Standards and guidelines for security-cabling systems take shape

Aug. 1, 2013
BICSI's established credentialing program, along with a new standard and cooperation with security association ASIS aim to move the needle.

From the August, 2013 Issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine

BICSI's established credentialing program, along with a new standard and cooperation with security association ASIS aim to move the needle.

by Patrick McLaughlin

As surveillance and other security systems have become increasingly integrated into user organizations' information technology (IT) platforms, they have for good reason become treated like other networked devices. That treatment includes the acknowledgement that a capable physical-layer infrastructure system is required in order for the networked devices to fulfill a user's expectations of them.

This concept is not new to professionals with expertise in the design, installation or maintenance of structured cabling or information technology systems (ITS). Many of these professionals have broadened their expertise and their respective client bases by securing such knowledge. The ITS industry's educational association BICSI ( has provided sources of knowledge- and skill-building specifically for security-related systems for years. In early 2006 BICSI introduced the Electronic Safety and Security Design Reference Manual (ESSDRM), a document containing the background information necessary to plan, design and implement a number of safety and security design projects.

The ESSDRM was the first BICSI manual that included legal aspects of being a designer in the converging electronic safety and security (ESS) and ITS industries. The manual also was the first to include discussions of convergent technologies and their impact on the ITS industry as well as security infrastructure. At the time of the manual's release, BICSI's current president Jerry Bowman was a region director with the association. He chaired the ESSDRM project and said of the document, "The need for this manual was driven by the reality of the marketplace. The fastest growing segment of low-voltage systems that is integrating into the enterprise network is security. This is probably the most requested value-add that you can bring to a basic structured cabling system design."

In 2009 BICSI published the ESSDRM's second edition. The manual is the foundation document for individuals seeking the Electronic Safety and Security (ESS) design credential from BICSI, which was established in '09. A third edition was published in 2012; it now serves as the basis for obtaining the ESS credential. The 805-page manual "captures the full scope of designing and documenting the various security systems that ESS designers are likely to encounter," BICSI says. "It is a complete update and reorganization of the existing chapters of the ESSDRM 2nd edition. Much of the existing material was reworked into new places for a more coherent flow of subject material. Also, an additional chapter, Network Concepts, and a new appendix, Legal Aspects of Electronic Safety and Security Design, were added."

BICSI adds that the revision process "required the support and participation of a broad cross section of security professionals with expertise in the various industry sectors. These contributors ensured the body of material presented in the new ESSDRM is in line with industry standards and best practices of the security design industry."

Professional credentials

A discussion that recently took place within BICSI's official LinkedIn group focused on the industry acceptance of the ESS designation, particularly in light of the existence of other credentials developed by associations focused specifically on security systems and technologies. One such credential is a certification in Fire Alarm Systems offered by the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET; Another is the Physical Security Professional (PSP), one of several certifications offered by ASIS ( A question was posed to BICSI's LinkedIn group members asking if they see wide acceptance of the ESS credential, given the availability of other credentials.

The most detailed response to that question came from Anthony Frassetta, who holds ASIS's PSP as well as BICSI's RCDD credentials and was a contributor to the ESSDRM. Frassetta opined that the ESS "has not yet reached the industry recognition that it deserves." He added that working in the specifying-engineering field, he is unable to mandate that a bidding contractor have an ESS on staff "because of the current lack in significant number of ESS credential holders." He said the same lack of critical mass is true of ASIS's PSP credential.

Comparing the two credentials, Frassetta commented, "Although both convey a level of expertise in the proper application of physical security, they in fact both address different technical aspects of this discipline. Where the ESS delves into the general knowledge of physical security measures with a strong technical perspective on the connectivity of these technologies, it offers a very limited focus on the assessment of vulnerabilities, threats and analysis in proper application as it pertains to the appropriate selection of any protective measures and deployments.

"In contrast," he pointed out, "the PSP credential emphasizes the appropriate selection of protective measures and application for all types of protective methodologies including non-electronic applications (mechanical locks, fencing and lighting), which is based around the vulnerability and threat assessment as well as risk and system performance criteria. The PSP credential is very limited in the connectivity aspects of the electronic architectures, especially in the ITS topographies."

If an individual is deciding which of the two credentials to pursue, Frassetta recommended, "If the potential credential holder is responsible for the connectivity of the system technologies based on selection and design by others, then an ESS credential can serve them very well. If the credential holder is also responsible for the assessment of vulnerability and threat, as well as all engineering aspects, then the PSP might be the better choice."


ASIS and BICSI appear to have credentials that complement more than compete with each other, based on the assessments in that particular online discussion. In May 2013, the two organizations jointly announced they signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU). In their joint announcement, ASIS and BICSI said, "The overarching objectives of the agreement are to foster growth of the security and information technology systems industries, promote public safety and protect critical infrastructure globally."

They further stated the MOU's primary focus is "collaboration and information sharing in the areas of research, education, standards and advocacy. Among the key issues that may be addressed by the two associations are: privacy concerns over the use of security and information technology systems technologies; the development of an educated security and information technology systems workforce; voluntary consensus standards; and the availability of federal and state financial resources for the protection of critical infrastructures during a time of fiscal austerity."

ASIS's president Geoffrey T. Craighead said, "Together, we possess the information, skills and abilities to exponentially increase the effectiveness and efficiency of security and information systems technology systems for the global benefit of public safety and business resiliency."

BICSI's president Bowman added, "There is incredible synergy between these two great associations. I've been a member of both for many years, and have watched as the convergence of ITS and physical security enabled a relationship like this to make sense for the stakeholders of both associations. I would encourage all BICSI members involved in any aspect of physical security to take advantage of the benefits of the ASIS relationship."

Members of BICSI's LinkedIn group took to that social media outlet again once the MOU was announced, discussing the possibilities that could come from the relationship as well as the potential implications on the two associations' credentialing programs. BICSI's executive director and chief executive officer John D. Clark, Jr. participated in that discussion. "The MOU is the launchpad for the next stage of reciprocal initiative discussions," he said, later adding, "We would like to promote the ESS triangle--publication, training and credential--to the ASIS community." But, he said, the relationship between the two associations was in its very early stages and specific plans for doing so had not been established. He did say one objective for BICSI is "hopefully being able to expand the promotion of the BICSI ESS credential," but there had been no discussions between BICSI and ASIS specifically about credentials.

New publications

While ASIS and BICSI begin their collaborative relationship, both associations continue to provide written and graphical resource documents that advise on the deployment of security systems and the physical-layer infrastructure that supports them.

In June ASIS published the second edition of its book Implementing Physical Protection Systems: A Practical Guide. The association said, "This book is written as a guide for security professionals for the implementation of physical protection systems (PPSs). It is also intended as study material for the ASIS International Physical Security Professional (PSP) certification examination. This new second edition represents a significant update and reorganization of the content presented in the first edition."

The book comprises nine chapters and "provides the reader with a comprehensive overview of PPSs from pure definition, project planning, and procurement to procedure development, installation, and maintenance," the association added. "It also examines evaluation and eventual replacement of physical protection systems."

The prior month, May 2013, BICSI released the ANSI/BICSI 005 standard, titled Electronic Safety and Security (ESS) System Design and Implementation Best Practices. The standard's 11 sections include such titles as Telecommunications Infrastructure, Intrusion Detection, Video Surveillance, Access Control, Fire Detection and Alarm Systems, Integrated Systems, and Risk Management and Risk Assessment. It also includes three informative appendices--covering ESS design fundamentals, wireless transmission, and related documents--and a normative appendix covering cabling pathways.

In the description of ANSI/BICSI-005 on its website, BICSI says, "As the systems used within security have become more complex due to utilizing the benefits of the network, so too has the cabling infrastructure to address both communication and security requirements. Little has been written to support this convergence of security and cabling infrastructure until now. BICSI-005 bridges the two worlds of security and communications by providing the security professional the requirements and recommendations of a structured cabling infrastructure needed to support today's security systems, while providing the cabling design professional information on different elements within the safety and security systems that affect the cabling infrastructure design."

For years ASIS and BICSI have provided information, education and credentialing opportunities to professionals who approach security systems from multiple perspectives. They essentially have done so in parallel. As the two associations embark on implementing specifics of their memorandum of understanding, security professionals may gain access to jointly developed educational programs. ::

Patrick McLaughlin is our chief editor.

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