Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Can You Account for All of Your Keys?

keys left on a deskAll of your keys are securely stored in your electronic key management system. You’ve set up authorization levels for your employees. Every employee has been trained on your key control procedures. But are you absolutely sure all of your keys are accounted for? 

You’ve put in a lot of time and effort into securing your keys. Here are a few things you can do to make sure it hasn’t been in vain.

Take Advantage of System Reports

If you’re going through the expense of using an electronic key monitoring system, you should be running reports to make sure all your keys are always accounted for. Running reports is a quick way to find out what keys are checked out, who checked them out and when. The most efficient way to keep a handle on your keys is to set up reports to automatically run at an interval that is convenient for you, such as at the end of each day.

Stay Alert

Even though your employees have been trained on the key-in and key-out procedures, you need to ensure that your staff is following protocol. Choose a system that offers the option for text or email alerts. You can receive immediate alerts on any phone number or email you choose if a key is overdue, someone attempts to log on to the system with someone else’s password or if someone takes an unauthorized key.

Get Your Keys Back

Every business has some turnover. If former employees neglect to return issued keys, your business becomes vulnerable to theft and other crimes. In October 2014, a Maryland couple was able to steal and heavily damage a $106,000 school bus because a spare set of keys was left in the glove box by a former driver.

Taking advantage of both system reports and email or text alerts can help you avoid this costly scenario by reassuring you that all outgoing employees have returned any issued keys or assets.

What else are you doing to account for your keys? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Key Control Best Practices for Colleges and Universities

University CampusColleges and universities are often responsible for keeping track of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of keys. Student dormitories, classrooms, faculty offices and laboratories all have keys that need to be managed.

Below we have outlined four best practices to remember when implementing your college or university’s key control policy.

Store Keys Securely

Office drawers, pegboards and an unmonitored lockboxes are all methods for storing your school's keys. But are these methods secure? The answer is a resounding no. Keys could be easily stolen by anyone who gains access to the area in which they are contained.

Instead, consider storing keys in a tamper-proof electronic key management system. This will greatly reduce the chance for key theft and enhance the overall security of your keys.

Establish Access Levels for Users

Securely storing your college or university’s keys is only the first step in key management. Do you want every user to have access to every key in your system? For instance, would an English professor need the chemistry lab key?

Establishing access levels ensures that users can only take keys that are essential to their job functions. To enforce access levels, consider an electronic key security system that requires users to enter a unique password or scan their fingerprint to retrieve keys. This non-replicable access information ensures that only authorized users can take certain keys.

Keep an Accurate Log

One of the pitfalls of using a pegboard or lockbox to manage keys is that transactions are recorded in a manually updated log. The problem with this method is that it’s difficult to enforce the proper checks and balances for checking out keys. If employees do not sign out or sign in the keys they use, locating the unaccounted-for keys and updating the log becomes an administrative headache and, even worse, a liability for the campus.

To alleviate administrative challenges and reduce your campus’s liability, implement an electronic key control system that provides a verifiable audit trail of key activity. Choosing a system with software that captures a video each time a key is checked out will deter deliberate key theft.

Set up Alerts

With manual key control processes, how do you hold users accountable for key usage? How do you know if a key is missing? There’s no way to know if a key hasn’t been returned until that key is needed again, nor is there a way to know if an unauthorized user attempts to access a key.

Solve all of these issues by setting up alerts on your electronic key management system. Alerts can immediately notify system administrators when keys have not been returned or a user attempts to take a key to which they do not have access.

Have some best practices that your college or university uses with its key control policy? Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What Do 2014 Dealership Vehicle Thefts Reveal About Key Control?

Woman dangling keys out of car window
In 2014, more than 180 unique vehicle theft incidents affected dealerships throughout the U.S. We track these types of incidents in the news, so we heard about several of them as they occurred.

Toward the end of the year, we wanted a comprehensive look at how dealerships were being affected by theft incidents and how much of an issue inadequate key control practices are. So we did some informal research into dealership thefts involving vehicles (we didn’t account for stolen tires, equipment, etc.). Our data is taken from published news stories and police blotters.

Here are some of our observations:
  • States with the most unique incidents: California and Florida
  • Most active months: September-December
  • Average cost of reported incidents: $80,846
  • Most expensive incident: Over $1 million
  • Most vehicles stolen at one time: 9
  • Average number of vehicles stolen: Two
  • Percent of incidents involving stolen keys or keys left in ignition (as opposed to vehicles stolen during test drives, etc.): 41 percent of incidents where the method of theft was reported
  • Percent that were inside jobs: Up to 4 percent

(NOTE: Monetary figures, vehicle counts and incidents involving stolen keys are based on the total number of incidents in which this information was available, so our calculations are modest. The actual numbers are likely higher.)

The Takeaways

As we move into 2015, there are a few key insights you can take away from last year’s bouts of vehicle theft: 
  • Do your research. If your area has a high vehicle theft rate, make sure your vehicles and keys are secured, particularly if you sell a commonly targeted make or model.
  • Be aware of when theft is most frequent in your area. You should always exercise sound security practices, but extra precautions might be necessary around times when crime activity is high.
  • Keep your employees accountable. Employees aren’t always responsible for theft. However, if they were the person who handed the keys over to the thief (as in cases of identity theft or identity fraud), they can provide vital information about the circumstances surrounding the theft. Having a verifiable audit trail showing who checked out a key will help you expedite this process.

To see if you’re putting your inventory at risk, read our post “Are You Adequately Securing Your Keys?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Multifamily Key Control Systems: Best Practices for Maintaining Residential Data

By Mark Briles, KeyTrak Sales Support

The last thing you want as a property manager is to find out that your key management system is being misused or improperly maintained. Managing residential data within the key control system is key to ensuring audit trails are up to date and accurate. To simplify the process of maintaining your key control database, use the guidelines below.

Determine the Events That Trigger Database Updates

Stack of boxes
The first step to keeping your key control database current is to determine what events typically trigger updates in your property management system (e.g., when a resident moves in or out, changes their name due to marriage or divorce, purchases a new vehicle or starts working for a new company).

It’s extremely important that the information in your key control database mirror the data in your property management system. If a key control system report is found to be inaccurate even 1 percent of the time, your business can be negatively impacted. Here are a few specific examples of scenarios in which having up-to-date data is important:

  • Your key control system sends email notifications to residents when keys to their apartments are accessed. Resident files must be updated in the key control system regularly in order to make sure you have current email addresses for each resident.
  • Your business periodically conducts audits of the key control database. For the audit to be effective, residential and key usage data must be accurate.
  • Your key control system uses package tracking software that sends residents email notifications when their packages are delivered. System data needs to be up to date to ensure emails are sent to the correct resident. Otherwise, packages might not get delivered correctly or on time.

Sync Database Updates

Visual representation of data systemNext you should assess whether or not you need to streamline the update process, especially if your property managers are spending too much time updating residential data and key control reports are becoming less accurate.

To sync data, see if your property is able to network your key control system to your management firm’s local area network (LAN). Some key control companies can facilitate this process through integration software that automates the residential database file update.

If networking isn’t possible or is too complicated, your key control provider should also offer the option to use external media such as thumb drives to mass import residential data from your primary database to the key control system.

Create a Written Policy for Updating Your Key Control System

Once you establish the types of events that trigger database updates and decide on a method for syncing data, create best practices documentation that addresses proper maintenance of the key control database.

When it comes to managing your residential databases, remember that simpler is better. Each of these steps exists to help you reduce the time spent and errors made while updating and maintaining key control data.

For more multifamily key control best practices, download our white paper "Six Common Key Control Mistakes Property Owners Make."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Electronic Key Control: What Property Owners Should Look For — Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed why it's important for you to make sure your multifamily key control system includes remote management capabilities and uses passive data collection methods. However, in order for you to have an optimal experience with electronic key control there are a few more things you need to look for.

Software Flexibility 

As your property management needs evolve, you want to have the freedom to use the software of your choice with your key management system. 

Abstract techno background
Some systems come with proprietary residential portal software, which can be convenient — as long as you’re satisfied with the software. In case you decide to switch to another type of software, however, you'll want to make sure the key control system is compatible with third-party programs.

Also be aware of any additional charges associated with the software you use (e.g., a per-door fee per month, which can become costly for large buildings).

Integration Capabilities

If you need to use your key control system along with a property management system, be familiar with what integration capabilities are available to you. For example, is the integration limited to simple functions such as emailing a resident when a key to their apartment has been checked out, or does it fully sync key data with the property management system's data? A full system integration is crucial for cutting down on manual data entry requirements and discrepancies between databases.

Support and Installation Options

Wrenches and hardware on metal surfaceMake sure you know what support options are available to you beginning with installation. Some key control providers offer complete on-site installation, while others only offer installation in major metro areas or require self-installation.

To make sure your keys are continuously protected after the system is installed, make sure you have support resources at your disposal to keep the system up and running properly. Find out the answers to the following questions:
  • Does the provider require a maintenance agreement? 
  • How much is it? 
  • What does it cover? 
  • Does the vendor provide support directly or outsource to a third party? 
  • What are the support hours?

Knowing up front what type of support you'll receive will help you avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.

Electronic key control is a must-have for your property, but evaluate your options carefully. It's vital to select a system that meets your needs, but it’s equally important to make sure you’re working with a vendor that can help you get the most out of your investment. For more tips on selecting a key control vendor, check out this post.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Smart Key Control Can Give Your Airport a Lift

business woman in airportIn recent years, technological advances in airports such as security identification display area (SIDA) badges, biometric identification and Advanced Imaging Technology have made it clear that increasing security is a major priority.

While these security measures make it possible for management to place controls on customers and employees, the standard key still plays a role in the aviation industry and must be secured to avoid unauthorized use. Here are a couple things you can do with an electronic key control system to tighten your airport's internal security.

Secure Equipment and Tools 

From frost removal to repairing runways, there are several important tasks maintenance employees are responsible for completing. These routine job duties require expensive equipment, which should be locked when not in use.

Locking down equipment should be supplemented by securing the corresponding keys. To ensure your assets are secure, use an electronic key control system that will safely store keys and only allow access to authorized staff. By doing so, you can be sure that your airport's equipment is tightly secured.

Require Authentication to Access Keys

Securing keys is only one of the necessary steps in creating a safer and more organized environment. The next step is making sure only authorized users can access keys. To do so, set up an authentication process. An electronic key control system will allow you to implement a method of authorization before it unlocks and provides access to the keys.

There are several methods of authorization you can use: a fingerprint, a passcode or even an employee's SIDA badge. Since no two fingerpints are alike, this is perhaps the strongest form of security. But to strengthen it even further, require multiple forms of identification for the system to unlock. For example, an employee may have to scan a fingerprint and SIDA badge before the system allows access to the keys. This will help ensure facility keys don't fall into unauthorized hands.

Although airports are constantly tightening security measures for travelers, they still need to implement strict security practices for employees. Check out this post to learn more about the layers of security key control offers.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Electronic Key Control’s Role in School Security

Key drawn on chalkboard
Electronic key control is an essential component of a school district’s security program. When keys fall into the wrong hands, schools risk not only loss of assets but lives as well. This is clear from several missing-key incidents reported this year.

In Massachusetts, police were investigating a bomb threat at Newburyport High School when they discovered a 16-year-old (who was not connected to the threat) was carrying a school master key and butterfly knife. During a separate incident, a missing set of master keys forced an entire school district in Oregon to re-key 16 schools, costing approximately $50,000.

School key control mishaps are not always confined to campus premises, however. When a school bus driver in Maryland left her position, she left the key to a year-old $106,000 bus inside the glove box — a decision that enabled a man and woman, both intoxicated, to take the vehicle on a dangerous excursion. Thankfully, no one was harmed, but the bus struck an electrical tower and eventually crashed into the woods, causing extensive body and engine damage to the vehicle.

When it comes to school security, electronic key control provides two key benefits: restricting access to keys and automatically documenting an audit trail of key usage.

By keeping keys in an electronic key control system that controls user access, schools can cut down on incidents in which keys are either lost or end up in the hands of unauthorized people. If an incident does occur, the audit trail created by an electronic key control system can help police and school officials quickly identify who last checked out a specific key or set of keys.

For more information on using electronic key control to cut down on missing keys, read our post “Do You Know Where Your Keys Are?