Safety Talks week- 26
when an emergency occurs at a water facility, emergency rescue personnel must have
unhindered access to respond to the situation. Medics must be able to provide first aid to injured people, and law enforcement personnel must have the ability to engage a threat (a person, device, vehicle, or event) to prevent a security breach or a dangerous situation.
Frequently, emergency responders will pull up to locked gates thinking they have the right passcode for entry, only to punch the code in the keypad and watch the gates do nothing. They may then resort to tailgating another car through to gain entry to where they are sup— posed to go. Otherwise, the emergency center dispatcher must recontact the original reporting party to get them to “buzz in” the responders, delaying emergency response.
Emergency access control might be addressed in local ordinances, but in many communities, it is not. Many current codes were written years ago by fire authorities and do not take advantage of recent advancements in the access control industry. While some popular methods of emergency entry meet firefighters’ approval, other public safety agencies may not have been consulted in the selection process.
Local ordinances should guide water professionals to the preferred emergency access method, but the absence of applicable codes should not determine whether such access is provided. If you want periodic facility patrols and quick response to emergencies by patrol officers and firefighters, access to your facility had better be easy, quick, and reliable.
Traditional Access Systems
Following are some basic methodologies emergency personnel can employ to gain entry to gated areas, each with its own strengths and drawbacks: some technologies can be combined to form hybrid applications.
Keypads. Some gates have combination locks or keypads that accept a hand-entered numerical passcode assigned to emergency crews. Many keypads systems lack audit control, as all emergency crews typically use the same code
It is not uncommon for public safety to be locked out of a call for service because the code changed and no one told the agency. Consider, too, if a passcode were to fall into the wrong hands because it was broadcast over an insecure radio scanner: Who would be liable? What would be the potential ramifications?
Third party. With a dispatch callback procedure, telephone, or intercom system, residents, guards, or
employees can remotely grant gated—area access to a third party. Access can also be granted directly by a guard at a perimeter checkpoint. Drawbacks to this system are that during off-hours, no one may be present to provide access, staffing is expensive, and public safety personnel could not enter a facility covertly.
Locks. If a facility has manually operated gates, a key and lock may be the only option. Some local agencies require the use of a lockbox, which houses either a switch to activate the gate mechanism, another key, or an access card to open the barrier. This solution is used almost exclusively by fire departments.
Some lockboxes can be accessed by an infrared beam from devices such as a personal digital assistant, but the majority still require conventional keys. The downside to keys is account— ability and the sheer number required to equip every emergency vehicle. A lost key might require rekeying all matching locks, switches, and lockboxes and replacing all existing keys—a costly proposition.
Cards. Access cards provide an audit trail of activity, as the system can associate each card with individual users or vehicles. Cards with a touch plate, embedded chip, and magnetic strip are inserted into or touched to a card reader to allow access. Proximity cards are read from a distance, which means the pass-through speed of emergency vehicles is increased because actual contact with the card reader is not required.
If a card is lost, the associated permissions can be quickly removed from the system. Cards are relatively inexpensive and replacements can be quickly used. But as with keys, managing a card for every potential response vehicle can be expensive and an audit control nightmare.
Advanced Technology Systems
Light: Some municipalities use a traffic priority control system, where emergency vehicles in the jurisdiction are equipped with a coded infrared strobe light that preempts traffic signals during emergency responses, allowing a fire truck or police car to get a green light at con- trolled intersections. Similar receivers can be attached to facility gate controllers to provide emergency access to vehicles flashing the special strobe.
This solution requires each emergency vehicle to be equipped with a strobe emitter, which may prove cost-prohibitive and impractical for this limited use, some emitters use visible light that may compromise the covert entry of responding units.
Sound. Sound—activated entry systems open a gate when an emergency vehicle gets within range of an audio sensor that detects the siren. Such systems are fairly inexpensive, are compatible with most gate operators, and are popular with fire departments.
However, although fire equipment typically rolls to calls with lights and sirens on, announcing the arrival of law officers this way may be the last thing law enforcement wants to do. Sound-activated systems also preclude entry of officers on foot or bike and of other service providers such as security and utility staff. who otherwise would have been provided an access card, code, or key?
Radio signal. A gate equipped with a radio receiver can be opened with a manual transmitter, an “always on” transmitter, or a radio frequency identifier. Manual transmitters require users to push a button to open a gate. This technology is used to activate garage door openers. Active transmitters require no user action: they continuously emit a radio signal that is detected by a gate receiver, which in turn activates the gate opener, Another type of transmitter is mounted on the underside of a vehicle where the signal 1s detected by a roadway loop similar to those used to detect cars at traffic signals,
Radio signal identification is quick (less than four seconds) and secure. Receiver range can be set from within inches of the receiver to about one—quarter of a mile away, and handheld or vehicle-mounted radios can be used to open the gate. An internal log in the receiver maintains details on what agency gained access and when, retaining the most recent transactions.
Problems here include the probable number of different access frequencies or technologies in any given jurisdiction, the compromising of receivers with matching frequencies in the event of loss or theft of a transmitter or transponder, and the possibility of an always-on transmitter inadvertently activating a gate when driven past a gated complex.
Forced entry. More of a method than a system—and certainly last on the list of emergency access options—is forced entry, crashing fences, cutting lochs, and breaching gates are proven means for public safety personnel to get where they need to go, but such tactics usually result in damage to facility equipment or emergency vehicles. Jumping fences puts emergency responders at ris1‹ of injury and leaves them without vehicle-mounted equipment.
What happens when there is a loss of power at your facility? Can people get outs Can people get in? Security gates should also include the ability to override the gate operator in case of a power or mechanical failure. Such systems Include manually operated mechanisms and backup power supplies,
A battery backup system can automatically open a gate and then shut down the gate opera tor until the primary power supply is restored. If the battery backup and primary power both fail, the gate operator should go into a fall-safe mode that allows a malfunctioning gate to be manually pushed open so that vehicles or people are neither locked in nor locked out, Fail-safe overrides are mandatory in many jurisdictions across the country.
If you increase your utility’s security by installing gated systems, remember, too, to consider emergency access. Absent around-the -clock, onsite security staff and without proper controls. public safety response times can be unnecessarily lengthened.
Examine the options and develop a comprehensive. holistic approach in cooperation with your local authorities. Remember, the safety of your employees and customers may depend on quick, simple, and reliable access to gated facilities.
For more information, see the AWWA bool‹ security and Emergency Planing for water end Wastewater Utilities.