Safeguarding the DSO community with advanced security measures
Dated: 19-04-2012

Security is one of the key aspects that is now being given due importance by the facility managers in the Middle East, and has gained significance particularly in the UAE. Deciding on the policies, services and technological solutions is a very complex process as they have to be tailored to suit the requirements of the facility concerned. In this regard, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) has been very successful in implementing the best security solutions to achieve excellent results. The Vice President of Operation and Facilities Engineering Management Eng. Khalil Shalan shares the success story of Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) - the integrated Free Zone Technology Park, in an interview with Clean Middle East.

The Operations & Facilities Management Division is primarily responsible for the security management in DSO. Spread over an area of 7.2 sq kms, DSO has its own assets including buildings, offices, warehouses, residences, shops, community centre and so on. There are also developers who own plots of land. “The security and other needs of the whole community are entrusted to our department irrespective of who owns a plot of land or a specific building. There are clear policies and guidelines in place and we ensure the well-being of the residents at all times, security wise,” says Eng. Shalan. In his view, security means “providing a safe working environment to people without intimidating them. Our security team strives to achieve this objective at all times. While the existing security policy provides guidelines to all stakeholders within DSO, our security personnel are well trained and aware of emergency measures and actions, and their deployment ensures that the security is visible within the community so people feel safe and confident.”

The key security requirements include planning the manpower deployment, coordination and management of the outsourced security team, as well as providing up-to-date standards in security systems for all buildings within DSO premises. The VP says, “The buildings, roads and all other assets in DSO are controlled by our security teams to ensure that everything is in order. The security personnel communicate with us at all times and there is constant interaction between them and our community as well. In case of any activity on the campus, we inform the people in advance to avoid any inconvenience or undue fears.”

The division has two teams wherein physical security is managed by one and the technical or electronics security is handled by the other. Both teams report to the senior manager of Operations. The physical security is outsourced but managed by the 24/7 in-house security supervisors. DSO’s security system is maintained by a DPS certified company. There are also unified national security standards in the UAE to create security rating system for commercial buildings and other facilities. “A mandatory requirement is that all security companies must be registered and certified under the Ministry of Interior. In addition, the Department of Protective System from Dubai Police has released its standards that need to be complied by any security body. They have conducted a security vulnerability assessment in DSOA Headquarters that is currently being addressed by the department,” states Eng. Shalan. The outsourced staff are trained by the division’s security supervisors so they can perform according to DSOA standards. There are also regular meetings with the senior managers of the outsourced team to review their work.

Surveillance and Access systems

According to Eng. Shalan, DSOA has invested heavily in the security systems including access control, surveillance systems, security alarm systems, fire alarm and fire fighting systems that have help in enhancing security performance. "About AED 13 million has been invested on surveillance and access systems. We have deployed physical and electronic security systems (ACS, CCTV and FA) in all buildings under the responsibility of DSOA. Furthermore, we have patrolling vehicles (themed with DSO logo) that monitor the surroundings of our premises. All aspects in security require proper planning. Therefore, as part of the three-year strategy of the department it is identified to enhance the security system with appropriate physical and electronic systems in coordination with other local authorities. Currently we have published the Security Policy and Fire Safety Policy and Procedures as guidelines and references."

"We have a target to provide all DSO managed buildings with sophisticated electronic security system in addition to the physical security we currently provide. We are now at 80-90% in completing these systems. Our target includes providing ACS (access control service/ system), CCTV, FA (factory automation) system and additional technical features such as biometrics, NPR (number plate recognition), Reception management, VTS (vehicle tracking system) and portable cameras (wireless and stand-alone). This is also included in the department’s three-year strategy plan," the VP states.

The division’s Control Room has the latest equipments and the personnel are in constant touch with the authorities who regularly audit their services, which helps the department to review and enhance the services as per the requirements. "Last year we were visited by a team of consultants from the Dubai Police. They reviewed the equipment, systems and procedures and evaluated our work. They offered advance comments and recommendations to be implemented as part of our security strategy, which we are now working on," says Eng. Shalan, adding that they have a complete integrated system including the fire alarm and monitoring system, which is linked with the Police department with a proper communication procedure in place.

In the Headquarters, the entry points in all six wings are controlled by the Access Card. "In order to enter any wing you need an Access Card with which you can access only that particular wing. This ensures the overall comfort and safety of our tenants. In order to access the specific wing, the visitor has to obtain the card at the reception desk and the tenants usually inform the desk in advance regarding the visit. This system has been implemented 100% to everyone’s satisfaction," he states. It is interesting to note that for the tenants this card acts as a security pass.

Over 400 surveillance cameras have been installed in the Headquarters and other remote areas on the campus. This includes PTZ and other surveillance cameras in and around the building, as well as remote cameras in different locations. Three other buildings such as the Operation Centre, the High-Bay and Light Industrial Units along with their offices and warehouses are also connected to the main building by fibre optic cables for CCTV for the Building Management System. The Community Centre and shops are also connected. "So people in the Control Room can monitor these buildings. We are trying to enhance our services to the community by providing the latest technology software and equipment. The Security Policy and Fire Safety Policy are in place and all related information on emergency response is also indicated in the policy. Security systems and procedures as part of emergency response and the support network to deal with emergencies are also in place. Furthermore, our Fire Alarm system is monitored remotely by Dubai Civil Defense," says Eng. Shalan.

DSO is secured on all sides with two access points – one from Emirates Road and another free access from the Academic Road. This year, the Plate Recognition System is being introduced to control the flow of vehicles through the campus. The system will help identify the vehicles and track their movements. There is also a wireless radar system that has been approved by the Dubai Police to monitor and record any misuse of these roads.

The residential areas are well protected with a 24- hour security. One of their clients, Emirates Airline is a closed community and in collaboration with the Emirates team, they implement all the safety measures for their villas. DSO has also established a government approved emergency clinic on campus, with a licensed nurse. All security personnel are equipped with wireless communication devices, so in case of any incident on site, they inform and act accordingly.

"The developers and construction companies within DSO have to follow our safety rules and adopt safety measures such as appointing a Safety Officer and ensuring the requisite number of fire extinguishers and sign boards are present at the sites. They have to submit necessary documents to substantiate these measures are being fulfilled. At present, the developers are obliged to have a 24/7 connection to Civil Defense, and in addition, our security personnel inspect their premises to ensure everything is in line with the rules of the Civil Defense," he continues, adding that the response time of the Civil Defense department is phenomenal in case of rare untoward incidents. "Once there was a minor fire and their team arrived in about eight minutes, which is quite an achievement considering the distance at which we are located."

Equipment readiness and training

Regular exercises are conducted to examine the readiness of their team and equipment. For instance, fire drills were organised in 2011 in the Headquarters and RIT-Dubai University. Equipment like public speakers and fire alarm systems that are in place are put to test regularly to ensure the systems are in working order. In all the corridors and lobbies, a map provides directions. There is also a fire refuge system in the lobbies for disabled people. Regular announcements are sent through the FM Helpdesk in case of a fire alarm test, training, and so on. Information leaflets are also provided regularly on various developments.

A training programme has been launched for all DSO offices and fire wardens have been assigned in each office with specific duties, says Eng. Shalan. "Each office can assign one or two persons depending on the staff capacity and we provide the training. In case of emergencies, these people will take care of their teams. We conduct the training twice a year to keep them updated."

Updating electronic security systems in line with changing trends, a challenge

With regard to the challenges, Eng. Shalan says, "As already mentioned, there are mandatory requirements from the local authorities that need to be addressed and complied by our security team. Additionally, the growing trend in electronics security system in the region is a challenge that we must tackle while maintaining the efficiency of the current system installed. This is a continuous process and one has to keep pace with the latest technology trends in updating the systems to meet the authority’s requirements."

Further, the recurring challenges for facility managers once they implement an advanced security solution are mainly the cost of maintaining their security service provider and implementing advance security solutions to enhance their current systems, says the VP. Subsequently, the cost which is required to maintain the efficiency of the existing system throughout its lifespan is mandatory, which requires only local authorities certified companies. "At the moment we are investing more than AED 4 million on updating our systems as per the suggestions and recommendations by the Department of Protective System by adding more cameras and other equipment, enhancing the capabilities of our staff with additional training and so on."

"Overall, the results have been noteworthy. The whole network within DSO is monitored by our team and in turn we are linked to Dubai Police, our systems are monitored remotely by Dubai Civil Defense and we are enhancing the security system as well. We have the 24-hour helpdesk in case of emergencies and so on. Thus the control system is on 24/7, making this a highly secure facility," Eng. Shalan concludes.