Photo via Flickr, Brenda Clarke
1. Have a Formal Plan
The systematic control of locks and keys is essential in today's university environment. In developing a plan, the first step is knowing the identity of authorized key holders, which keys they have or have access to and why they are needed. The next step is to take a physical inventory of every access point and every piece of door hardware in every building. Following this inventory, it is then necessary to identify the keys that fit each of the locks, who has the keys, what keys they have and what doors they access. This step is usually followed by labeling every door with an ID number, and labeling and recording the corresponding key.
Once these preliminary steps have been accomplished, the key control policy and procedures guide can be written. A simple but strong policy defines areas of responsibility and enables better control over the keys with fewer keys being lost or compromised. When selecting a key control system, those that automatically record the access history of each key, including user, date and time of checkout/return as well as only releasing assigned keys to users with the proper authorization code, can help to ensure adherence to the established policies and procedures.
2. Properly Balance Security and Public Access
It is necessary to understand how the facility works on a day-to-day basis so that routines and operations are disrupted as little as possible when a key control and management plan is implemented. Discussions and interviews with faculty and staff can provide the needed information that can minimize the trade-off between security and convenience.
3. Plan for Future Needs
Not planning for future growth is another area in which key control policies can fall short. Systems should be designed and implemented with an eye toward future-proofing as well as growth to help protect the original investment.
4. Track Your Keys
Key storage without some form of automated tracking and accountability is only half a solution and can quickly become a problem. Online monitoring, updating and reporting capabilities enhance the functionality of a key control system and add to the integrity of an institution's security. For instance, at any time, campus security can view who has keys out or who previously had the keys out and when. If keys are not returned when scheduled, E-mail alerts can be sent to security management to allow quicker action.
Also, names can be added or deleted from the system through the network. In addition to the time and effort saved, these changes can help prevent incidents by denying access to unauthorized or at-risk individuals, such as recently terminated employees. The network connectivity of the system also allows management to remotely release any key, adding to the convenience and inherent safety provided by a key control and management solution.
5. Find Other Uses for Your Key Control Equipment
The capability to integrate a key control and management system with other physical security measures adds tremendous value to key management systems and allows appropriate solutions to be implemented without costly upgrades or overhauls.
For example, when a building is secured with an access control system, the access cards can also be stored and secured in a key locker, using the same key locking mechanisms for tracking and auditing. And if someone tries to leave the building without returning an item taken from a key locker, an alert can be sent to campus security.
The key to an effective key management plan is a reliable and easy to use key control system supplemented with accurate and detailed reporting information.
Fernando Pires is the vice president of sales and marketing for Morse Watchmans.