Sophisticated, software-based security systems can provide powerful tools to support campus security. By nature, such systems are flexible, with many capabilities that can help manage the process of physical protection. However, the full potential of these systems can be overlooked because of unfamiliarity with the products, weaknesses in security planning, and constraints associated with the design and construction process. Commissioning ensures that security systems are designed, installed, functionally tested and capable of being operated and maintained according to an education institution's real operational needs rather than what the manufacturer's user manual prescribes.

Traditionally, security installations require a level of testing called "final," "functional" or "acceptance" testing as the last requirement for completion of a project. Most of these requirements only scratch the surface of system capabilities and usually do not involve performing simulations of actual security incidents, and adapting systems programming and operational protocols to account for the results of these tests. The complete commissioning process goes further in seeking to guarantee that a system operates properly, that it properly addresses campus vulnerabilities, that it can be supported adequately in the future, and that it can be used effectively by staff members.

This is especially important where sophisticated systems interact with one another, such as with access control, intrusion, video, fire alarm, electrified locking and elevator-control systems. In addition, operating and maintenance improvements can be realized when stakeholders are cognizant of the goals of a system, its performance and operational boundaries, and the methods and quality of the initial installation.

Ultimately, a more thorough series of program-validation exercises during a burn-in period enhances customer satisfaction by verifying that systems operate as effectively as possible, and ensures that security concepts have been integrated properly and usefully into the final product. An enhanced commissioning approach can help protect the security investments and develop confidence in security technologies deployed throughout a campus.

Black, CPP, PSP, CSC, CET, is a senior security consultant and operations manager for TRC Solutions' Irvine, Calif., office. He is a member of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP), ASIS and the International Association of Professional Security Consultants. He can be reached at jblack@trcsolutions.com.