The world has become more security conscious, and that awareness extends to laboratories. New guidelines and approaches, driven by legislation and regulation—to say nothing of common sense—are promulgated every year. A laboratory security system is put in place to mitigate a number of risks and is complementary to existing laboratory security policies. In very broad terms, laboratory safety keeps people safe from chemicals, and laboratory security keeps chemicals safe from people. This chapter is intended to provide the reader with an overview of laboratory security concerns and to raise awareness of the issue. Risks to laboratory security include

   theft or diversion of chemicals, biologicals, and radioactive or proprietary materials (such materials could be stolen from the laboratory, diverted or intercepted in transit between supplier and laboratory, at a loading dock, or at a stockroom, and then sold or used, directly or as precursors, in weapons or manufacture of illicit substances);

   theft or diversion of mission-critical or high-value equipment;

   threats from activist groups;

   intentional release of, or exposure to, hazardous materials;

   sabotage or vandalism of chemicals or high-value equipment;

   loss or release of sensitive information; and

   rogue work or unauthorized laboratory experimentation.

The type and extent of the security system needed depend on several factors, including

   known and recognized threats gleaned from the experience of other laboratories, institutions, or firms;

   history of theft, sabotage, vandalism, or violence directed at or near the laboratory, institution, or firm;

   presence of valuable or desirable materials, equipment, technology, or information;

   intelligence regarding groups or individuals who pose a general threat to the discipline or a specific threat to the institution;

   regulatory requirements or guidance;

   concerns regarding information security; and

   the culture and mission of the institution.

A good laboratory security system should, among other things, increase overall safety for laboratory personnel and the public, improve emergency preparedness by assisting with preplanning, and lower the organization’s liability.


There are four integrated domains to consider when improving security of a facility:

   physical or architectural security—doors, walls, fences, locks, barriers, controlled roof access, and cables and locks on equipment;

   electronic security—access control systems, alarm systems, password protection procedures, and video surveillance systems;

   operational security—sign-in sheets or logs, control of keys and access cards, authorization procedures, background checks, and security guards; and

   information security—passwords, backup systems, shredding of sensitive information.

These domains are complementary, and each should be considered when devising security protocols. Any security system should incorporate redundancy to prevent failure in the event of power loss or other environmental changes.

Security systems should help

   detect a security breach, or a potential security breach, including intrusion or theft;

   delay criminal activity by imposing multiple layered barriers of increasing stringency or “hardening” in the form of personnel and access controls; and

   respond to a security breach or an attempt to breach security.

10.B.1 Physical and Electronic Security

There are many systems available for physical and electronic laboratory security. The choice and implementation depends on the level of security needed and resources available. The following sections provide some examples, although new technologies are always under development.

The concept of concentric circles of protection, as shown in Figure 10.1, is useful when considering a laboratory’s physical security. Physical and electronic security begins at the perimeter of the building and becomes increasingly more stringent as one moves toward the interior area (e.g., at the intervention zone), where sensitive material, equipment, or technology reside. Note that although physical measures are

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