Access control systems, card access systems, integrated electronic security systems – whatever term you choose, card access systems were the original physical security information management (PSIM) tool. Many were already interfacing with lighting controls, gates and doors decades ago using access control technology. Video integration with access control started as simply activating a monitor by literally switching on the power to a monitor from off to on using a relay output from a nearby card access panel. That monitor was connected via coax to a fixed camera pointed at a reader controlled door. Today, that is integration – convergence. Taken a step or two further, it would have been crude PSIM, thus, enhancing while simplifying situational awareness is not a new goal in the enterprise.
I also recall control centers filled with a multitude of disparate burglar alarm panels, fire alarm panels, two or three different access control systems, and multiple types of video systems. Many installations such as this exist today – some better, some worse. The method for PSIM here rests in our control center operators/monitors. The need for increasing situational awareness and subsequently reducing operator confusion and information overload has always been with us.
If you’re already managing multiple systems and if you believe that you are a long way from PSIM, don’t despair. Work with your integrator; continue to add those extra conduits and cables with each installation and continue to replace legacy components when you can. Solicit feedback from your control center front line staff. Make it clear to all that PSIM is your long term goal, but there may be many steps to take prior to usage.

Looking for PSIM Readiness

The first place that I’m going to look for “PSIM readiness” is my access control system. It may already have all or just about all of the tools that I need to reach my PSIM goal. Many systems have had the capability of being the purveyor of situational awareness (some better than others) for some time. Even legacy systems may fulfill critical functions needed for situational awareness that PSIM provides via a bit of creativity applied to what is already on site. On an access control system, “doors” do not have to actually be doors, but virtual doors. They can be turnstiles, mantraps, gates, etc. The same can be said of other traditional system points such as request to exits, keypads, readers, etc. The key here is to provide some middleware or even through leveraging features in your existing system to change the labels and icons from traditional access control devices to something else.      
A state-of-the-art PSIM system designed for your organization is the goal and modern integrated electronic access control systems have an important role. Keep this long term goal in mind when selecting future components. Perhaps start a folder, paper or virtual, on PSIM goals. Keep your integrator involved in the process. Ask your integrator how they are positioned to assist you in reaching your goals of improving and drilling down situational awareness – will they need to bring in a partner?

A Few Considerations

Whether you are poised to place the order for PSIM or you’re just beginning your research, here are a few things to consider first:
Does your organization have a continuity of operations plan? How about an all hazards plan? Do you practice incident command such as standards in a national incident management system? If those plans fall under your purview, take those plans and stuff them into your PSIM folder. If they fall outside of your purview, get those plan owners involved with your PSIM goals. Your access control and ID system that is already a hybrid physical and electronic security staple in securing, detecting, and reporting may become the management system that also encompasses mitigation, recovery and continuity of operations of your entire organization.
Read all of the features and columns in this issue about PSIM. If you don’t think your infrastructure is ready for it just yet, come back to this column. I believe you will find abilities in your current system that you can build on to increase situational awareness. You can take steps to improve situational awareness and increased response times, perhaps by just re-arranging the location of the information sources. But, don’t settle for that.