helpful in supplementing deadbolts (you did get a deadbolt, right?). Be sure to install the night latch at least one foot higher or lower than the deadbolt, to add more strength and resist kick ins. By the way, forget the chains and use at least 3″ screws to fasten to the door frame and studs behind. Here’s a suggestion https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D2K367Y/
  • Use Your Alarm.  Arm the alarm system if you have one.  Many people have alarm systems, but never actually use them.  Use it!  (A great feature I’ve added to my house is a “go away light”, that is a little red light that turns on if the alarm has been tripped and can be seen as I’m driving up to the house.  If it’s on, nobody goes inside, we call the police.)
  • Get an Alarm.  If you don’t have an alarm system, get one.  Most any commercially available alarm system is sufficient for home use.  Large companies like ADT and CPI market themselves as inexpensive, but tend to have high monitoring fees.  Otherwise they’re all about the same.   PRO TIP:  If you get an alarm system, get smoke detectors connected to it and pay for the monitoring fee.   The fire department will automatically be called whether you’re home or away.
  • Get a dog.   This age old burglar deterrent really does work pretty well.  And no, it doesn’t really matter what kind of dog, although a Chihuahua might not be the most intimidating.
  • Lock Windows.  Use your window locks, even on the second floor (criminals have ladders too).  If your windows are the older double-hung wooden type, an easy trick to secure them is to drill a ¼” hole in the far left or right side side of both sashes, and then insert a 10 gauge nail through both sashes.  Even if they managed to unlock from the outside, the window can’t be raised or lowered.
  • Cut Back Shrubs.  Keep shrubs cut back and trees limbed up so you can see your house windows and doors from the street.  Shrubs near the house should be trimmed neatly and cut back.   Hedges should be trimmed so they don’t offer an advantage to a stalker or potential burglar.
  • Fences.  If your property would benefit from the use of a fence, they provide a natural barrier and boundary to your property.  Most houses don’t have them, but for some homes they might be a good fit.
  • Cell Charger by Your Bed.  Most people don’t have a home telephone anymore, so make sure to have your cell phone charger at your bed at night.  If you need the phone in a hurry because of a break in, you don’t want it in another room.
  • Night Lights.  Most grown adults don’t want or need night lights, but they are very helpful for night time navigation in events where you’ll likely have the advantage of night vision and know the layout of your home.
  • Flashlight.  Having an alternate source of light is critical in emergency situations.  There should be one flashlight per person in the household.  The nightstand is an obvious place to keep it.
  • Have a plan.   Have a plan what to do in case of an emergency, a fire, or home invasion.  If you have children, discuss the plan with them too.  Keep it simple so everyone will remember it.
  • Owning a Gun.  Owning a weapon like a gun is a personal choice, and for some may not be right, or even legal.  If you do have a lethal weapon, make sure it is stored and locked up securely, and that you can get to it quickly and safely if needed.  Otherwise, you’re better off not having it or not using it in the case of a home invasion (you don’t want it used against you or your family).  Training and regular practice with the weapon is also strongly recommended.
  • Non-Lethal Weapons.  If a firearm is not for you, other non-lethal options such as Pepper Spray, Blunt Weapons, or Tasers may be used in the case of home invasion, but still also carry the responsibility of choosing to use them appropriately and have proper training.  Don’t use pellet guns, air-soft guns, or the like as a means of self-defense. In the event the intruder also has a gun, he’s more likely to use it if he believes you also have a gun.
  • Handcuffs.  A final consideration is what you’re going to do with the intruder if you’ve managed to stop them.  How will you hold them for police?  Having a set or two of handcuffs in a drawer is a safer and easier alternative to tying them or trying to lock them in a room.

These are but a few ideas for home safety and security that can be easily adopted by most people.  If you need more detailed information or want a thorough security plan developed, contact a professional security consultant to help you determine your needs and the best plan to make sure you are prepared and protected.

Posted in: CPTED, Fire and Life Safety, Security Technology

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The Impact of Closed Circuit Television

Almost 30 years ago when I was first entering the security industry, closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras weren’t terribly different from the cameras that were being used to for movie and television production.  They were smaller, typically had less resolution and no audio, but the basic principles were the same.   Charged Coupled Device (CCD) cameras were fairly new, and if you wanted low light performance, you were resigned to use tube cameras.  Yes, tubes.  As in vacuum tubes.  Tube cameras actually used a vacuum tube for the imager, and the tradeoff for low light sensitivity was a shorter life span, higher power requirements, and reduced reliability.   Later, Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) cameras came into play and helped overcome some of the limitations of both tube and CCD technologies.

Vidicon Imaging Tube for Old Style CCTV Camera

Since then, digital Internet Protocol (IP) cameras have come into play.    These newer cameras offer increased light sensitivity, much higher resolution, and new enhancements like video analytics and flexible communications options.

While all of these advancements make for better security, the most important enhancements are the video analytics and IP communications.   These two technology advances increase the likelihood of detecting activity and being able to monitor and record that activity from almost any location.

For most small and medium sized businesses or municipalities, the thought of a comprehensive video management system seems not only unnecessary, but impractical from a monitoring and timely intervention standpoint.  “Video cameras don’t stop crimes, all they do is record it”, we often hear.  This is not necessarily true.  CCTV video serves three important roles in security:

  1. Deterrence – Sometimes just the sight of a video camera will deter criminal activity from ever happening in the first place. Because being watched means being held accountable, this is a strong enticement for on premises security cameras.  No, this doesn’t mean adding “dummy cameras” is a good idea.  In fact, installing dummy cameras can make matters worse in premises liability cases for incidents occurring on your property.
  1. Detection – Having all of the campus CCTV cameras monitored in a single location allows for an operator to spot potential negative events during or even prior to them actually happening. IP enabled cameras offer increased detection capability in two ways; first they allow for cameras to be placed anywhere within the corporate network infrastructure (or even further away via hybrid cabling or wireless networking), and second they permit remote monitoring from anywhere there is network or internet access, including smart phones and tablets.  This allows for remote monitoring and recording at an off-site or contract monitoring facility, and also allows the ability to feed recorded or live events to first responders almost in real-time.    It also means that cameras can be located just about anywhere in your corporate footprint, including on-board vehicles.
  1. Assessment – Being able to discern what, where, and when something is happening on camera is critical to determining how to respond to a particular event, and also aids in evidentiary requirements for later prosecution. With the advent of video analytics, that can now be taken a step further with things like video motion detection, face detection, traffic movement, object removal, and facial recognition.   These tools increase the reliability of the observer (or recording device) to actually capture useful video information for use in timely intervention or for evidence in prosecution.   For example, with the right software, imagine a disgruntled employee situation where the former employee’s photo is setup to trigger an alert if the video system “recognizes” his face when he tried to re-enter the campus.  The authorities can be notified and other emergency precautions can be taken much sooner than previously possible.

Each one of these roles is an important piece to the overall security strategy for a business or government entity, and when used with common sense security practices like Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) and other industry best practices, CCTV video becomes a powerful tool to both deter, detect, and defend both persons and property in a timely and effective manner.

 

Posted in: CPTED, Premises Liability, Security Consulting, Security Technology

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LED Street Lighting for Security Purposes

Drive down any US city street these days, and the led-lightsold, yellow street lights now shine bright white and bright with the latest in modern street lights, LEDs.  LED lights are popular because of their tremendous energy savings, about 80-90% energy efficiency, when compared to a traditional incandescent light bulb. This means the LED lamp has about 80% of the energy used to illuminate actually goes into making the light, with the remaining 20% given off as thermal energy.   Compared with the highly inefficient incandescent bulb, which is about 25% converted to light, and 75% given off as heat.   So for any business, residence, or municipality, a huge savings in operating costs can be found by switching to LED lighting, and with federal subsidies for energy savings, the capital costs are partially offset as well.

But a small wrinkle has developed as the American Medical Association (AMA) has adopted guidance for communities on selecting among LED lighting options to minimize potential harmful human and environmental effects.   People are complaining about driving under the blue-white lights, or trying to sleep with one newly installed on the street outside their bedroom window.  According to the AMA:  “High-intensity LED lighting designs emit a large amount of blue light that appears white to the naked eye and create worse nighttime glare than conventional lighting. Discomfort and disability from intense, blue-rich LED lighting can decrease visual acuity and safety, resulting in concerns and creating a road hazard.  In addition to its impact on drivers, blue-rich LED streetlights operate at a wavelength that most adversely suppresses melatonin during night. It is estimated that white LED lamps have five times greater impact on circadian sleep rhythms than conventional street lamps. Recent large surveys found that brighter residential nighttime lighting is associated with reduced sleep times, dissatisfaction with sleep quality, excessive sleepiness, impaired daytime functioning and obesity.”   So the AMA is recommending that LED street lamps that are installed turn the color temperature down from 5000K or 4000K to at least 3000K, or a “warm-white” color that more mimics natural sunlight.

For the last 30 or 40 years, most street lamps have been high pressure sodium or mercury vapor lamps.  These are high intensity gas discharge (HID) lamps that operate by forcing an electric arc through vaporized mercury or sodium to produce light. The arc discharge is generally confined to a small fused quartz arc tube mounted within a larger borosilicate glass bulb.   The color is the big difference:  mercury vapor lamps usually produce a bluish/purple color when operating, and sodium lamps produce a yellowish/brown color.   Sodium is the most common type lamp until just recently because it was more efficient than mercury.

So what difference does this make from a security standpoint?  The color mostly…  Oddly from a security standpoint the color can make a difference from a psychological and electronic security perspective.   In the past we have generally recommended Metal Halide HID lamps instead of mercury or sodium, even though they operate similarly, because the color is a much more true white and allows for proper color identification in low light situations.  Mercury and Sodium lamps can make greens and reds look like different colors, and navy and black almost impossible to differentiate.  Enter LED lamps.  They look very similar to metal halide from a color perspective, and allow better color rendition for both human eyes and electronic eyes such as video surveillance cameras, most of which see in color these days even at night (if the lighting is good enough).  Below you can see the major difference between an older style sodium vapor lamp and a newer LED.

Old and New

Both lamps give off ample light, but there is an obvious color difference.  And while it’s not terribly easy to see from this photo, true accurate color renderings are harder with the yellow sodium lamps.   The LED lamp here is a hotter color temperature, around 4000K and has that bluish tint that is being complained about.   Lowering the temperature to 3000K would make it slightly more amber, but not anywhere near the color of the sodium lamp.

So if your business, facility, or municipality has LED lamps being planned, it may be prudent to push for a 3000K color temperature not only for security camera color rendering accuracy, but also from a psychological and health perspective, and you have the AMA helping make your case for you.

 

 

Posted in: Company News, CPTED

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Layers – Not just for Onions and Ogres

Security has been thought of and taught to others as a “layered approach” for centuries, and as such is not a new concept.   The Romans used layered concepts in their infantry tactics as well as their defensive fortifications.   With all due respect to “Shrek“, security is like an onion, and is a complex layer of countermeasures that make up a suite of hurdles that, presumably, are so confounding or problematic that the opponent gives up, gets caught, or never attempts anything in the first place.

The layers of security

Layers of security are a simple concept, but the concept is often overused by security professionals in discussion and even trivialized as not very important.  As Americans, we tend to rely very heavily on technology.  We understand technology, and we’re pretty good at it.   But while having thermal night vision cameras, fiber optic sensing cables, and CCTV drones flying over your campus are an impressive security posture, sometimes just a plain old chain link fence or dense thornbush hedge are enough to deter the would be criminal.  The most effective barrier I ever saw was a dense hedge of thorns called a  “living wall”.   It was 6 feet tall (and still growing), and you couldn’t climb it, cut it, or burn through it.

We once worked with a client that had installed a $4500.00 bullet proof door with a card access proximity reader installed behind Lexan (to protect it too) on the wall.  It we very impressive, until we learned that the wall it was installed  in was only sheetrock and metal studs, and you could kick through it and completely bypass the door.

Security layers mean from the outside in, with each layer adding to the increased security profile.   But security profiles are different for different companies, buildings, or campuses.  It depends upon the corporate philosophy, culture, and threat profile.  What may be reasonable for a chemical company manufacturing DOD explosives may not be suitable for a quarry.

Start with the outside, what are the threats from the street, the site perimeter, or even from the air?  Then work to the building perimeter, where are points of entry, access control weaknesses, or blind spots?  Internally you should look at the lobbies, common areas, break rooms, stairwells, and vestibules.  Then finally to policies and procedures relating to security, safety, and employee awareness.  Each of these areas will generate questions, to which you should generate answers in the forms of layers of security to add to your security profile.

Posted in: CPTED, Security Consulting

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