Key Management: How Key Control Helps Businesses During a Pandemic

12.05.2020 -

In times like these, it is crucial to think about how everybody can help together containing the spread of Covid-19. Utilizing key management for this matter is one way to help, because it can aid in maintaining the security of the facility itself if it is not in use.
The sudden onset and rapid spread of the Coronavirus has disrupted business operations for virtually every organization around the world. Some businesses are fortunate to be able to continue functioning with all personnel working remotely, or by shifting towards online communications and sales. Still, with the population being told to stay at home as much as possible, and with the forced closure of non-essential businesses, there are now many facilities standing virtually empty. Even for essential businesses that are staying open, there may be a much-reduced workforce present on the premises. This presents a higher security risk for theft, vandalism and other crimes.
Making matters worse, for those establishments which have been deemed essential there is a very real concern of spreading the virus through contact with objects that are touched or handled by numerous people.

Containing the Virus with Key Control
For both of these situations, key control offers a useful solution. Use of a key management system can help in containing the spread of a virus and can also aid in maintaining the security of the facility itself if it is not in use.
When a building is empty, or there are fewer people on the premises than usual, it can be more vulnerable to threats. Even for those individuals who have authority to be in certain sections of the facility, an office, storeroom or other area devoid of other people can present an unusual level of temptation.
By keeping every physical key used by an organization in an electronic key control system, management can tightly contain the permissions for their removal and use. Because each key has specific parameters defining who has authority to take it, the provisioning for each key can be individually controlled. With networked systems, this makes it possible to make changes quickly and easily in the permissions for each key as well as for each user.

For example, at an airport, there may be gate doors and other portals to the tarmac area that are not actively in use at the current time given the reduction in flights. The maintenance hangars need additional security oversight as well, as they may be lightly staffed.
In that same airport, or any organization which has been deemed essential and is remaining open to the public, there is the additional pressing need to limit the transmission of the virus between people. Any object or surface that is touched by more than one person on a regular basis could be a carrier. As mentioned above, a key management system enables strategic reduction in the number of people who touch any given key. It is simple to remove access permissions for most of the individuals who would typically have the ability to remove a key, keeping it in the hands of only the people who need it most. This will also limit the likelihood that a person carrying the virus (and possibly not showing symptoms) might use the key and potentially transmit the virus in this way.

Containing the Spread
And key control can do even more to help organizations contain the spread of illness during a pandemic. Consider this: when all the physical keys used by any organization are secured and managed using an electronic key control system, no key can be removed for use or returned without the action being logged. The time, location, key and user are all part of the data recorded for each transaction.
This means that should an employee test positive for the virus, it will be possible for management to audit the key control system and determine who else has recently used any key which was also used by the sick individual. Those employees could then be informed that they had been exposed to the virus and could be tested or treated accordingly.

Keys as Transmitter
Of course, there is no getting around the need for multiple individuals to touch the exterior portions of a key management cabinet. It is necessary in order to use the touch screen or keypad, enter credentials, open the outer door etc. Given this reality, it is important to educate staff on the best way to clean and disinfect the system. Key cabinets, including individual keys and fobs, should be wiped down every day with a damp disinfectant wipe or a cloth with a mix of water and rubbing alcohol. Liquids or wipes that contain bleach must be avoided, since bleach could harm sensitive electronic surfaces. The cloth should not be dripping wet, as moisture could seep into delicate circuitry and cause damage. Only gentle pressure should be used on the touch screen. Users may also want to place a box of medical gloves near each cabinet, with signage encouraging their use.

It can be frightening for employees to have to go to work during a pandemic, when every touch could have potentially life-threatening consequences. While it is just one small step, leveraging the features and capabilities of a key management system can help make a meaningful difference in keeping a workforce – and their families – healthy and safe.


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