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No Bells And Switches…

It is show-time once more.

Thousands of security professionals recently flocked to the annual IFSEC (International Fire & Security Exhibition) at the NEC.

But if a little green man had emerged from a spacecraft in the foyer he could be forgiven for thinking that security was entirely dependent upon electronics.  Surrounded by the bells and switches on stands promoting the latest technology in CCTV products and intruder alarm components, he would remaining largely unaware of the diverse and long standing physical security hardware industry.


 If this LGM from outer space was to then call up some of the major security product portals on the internet he would find sites claiming to provide “total security solutions”.  Yet not a single word anywhere about locks, safes, bars, grilles and shutters, doors, fences, barriers, security glazing or any other physical security hardware.  Only alarms, CCTV and access control.  By any stretch that’s hardly ‘total’. 

Given that there are some notable exceptions, these “high tech” devices often fail to deter or prevent crime. Intruder alarms and CCTV either warn that a crime is being attempted or simply record it happening.  For the traumatised victim of an armed robbery, it is little consolation
that an electronic eye watched it all and that the recording it made may assist the police in making an arrest or securing a subsequent conviction.  They would much rather that the incident had not happened at all. 

I am often stunned by the readiness of experienced security professionals to sanction expenditure on expensive electronic installations that are often of marginal benefit, yet they frequently baulk at spending a comparatively minor sum on security hardware with a proven deterrent effect.

Understandably, visitors to security shows are fascinated by the ins and outs of the latest CCTV cameras, movement sensors, remotely controlled multiplex monitors.  Where’s the excitement in a steel door-sets, collapsible window grilles, high security padlocks or the latest cash safe?  Yet it is these products that actually form the last line of defence – that hold the villain at bay long enough for the cavalry to arrive.


 Armed robbery has almost reached epidemic proportions. Fast food restaurants, petrol forecourts, convenience stores, pubs and off licenses are right there in the front line.  When these organisations ask for advice on what can be done to deter this type of crime, nine times out of 10 they will be told to instal CCTV cameras and monitors.  Where’s the deterrent in that?  A drug addict desperate to feed a habit probably doesn’t give tuppence that he is being recorded.  Other raiders wear masks or demand the disc or tape along with the cash.  In a recent, well-publicised spate of armed robberies, the bare-faced perpetrator actually waved and smiled at the camera.

A digital combination lock incorporating time delay and time locking systems and fitted onto and existing cash safe costs little more than £300, yet used in conjunction with eye- catching warning signs, can reduce the likelihood of armed robbery by as much as 80 percent. Major users have audited the number of armed robberies before and after fitting anti hold-up locking systems and have found this to be so.


Maybe I am not quite as Luddite as I sound as these safes do incorporate state-of-the-art electronic locking, but the main benefit lies in the protection provided by tried and tested, defensive barriers.

Of course, security is not a matter of “either/or”: it should be a balance between the use of high quality security hardware backed up by the use of modern technology. 

My only complaint is that security professionals, who should know better, are too ready to reach for the chequebook, seeking electronic solutions to problems that could be solved more readily and certainly less expensively, by a security hardware product.  

As we all know, crime is cyclical, problems arise, are resolved and replaced by yet more problems. 

Maybe the difficulty lies in the fact that physical security solutions cost too little. Specifiers and the end users won’t believe they will work unless they make a big dent in budgets.  The security hardware side of our industry subsists on notoriously low margins compared to our hi-tech cousins; that’s why you see so few of us as major security shows; we simply can’t afford to be there.

Perhaps – if we put up our prices and doubled our margins – we might be taken more

 Mike Palmer FSyI

Eurosafe UK.

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