According to a recent survey by the Opinion Research Corporation (ORC), the shopping centre, in all its variety, has become the great crossroads where visitors go to buy, socialise, play and work. From recreational walking to attending fashion shows to dining and more, few other institutions compare to a shopping centre in today’s culture.
Because of the size, uniqueness and multiple activities, administering the safety aspects of a large retail environment requires an expansive knowledge of security practices in order to make good decisions regarding the protection of the facility and its employees and visitors. Cash, goods, business information/data, personal items and even identities are prime targets for theft in a retail environment; these vulnerabilities can be heightened when there are security irregularities including lost or missing keys.
With physical keys still in frequent use for securing doors and entrances at retail centres, key control is high on the list as a state of the art security practice. Key control and management systems, designed around hardware/software technology, offer enhanced security with capabilities that add convenience to operational tasks.
Hardware manages the keys
Key control and management systems are designed to secure keys in a tamper-proof cabinet and electronically release keys only to authorised users. Each individual key, whether a traditional mechanical key or a plastic card access key, is secured to a locking mechanism that features a built-in memory chip; data from the chip is stored when a key is inserted into or removed from its slot in the cabinet. From this data, management has a complete history of who removed or returned the key and when.
Even unusually shaped or larger size keys that are used to lock outdoor enclosures surrounding facilities’ heating and air conditioning units can be stored in the key cabinets. For sets of keys, tamper-proof key ring systems can accommodate several keys on a single ring and keys can be added or removed by replacing a hub, without any need to destroy the ring.
Knowing who has which keys to which locks, when they had them and when they were returned, is a vitally important issue for mall security. Failure to maintain this kind of control can result in opportunities for key mismanagement, which can lead to mild annoyances such as the replacement and cost for lost keys, or to more serious losses, such as theft or personal injury.
Key storage cabinets with automated tracking capabilities are available in a variety of sizes and are ideal for installation in mall security or management offices. Smart, tamper-proof designs help reduce the amount of wall space needed, and systems can be set up to be accessible via pass codes, access cards or biometrics. For additional functionality, the same key cabinets may also be configured with lockers to allow for safe storage of items such as PCs, notepad computers, cash drawers and other valuable devices.
The myriad conveniences of advanced key control systems include messaging and reporting. Notes can be written and stored regarding a key, such as ‘leave lights on when exiting room’; then, whenever that particular key is accessed, the note will pop up on the screen.
Software manages the data
The ability to manage all programming, remote functions and reports with a software-driven key management solution provides tremendous value in a shopping mall application. Similar in concept to popular access control systems, a PC-based package of key control management software streamlines and unifies day-to-day operations and activities. Profiles can be assigned for improved user control, and there are various options for tailoring administrative access privileges to specific needs, including reporting or alerting. The system can be set up to send priority email or text alerts to mall management, keeping them informed of the whereabouts of high value keys.
Built-in scheduling capability enables the user to automatically download data to a secure PC. Scheduled e-mail reports that detail what keys are in or out, who has or had them and for how long provide the up-to-date information security management needs to ensure the integrity of physical keys used throughout the mall. If an incident occurs, management can query the system for specific details such as a listing of all transactions between certain times; and when doing a follow up investigation, management can request a report for the hour preceding the incident. Or, immediately following an incident, a report can be generated showing which keys are back in the system and which keys are still out and who last accessed them.
The actionable information provided by the system to mall management optimises their ability to provide a safe and secure environment.
Enhanced security and operational convenience
Automated key control and management systems offer an increased level of security for retail environments by preventing unauthorised key access and reducing the incidence of lost or misplaced keys. As well, the streamlined procedure for accessing keys offers several advantages to users and management. For example, contractors, consultants and others who have been registered in the system with fingerprint identification no longer have to sign in and wait for a key to be issued. They simply place their finger on the key cabinet scanner to open the cabinet and access a key. Emergencies that occur during off hours can be more readily acted upon because contractors can access keys without having to wait for property management to arrive on scene.
Whether one goes to the mall to shop, go to a movie or have a meal, key management systems are helping to keep the environment safe.
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