The Human Factor in Security Design & Operations


When Low-Tech is Ignored, High-Tech is Doomed to Failure

In the increasingly sophisticated and high-tech world of security systems, the human factor is critical, but often overlooked. Humans control the use and response to the technology.  After all, they hold the keys to the castle. A system might be otherwise excellent but can be ineffective or may even fail altogether if the human element is not properly addressed during the design phase and supported throughout the life of the system. We have identified some common themes around this topic.

People Lose Focus – Convenience is Key

People are easily distracted.  For example, the security program at one nuclear facility required notification by telephone upon entry and exit.  Failure to do either resulted in an armed response.  However, the phone was located more than 100 feet from the entry point, making it inconvenient to place the call, and false alarms were a regular occurrence.  The solution was an easy one. A phone was installed right next to each entry door and the issue went away.

The Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf Effect

An alarm system that gives frequent false alarms will quickly be ignored by security personnel.  The perimeter penetration at one highly-classified government facility , for example, was the direct result of personnel ignoring proper warnings because they thought it was just another false alarm.

A Good System that No One Maintains is not a Good System

If you have a fancy car, but don’t follow the prescribed maintenance program, you are setting yourself up for car trouble.  The same is true for sophisticated security systems.  They require care and feeding to keep them operating properly.  If the technicians and security personnel are not following the preventative maintenance procedures (either due to inattention or budget restrictions) the system will become much less reliable and may ultimately fail.

Fatigue can be a Killer

Designers and security managers must be aware of the “actual” length of their employees’ workdays.  It is not necessarily the actual time at work.  What is the commute time?  How many days in a row is the staff working?  Fatigue can lead to impatience, which can in turn lead to a lower tolerance for false alarms and “punching off” the irritating alarm.  This human “override” of the system negates the effectiveness of the security system as a whole.


Butchko, Inc. brings a keen awareness of the importance of human factors to every risk assessment and system design we perform.  Let us help you make your security technology work for you, not against you.  Click here to learn more.