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A Key to Facility Security

Do you give out keys to employees or vendors? Do you have a policy for issuing and recovering keys? Do you have a secure place for storing keys?

Many employers think they know exactly who has keys to their facility and where those keys are. But, if you don’t have patented key control at your facility, a policy that is being enforced and a way to manage keys, you really don’t know who has access to what.

Patented key control offers protection against unauthorized key duplication. In fact, with patented key control only authorized individuals whose signatures are on file with the locksmith or manufacturer can order duplicate keys.

We have all heard horror stories about what happens when keys fall into the wrong hands. Duplicating keys without authorization or keys leaving the facility are often the cause of security lapses.

Security is all about increasing accountability and reducing liability. Here are a few recommendations to achieve both:

  • Unlawful to Duplicate: Don’t be fooled by the “unlawful to duplicate” stamps on keys. Those warnings don’t hold any water and only foster a false sense of security. Choose a patented key system.
  • Regular Key Audits: Duplicated keys from hardware stores and other places are easy to catch. A key audit will quickly tell you if duplicates have been made, what keys are missing and if your facility is at risk.
  • Keys with Serial Numbers: Keys with individual serial numbers provide another layer of accountability. This way, when you assign someone a key, you know exactly which key they have. If a key is found, you know exactly who it belongs to and what access they have.
  • Have a key control policy: A stern key control policy that is enforced is a MUST for every facility! Whether it’s human resources, security or both departments, the policy has to have teeth and be enforced. Think about this example. If an employee has a company-issued cell phone, the phone will absolutely be recovered on that employee’s last day. The same mentality needs to be applied to the collection of keys.
  • Management Software: For large facilities or those needing a higher level of security, consider key management software. This cost-effective tool streamlines the key management/issuance process and gives you oversight on exactly who has access to each individual door within your facility. 

A positive security trend with many manufacturers is the implementation of access control systems. Unfortunately, many integrators overlook the importance of key systems when installing access control systems in facilities. Patented key systems work hand-in-hand with access control and should be a part of them. Otherwise, the locks on your facility are overlooked.
New technology in key control management often integrates with access control systems. Electromechanical key systems offer the trusted security principles of a mechanical (traditional) key system along with digital tools for management and authorization. Installing an electromechanical key system does not have to be a major capital expenditure. In fact, most manufacturers have the ability to replace locks and still use the existing door hardware. Since wiring is not required for an electromechanical key system, retrofitting locks is can be affordable for any manufacturer.

Digital tools included with electromechanical key systems allow you to schedule/grant/revoke access from anywhere, provide you with audit reports and reduce the risk of lost or stolen keys. Electromechanical key systems work well in both interior and exterior environments and can be moved if future changes are needed. Additionally, electromechanical keys cannot be duplicated.

Now that you have a strong understanding about the importance of patented key control and the benefits of electromechanical key systems, here’s something else to think about — do you have a secure place where keys are stored? There are key cabinets available that not only store keys but have the ability to distribute them as well. The distribution feature increases efficiency because a supervisor does not have to stand around handing out keys. These key cabinets also send alerts when keys are unreturned, providing yet another way to reduce liability.

Being proactive about managing key control will help mitigate future risks. Choosing a patented key system or upgrading to an electromechanical key system will undoubtedly increase your facility’s security. Whatever you decide, the first step is evaluating and enforcing your facility’s key control policy.

About the Author

NAMERobert Massard, AHC, CRL, CFDI, LSFDI, is the President of Redford Lock Security Solutions. He may be reached at 248-374-0600 or rmassard@redfordlock.com.