Locks are only a delaying mechanism. That’s it. They don’t keep bad guys out, they merely impede progress. Walls do the same thing, as do fences. Good security relies on layers of protection. Distance to separate a building from a street, a locked front door to slow entry, a hidden safe to protect documents or valuables. Each layer can be defeated, but each adds time for a response.

Valuable items can only be protected with an overwhelming response. Locks and vaults are not sufficient, yet most businesses think they are. Consider the “rooftop burglaries” by jewelry thieves in Texas who knocked off a series of jewelry stores over a period of months. They disabled sophisticated alarm systems and entered through holes they cut in the roof. Then they spent six to ten hours to cut through commercial grade safes before gaining entry to the valuables inside. It’s no surprise that Monday mornings keep every police force in the nation busy to complete damage and theft reports. That’s when business owners return to the office to find broken windows, missing merchandise and evidence of other crimes.

The US Federal Reserve Bank of New York has an engineering marvel beneath the massive building at 33 Liberty Street to house gold bullion for the United States and other countries. A vault constructed on the bedrock below lower Manhattan. Here’s a description from their documents:

“The gold also is secured by the vault’s design, which is a masterpiece of protective engineering. The vault is actually the bottom floor of a three-story bunker of vaults arranged like strongboxes stacked on top of one another. The massive walls surrounding the vault are made of a steel-reinforced structural concrete.”

“There are no doors into the gold vault. Entry is through a narrow 10-foot passageway cut in a delicately balanced, nine-feet-tall, 90-ton steel cylinder that revolves vertically in a 140-ton, steel-and-concrete frame. The vault is opened and closed by rotating the cylinder 90 degrees. An airtight and watertight seal is achieved by lowering the slightly tapered cylinder three-eighths of an inch into the frame, which is similar to pushing a cork down into a bottle. The cylinder is secured in place when two levers insert large bolts, four recessed in each side of the frame, into the cylinder. By unlocking a series of time and combination locks, Bank personnel can open the vault the next business day. The locks are under “multiple control”—no one individual has all the combinations necessary to open the vault.”

The Federal Reserve has a good system – they even have a dedicated, uniformed, armed protection force to provide security.

An armed response force is the element most companies neglect. Too often companies and individuals rely on government supplied police to fill that role. Corporate security teams rely on police departments to prioritize resources in their favor, but plaques and free lunches aren’t worth much when the police department is inundated and overtasked during and after a major local crisis. Enormous sums are spent to house and monitor valuables, but active defense might include an unarmed security officer in a blazer with a two-way radio, left without any means to produce a credible threat to a motivated opponent. When chaos rules, 9-1-1 forces become reporters, not responders. Organizations must plan to be self-sustaining and deliver integrated control over the entire security defense and response lifecycle.

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