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Tips for Affordable Key Control

Whether you operate a large business, hospital, school, or multiple retail locations, chances are you have multiple buildings to consider when it comes to ensuring safety and security through key control. The bigger the property, the more risk you take on. The same logic applies to the number of keys that are in circulation. Organizations can face serious expenses when property keys are mismanaged or misused, leading to theft, damage, and potentially the need to rekey door locks. However, the best way to establish affordable key control is by taking preventative measures that minimize risk and the potential for loss. Here are a few tips to help you implement and establish key control best practices and what you should do in the event of a security breach.

Identify Gaps in Your Key Control Policy 

Businessman in suit holding keys with keys graphics around and dark backgroundThe first step to attaining affordable key control is to identify weaknesses in your current system. Mechanical keys and locks have some distinct weaknesses that can compromise the integrity of your security system, such as the fact that most keys can be easily duplicated and they leave no audit trail. To determine the extent of the risk, you should review a few essential elements of your organization’s current policy. 

Number of Keys in Circulation - how many keys exist? You should be able to provide a hard number. If not, there are already some major gaps in your key control policy. 

Generate as Few Keys as Possible - are there multiple keys where only one key would suffice? Are new keys produced all the time without efforts being made to locate lost or stolen keys? 

Key Holders - who has which keys and what rooms or buildings do they have access to? Knowing which employees are able to enter certain spaces can help minimize investigation time in the event of damaged or stolen property. 

Prevention of Duplication - do you have the ability to stop people from making copies of your keys? A simple “Do Not Duplicate” stamp is not a reliable safeguard. 

Implementing a Master Key System

In a master key system, any keying arrangement can have two or more levels of keying. This means that groups of locks can be keyed alike so that the same key operates all of the locks in a certain group, thus granting access to multiple locations without the need for a heavy set of individual keys for each individual door. Additionally, there is a “master key” that is able to operate all locks in the group. This is achieved by coordinating the pin tumbler lock. 

Essentially, the inside of any lock is comprised of springs and pins which must be lifted to a certain height based on the grooves of the key. If the key does not fit the specific sequences and heights, the door will not unlock. Master key systems are a viable and cost-effective solution for many organizations because they work with mechanical locks and can be enhanced with electronic access control systems. Thanks to the option of a restricted keyway and minimized need for physical copies of keys, these systems offer superior convenience and control.

Prevent Key Misuse With Proper Training 

Executive explaining strategy to colleagues on whiteboard in creative officeAs the saying goes, the best offense is a good defense. This is important to keep in mind, especially when it comes to matters of security. You can design the ideal key control system, but if employees are not made aware of the system or processes, your security is comprised and you might as well not have a system at all. Here are some elements to consider when training employees on proper key handling: 

  • Outline Safety and Security Purposes - before getting into the details of key control best practices, be sure to establish why you’re implementing new security procedures. Employees are much more likely to comply with the rules and contribute to everyone’s safety if they understand the intention behind the policies. 
  • Define Key Use Parameters - this should cover how to use the new system, who has access to which spaces according to the keying hierarchy, and some general security do’s and don’ts. 
  • What to Do in the Case of a Lost Key - in the case of an employee losing a key, oftentimes they will simply ask for a new one. Without clear guidelines and repercussions (such as replacement fees), employees may act carelessly when it comes to matters of upholding security. 
  • How to Gain Access - there will be times when certain employees only need temporary access to a space, so there should be clear instructions established regarding who to contact if additional access is needed. 

The clearer your instructions are, the less likely employees will be to forgo the rules, either intentionally or unintentionally. This will help you save money in the long run by avoiding the cost of key duplication or having to rekey locks. 

Store and Secure All Keys 

Although most employees will carry a key with them to enter the building or get into their office, there will always be keys that aren’t being used. Storing keys in a centralized location helps you keep track of which keys have been distributed, which ones remain, and who has access to particular keys. However, some organizations are too large for just one storage location to be realistic, so you may need to set up several access points throughout the facility. Another benefit is that employees will always know where to go to get keys, meaning you can keep a close eye on keys as they go in and out.  

Save Money by Rekeying Locks Yourself

In the past, if an organization experienced a break-in or they were worried about a terminated employee who still had access to the building, the only solution was to change the locks with the help of a locksmith or core swap program. Today, rekeyable lock technology has made reestablishing building security easy, efficient, and affordable. Instead of paying for brand new new cylinders or locksmith fees, authorized personnel are able to rekey existing lock cylinders with the turn of a key. In a master key system, this can be done to each access level independently, further saving from having to rekey everything if a master key is unaccounted for. It’s far more cost-effective to only pay for new keys for the rekeyed locks than it is to purchase new hardware, install it, and buy matching keys.

With a comprehensive master key control policy, rekeyable lock technology, and proper staff training, enhancing security on a budget is possible. To learn more about affordable key control or implementing a master key system, contact us today. Our knowledgeable team at Instakey can help identify potential gaps in your security system and recommend a keying system to meet your needs.

Check out our resources page for more helpful tips and information. 

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