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Physical Key Management – 6 Best Practices for Facility Administrators

A comprehensive key management program is essential to the security of any facility.  Key control improves protection and utilization of the physical plant and its assets, enhances safety for workers and visitors, prevents loss and minimizes the potential for unauthorized activities and their potentially adverse consequences.

Think about this: What are the potential risks if your master key went missing? What’s your exposure? Interruption to operations? What would be the cost and time to replace master keys and locks throughout your facility?

The answers aren’t pleasant, are they?

So, if keys are so vital, why is key security so often overlooked?

Accounting for all keys — knowing quickly with whom, when and where they are (or have been) — is the object of a key management program.  Managing physical keys addresses three basic needs; identification, location, and assignment. Mastering these basics will help you establish and implement an effective key security program.

Basics of key administration

Identification: All keys provide either access, security or activation. Consider an individual key. What is it for? What does it do? Is this key for a door, an access panel, a vehicle or a machine?  Is it a master key? How do you distinguish this key from your other keys?

Location: Where will this key be used in your facility? Where will the key be stored? Can you track the whereabouts of all keys used in your facility or fleet?

Assignment: Who has current custody of this key? Is this assignment permanent, temporary or as-needed? Just as important, who can gain access to this key? How do you manage the access, distribution, collection, and safekeeping of all of your keys?

Six Best Practices

Start your key management program with these steps:

  • Don’t label your keys
  • Decentralize administration
  • Reduce key ownership
  • Increase monitored access
  • Adopt RFID technology
  • Set key curfews


Don’t label your keys

A clearly labeled key is a criminal’s best friend. If you must label or tag your keys, use a coded system — one that isn’t obvious to a total stranger. Keep your codebook safely away from your key box or lock it up separately.

Decentralize key administration

Have you ever been frustrated by having to trek a distance across your facility to retrieve or hand out a key, or wait on a key to be returned? Do you control your keys from one location or person? Rid yourself of this key-funnel headache by installing a network of key boxes or cabinets across your facility. You can house keys regionally where they are routinely needed.

Reduce key ownership

Controlled-access key boxes and cabinets allow you to assign keys on a restricted, as-needed basis. Easy to install, even in tight spaces, these compact units can feature an automatic roller system as well as a standard metal door (with or without window) that hides the keys until an authorized access is made. Units may hold 8 to 384 keys. With key boxes you eliminate the potential loss of key rings disappearing across your campus or plant.

Increase monitored access

Key cabinets provide accurate data about the location of all keys. The data logging capabilities give you a quick picture of where your keys are, who has custody, and when as well as by whom they have been used.

Adopt RFID technology

Radio frequency identification (RFID)-based key systems simplify key management tremendously. These systems utilize key fobs encoded with a unique electronic identity. deister electronic’s RFID systems are designed to perform in extreme conditions and are maintenance-free with no contacts, batteries or moving parts. They prevent a lost key from being recognized by unauthorized persons.

Set key curfews

Controlling key assignments is not enough. Key curfews help you to get keys back in the fold on time. Electronic systems can set an expiration time. If the key isn’t returned on time, a text message can be automatically sent to the key’s custodian. This is especially useful if you assign keys to contractors, students or temporary employees.

Once you establish your key management rules, stick to them and enforce them. Like good government, the “price” of effective key management is eternal vigilance. Today vigilance can be automated

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Deister Electronics USA, Inc.

8576 Wellington Road
20109 Manassas

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