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Harden Soft Targets with PSIM

​Soft targets—those that are readily accessible to the public, like shopping malls, hotels, and hospitals—are especially vulnerable to attack by terrorists, criminals, and other bad actors. Recent attacks around the globe have raised awareness of the need to protect these spaces. Security practitioners must keep in mind that the duty of care for enterprises extends beyond just a company's employees to anyone who sets foot on the property.  

In these locations, typical physical security solutions include clear separation between public and staff-only areas, controlled access to sensitive areas to prevent unauthorized entry, and limited access to the facility during nonbusiness hours. These measures rely heavily on implementing and managing varying levels of access permissions for each area using a mix of security technologies. And even the best deployments of these systems do not eliminate risk; rather they help security to contain the threat.   

With many diverse systems, this becomes a complex task that could quickly overwhelm security staff who are also tasked with monitoring, identifying, and responding to events. For multi-use facilities, physical security information management (PSIM) solutions simplify these complicated procedures with automated, intelligent alerts and response actions, along with greatly improved situational awareness. 


Any time an unauthorized individual enters a private or sensitive area, organizations should treat that incident as suspicious unless and until they learn there is a valid reason for the entry. And with every security breach—whether intentional or unintentional, malicious or harmless—time is of the essence. This underscores the vital need for operators and other security staff to know about the situation as soon as possible. With automation and the ability to seamlessly integrate multiple systems into a single interface, PSIM solutions can speed the alerting process to improve awareness and response.

​For example, integrated access control and surveillance systems with video analytics could be deployed to alert staff when individuals enter a restricted area, such as a data center, after hours. When an alert comes in from the access control system, the PSIM solution can automatically call up surveillance video associated with the event, providing operators with direct visibility into the situation. 

Another alert could be triggered by an initial report or description submitted by a mobile user. In this case, the PSIM could correlate with nearby video and other systems. Regardless of the source of the alert, the solution ensures that operators have instant access to valuable information and insight, allowing them to quickly assess the situation and initiate the appropriate response based on a full understanding of an incident. 


Once an alert has been generated, established actions must be in place to help staff determine the appropriate course of action to resolve an issue as quickly as possible. In many cases, no response is necessary. For instance, if an individual holds a door open for a few seconds, the access control system may generate a door-prop alert. Using video associated with the action, an operator can determine in seconds whether this was to allow unauthorized entry or if the person entering simply paused to read an email or text on a cell phone. Without the video capability, a guard would need to be dispatched to assess the situation—not the most efficient use of time and resources.

Given the large number of nonactionable alerts operators receive throughout their shifts, they may not be prepared for an event that does require action, regardless of how well they have been trained. This can cause confusion and stress, which can complicate the situation and lead to chaos. Having well-defined standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place to guide operators and others through each process reduces the potential for stress, panic, or confusion, all of which contribute to a high potential for human error. However, complicated or difficult-to-locate SOPs will do nothing to reduce this likelihood.

PSIM can automate many of the more mundane and basic steps to simplify processes and allow operators to focus only on the most critical tasks that require human intervention, such as determining whether a person seen on video represents a potential threat. This enables security staff to quickly assess the situation and determine the most appropriate response.

Real-Time Situational Awareness

When responding to an incident, it is important for guards, first responders and others to have the most complete information to ensure the most effective and efficient response.

​Integrated systems improve this awareness by providing large amounts of data from various systems that can be combined to evaluate an incident. While searching myriad systems to gather and sort through this information manually is not feasible, automated PSIM solutions put all the relevant information at operators' fingertips. This allows security staff to make quick, accurate decisions based on a complete picture of an event and easily share information in real time with appropriate responders and coordinate response among all parties involved. This collaboration provides critical situational awareness to those responders, who can then make faster, more informed decisions that enable swift response to help prevent an incident from unfolding.

A wide variety of challenges arise when securing facilities and campuses with multiple levels of access privileges. By deploying a PSIM to aggregate crucial information, organizations can overcome the many challenges they face while also increasing safety and security for these potentially complex applications.

Simon Morgan is chief technology officer for SureView Systems. ​