for Heritage Buildings
The theft of artefacts
from heritage buildings, museums and galleries is a serious problem that
affects institutions throughout the world. One estimate suggests that pictures and sculpture
worth more than £100 million are stolen each year in the UK alone. At the same time, the
increasing value of tourism and the leisure industry has placed considerable
burdens on those responsible for managing heritage premises. In particular,
problems are posed by allowing the public access to locations where the
building and the contents are of considerable financial as well as heritage
RISK AND THREAT ASSESSMENT
any work is undertaken, funds committed or contracts placed, it is essential
to undertake a proper risk assessment of the premises. The assessment
process may sound daunting, but this need not be the case. In most instances
there is certainly no need to hire an expensive consultant to undertake
this task. The process should not be confused with the fire risk assessment
(for life safety purposes), which is now a legal requirement for all places
of work other than those used solely by the self employed. The security
risk assessment seeks to identify and quantify the potential threats facing
the premises and their contents.
At its most basic, the assessment can be produced by asking some simple
- What items are we seeking to protect?
- Who is likely to want to steal or damage them?
- When are the intruders likely to attack?
- How are the intruders most likely to try to gain access?
If these questions can be answered, the next steps should fall into place.
Risk assessment is a useful tool, but to be effective the process needs
to be repeated whenever circumstances change. For example, if contractors
are due to start work on an extension, then the risk will change, particularly
if scaffolding is erected, making access much easier.
It is also worth keeping a record of the assessments made so that if
something went wrong, it would be possible to demonstrate to the insurers
or the courts that appropriate steps had been taken to protect the property.
The security survey should not be confused with the risk assessment.
It is true that the two are connected, but the survey is a distinct tool
to be used to determine precisely what security measures are in place
and the deficiencies which may exist. Furthermore, any reasonably competent
manager can undertake a basic risk assessment (providing he or she understands
the principles), but the security survey is a little more demanding and
it is unlikely that a non-specialist will be able to produce a meaningful
The survey should begin with a review or analysis of the area in which
the building is located. This can often have a significant impact on the
risk of crime. Crime Patterns vary tremendously. For example, buildings
in rundown inner city areas where arson and vandalism are common obviously
present widely different problems from remote rural locations.
It has been suggested that the arson risk can be predicted by using a
simple scoring system which is available in a free leaflet published by
the Arson Prevention Bureau.1
Once the environmental threat has been determined, the basic principles
of security can be considered. These are often known as the 'three Ds'
- Deterrence, Delay and Denial:
- Deter the would-be intruder by presenting a difficult and discouraging
- Delay the intruder by making entry as difficult as possible
- Deny the intruder either any advantage or access to the key parts
of the building once entry has been gained.
The survey should review all the various security features - including
both positive and negative aspects - and then produce a list of considered
recommendations to overcome any deficiencies detected. The survey will
normally be the starting point for any security improvements and may also
provide the basis for contracts with suppliers of systems or services,
so it is important to ensure that the individual or company undertaking
the survey has no links with contractors. Some security service and equipment
companies offer free surveys as a sales tool, but it must be accepted
that such advice is worth little and may be counter-productive. Only an
independent security consultant can offer impartial and unbiased advice,
not motivated by thoughts of commercial self-interest.
All buildings or premises have a perimeter; this may be a fence, wall
or simply the 'skin' of the building. It is at the perimeter that the
security of the building and its contents begins. In the centre of a town
or city it is unlikely that heritage buildings will enjoy the luxury of
a perimeter wall or fence, so improving the level of security presented
by the building 'skin' may be the only option. All buildings have penetrations
in their skins - not just in the form of doors and windows, but also skylights,
ventilation ducts, coal chutes, delivery shutters, utility duct covers,
boiler room access panels and so on. It is very easy for those who live
or work in a building to overlook such features.
Perimeter security can be enhanced or improved by either physical measures
or detection devices. Physical measures might include bars and catches
on windows and replacing or supplementing window glass with laminated
or toughened glass. Detection devices might include fitting sensors on
windows or the use of beam systems on walls or fences for example.
Too often the response to security threats in heritage properties has
been an unthinking reflex response: 'Fit an alarm system'. While intruder
detection systems can play an important role as part of a coherent security
strategy, specifications for such systems are often produced by the supplying
company, so it is not surprising that there have been some well-publicised
cases of alarm systems failing in their intended purpose.
Modern technology is very reliable but can only be effective if the correct
sensors are specified and if a reliable company which is properly certificated
for this sort of work installs the system. No alarm supplier should be
considered unless it is listed or approved by a reputable supervisory
body.2 It almost goes without saying that a heritage building
must have its alarm system directly connected to a central alarm monitoring
system. However, given that some 94 per cent of all intruder alarm activating
events prove spurious, it is not surprising that the police in many parts
of the country are now more likely to view such equipment as a distraction
and nuisance than as a welcome ally. In some force areas three or more
false alarms in a specified period can result in a withdrawal or downgrading
of police response to such systems.
If police response is withdrawn, insurers, whose conditions drive the
installation of many alarm systems, may downgrade levels of cover or increase
excess levels or 'deductibles' (the amount you have to pay of any claim).
Properly designed and installed lighting can play a considerable part
in deterring would-be intruders. Again, correct specifications are important.
Lighting should not only eliminate shadows or areas where an intruder
can hide but should also be directed outwards from the building to provide
security personnel with an advantage, silhouetting any intruder against
the background and by shining into the intruder's eyes.
Lighting can be operated on time switches or by motion sensors.
CLOSED CIRCUIT TELEVISION
Like alarm systems, closed circuit television (CCTV) has frequently
been proposed as a panacea for security problems. While CCTV is extremely
useful for providing surveillance of such areas as galleries, display
rooms and exhibits, it must be remembered that to be effective there has
to be a proper response to security breaches picked up by camera. Always
consider who is going to respond to any incidents spotted on a monitor.
Nevertheless, recorded images are useful to the police as they may help
to identify an intruder later. To this end, tapes should be retained for
at least 28 days. To get the best possible images, tapes should be retired
after six months use.
Specification of a CCTV system (including the type of camera and its
location) should form part of an overall security design and should not
be left to the supplier.
DISPLAY CABINETS, LOCKS AND SECURITY DEVICES
Where exhibits are displayed inside cabinets or cases, consideration
should be given to the thickness and type of glass, the way it is fixed
and the locks used to secure the doors or drawers. Conventional plate
glass offers no real security and is positively dangerous when it is smashed.
Laminated glass of 10mm thickness is the lowest level of security glazing
which should be considered for items likely to be at risk. Proper security
locks (of the type manufactured by Bramah, Abloy, Medeco or Chubb for
example) should be considered, and contractors familiar with this kind
of work should fit the locks and glazing.
If it is decided that the risk justifies full-time security personnel,
then the choice will be between employing the personnel directly or using
a security service company. Either approach has its advantages and disadvantages
- it is certainly true that the contract approach may be cheaper and less
time consuming for management. However, the in-house security officer,
particularly in a small location, may well prove more flexible and will
usually identify more closely with the organisation.
Security officers are not cheap. It has been estimated that to maintain
a single post 24 hours a day, 365 days a year will cost around £85,000
per annum, so it is essential to ensure that you receive best value for
the money you spend. This means that you are entitled to a security officer
- Properly trained;
- Has had his or her background checked;
- Reports for duty on time, dressed in the prescribed manner;
- Complies with assignment instructions;
- Is honest and reliable.
Like alarm systems, security officers should be contracted only from
companies which have been independently certificated.3
Both in-house and contracted security officers should be properly trained
(and retrained) and assistance in this respect can be obtained from the
Government-recognised industry training organisation, SITO.4
INSTALLATION OF SECURITY EQUIPMENT IN HERITAGE BUILDINGS
Any changes to a heritage building must meet a number of tests:
Minimal Intervention. Any changes to a listed or heritage building
must cause as little impact to the building and its fabric as possible.
Any work undertaken to improve security should not cause unnecessary disruption
or damage during installation, maintenance or eventual removal.
Necessity. Only the minimum amount of work necessary to achieve
the stated objective should be undertaken and all the work should be justified
and informed by a detailed risk assessment.
Reversibility. Any changes to historic fabric or a listed building
should be reversible wherever possible. Sensitivity. Security systems
should be installed with due consideration to the overall appearance of
the building as well as having the minimum impact on its fabric. In particular,
appropriate use should be made of existing features (such as voids, risers,
old chimneys and ducts) to conceal wiring runs.
Appropriateness. The security adopted must be appropriate to the
level of risk.
Compliance. The installation of security equipment, like all changes
to listed buildings, must comply with all legal requirements, including
listed budding consent, building standards, fire regulations and certification
SECURITY OF SHOPS, RETAIL AND CATERING FACILITIES
Shops and catering facilities now play an important part in the economics
of many heritage institutions and as such need to be considered when security
is being reviewed. Cash and stocks of materials intended for sale (including
alcohol and catering supplies) may prove an attractive target for thieves.
Care should be taken to include these areas in the security survey and
SPECIAL EVENT SECURITY
Historic buildings are often let out for private functions ranging from
corporate lunches to weddings. Events such as these must be carefully
considered from a security perspective as any changes in layout, routine
or personnel will inevitably create new or different risks, and risk assessments
should be repeated beforehand.
Any special event may also create problems for security staff. For example,
how are smoking restrictions to be enforced? What happens when a Royal
visitor or VIP 'lights up'?
PROTECTING EMPTY HERITAGE BUILDINGS
It is an unfortunate fact of life that an empty heritage building is
much more likely to become a fire statistic than one which is occupied.
Some 55 per cent of all large fires in the UK are now the result of arson
and listed buildings feature heavily in the fire statistics. If a heritage
building is to be left unoccupied for any length of time then additional
security measures must be taken. Advice on this subject can be obtained
from a useful publication produced by the Loss Prevention Council.5
Care should be taken to ensure that none of the physical security measures
taken damage heritage fabric. For example, boarding up must be done sympathetically
and if necessary, in consultation with the planning authority. Any 'stopping
up' of windows or other openings should not be permitted to interfere
with normal ventilation otherwise damp or mould may be aggravated. Regular
cheeks on roofs, gutters and drains must be undertaken to ensure that
the premises are wind and watertight.
In conclusion, the application of modern security management techniques
in respect of heritage buildings can help alleviate some of the perils
which threaten historic buildings and their contents. However, care must
he exercised when selecting the mix of measures that need to be imposed.
In particular, the use of the risk assessment and a proper security survey
may assist in providing a cost-effective solution.
- Prevention and control of arson in industrial and commercial premises,
Arson Prevention Bureau, London, April 1992.
- National Approval Council for Security Systems (NACOSS), Tel 01628
- The Inspectorate of the Security Industry (ISI), Tel 01905 773131
- The Security Industry Training Organisation (SITO), Tel 01905 20004
- Code of Practice for the Protection of Unoccupied Buildings, Loss
Prevention Council, London, 1995.
The Association of Security Consultants maintains a list of security
For details contact the Secretary, Tel 07071 224865.