Security Systems Integrators: School & Workplace Violence

Security Systems Integrators: School & Workplace Violence

School and Workplace Violence Incidents Illustrate the Need for Competent
Security Systems Integrators

Incongruity Between the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 101 and Common Strategies Used in Violent Crises

Security_graphic_keyRecent workplace violence and school shooting incidents have highlighted the importance of the role of system integration, particularly with regard to access control and fire safety.

Specifically, these events have uncovered an incongruity between the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 101 and the common strategies used in violent crises. According to the NFPA, the NFPA 101 “Life Safety Code is the most widely used source for strategies to protect people based on building construction, protection, and occupancy features that minimize the effects of fire and related hazards. Unique in the field, it is the only document that covers life safety in both new and existing structures.”

A PSX installation technician at a Pennsylvania school.

The incongruity involves door lock codes. Fire safety standards require all doors to remain unlocked, while typical school and workplace security standards require managers and teachers to be able to lock doors.  The NFPA addressed this using the specific example of school lockdowns:

NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, and the other model fire and life safety codes require that doors not be locked so as to prevent egress. Locks or latches must be able to be disengaged so that a door can be opened with only one operation; that operation cannot include the use of a key, tool, or special knowledge or effort. But hardware and related installation and usage guidelines do not exist that would allow a classroom door to be locked against opening from the corridor side while still ensuring the door can be opened by any classroom occupant, or that emergency responders can access the classroom in time to prevent an occupant from causing harm to those within the room.

- NFPA Website

The Rise of Security Systems Integrators

This is just one example of many that can be used to explain the rise of the security systems integrator over the last 10 years. As security moved into the forefront of every large organization’s planning and budgeting, they began to realize that systems decisions could no longer be made independently of each other. In-house design and implementation began to look like a major gamble in the early 1990’s, paving the way for major commercial security dealers. Similarly, the current era warns that ignorance of other systems, priorities, and outright requirements has become a similar risk.

Today’s major systems vendor requires the knowledge and experience to properly balance multiple priorities that could potentially compete with each other – much like those in the NFPA example above.

This is where a security systems integrator comes in. As a firm that was built specifically to manage the design and implementation of complex projects, a security systems integrator has studied all aspects of the design, implementation, and support of the large access control, intrusion detection, video surveillance, and emergency communications systems to produce useful results across multiple disciplines.

Systems Integrators and the Managerial Idiom

But “systems integrator” is not a common term for many of the managers that are given the task of securing the people, assets, and reputation of the organization. These managers come from human resources, environmental health and safety, facilities, and many other departments . . . places where the term can easily have evaded them.

Even those that are familiar with the term sometimes disagree on its meaning. For instance, a single-product vendor is typically referred to as a “dealer,” much like the retail location for a car or truck is known as the “car dealer.”

Just as the Ford dealer can’t get you a new Chevy (and definitely won’t put a Corvette engine in a new Mustang for you) the security dealer has to follow some strict rules as well. They have locked into one product for any number of reasons, and now are focused on selling as much of that one product as possible.

The System Integrator’s Wide-Ranging Expertise

PSX is a systems integrator, with lots of different brands and tools at our disposal, without the same need to please a core manufacturer.

A systems integrator brings wide-ranging expertise, including building code, low voltage systems design, networking, computing, and project management to design projects that solve client problems.  This usually involves connections between disparate products, made by a wide variety of manufacturers.

System dealers serve an important purpose to the majority of the world’s smaller businesses and institutions. However, if you’re in charge of balancing a larger set of requirements, in an environment where the stakes are higher, it may be wise to consider a security systems integrator.