Reduce Risk with Early Integration of Security and Life Safety

There is a common misconception that security and safety conflict when applied to a building’s design. However, experience shows that security and safety can be compatible when the two disciplines are integrated early in the design stage. 

Safety vs Security

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Building design encompasses two distinct yet closely related issues:  safety and security.  Building safety issues deal with natural and unintentional threats such as fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and accidental spills.  Building security issues are about the prevention and detection of intentional, humanly motivated threats such as criminal, terrorist and other malevolent acts directed towards buildings and their occupants.

Security and Life Safety Objectives

security parking lotSecurity objectives for building operations:

  • restrict and control access.
  • limit occupant movement.
  • obstruct or slow access for those not pre-cleared through security screening.

On the other hand, fire and life safety objectives for occupant safety (which is one of the top tier objectives of modern Codes and Standards) are predicated on:

  • unrestricted egress via multiple exits.
  • unobstructed access for first responders.

Recognizing that security and safety can be complimentary rather than contradictory is key, and early collaboration between disciplines can help to ensure compatible, integrated solutions where security objectives are achieved while meeting applicable fire and life safety Codes. 

How to Integrate your Security and Safety Design 

When it comes to safety and security, designing for one can sometimes address the other.  But, there are distinct benefits to applying an intentional, integrated approach between disciplines in a design project.  Combining the two approaches leads to improvements and efficiencies by addressing common safety and security goals from the beginning. This approach has the potential to save owners time and money by reducing the need for future projects to identify and address security vulnerabilities. 


There are a number of ways building owners can improve the compatibility of safety and security systems.  For example:

  • The design and use of physical site elements can manage vehicular threats without compromising Fire Department access.
  • In fire safety, evacuation strategies are inherently based on managing the timeline of an evacuation before untenable conditions develop; the fundamentals of Available Safe Egress Time and Required Safe Egress Time. Security has a similar philosophy associated with the time for security intervention relative to a possible threat. 
  • Interior architectural design can limit the potential for intruder penetration without compromising access to exits for building occupants.

What can a Security Specialist do for you?

ThinkstockPhotos-954913804Obtaining expert advice and design support during the initial stages of your facility and infrastructure development offers advantages in terms of understanding and addressing physical security, communications security, the use of electronic hardware and software to augment physical and operational security measures, and blast mitigation.  More importantly, it will ensure that your security measures are more likely to meet applicable fire and life safety Codes.  Our specialists can help you develop a security solution that is:

  • A single, holistic security solution.
  • Compatible with your operations.
  • Convenient for your staff, clients and the public.
  • Cohesive with the appearance of your facility or infrastructure.
  • Meets applicable fire and life safety Codes.

Ask our Experts

Morrison Hershfield’s unique approach to physical security assessment and design integrates architectural, electrical, mechanical, landscape design, structural and security system components with our extensive and critical knowledge of code requirements for fire, life safety and accessibility.

We provide a range of security planning and design services to clients facing both traditional and new challenges in today’s security environment.

For more information on how we can help with your safety and security requirements, please visit our Security Consulting webpage or contact:

judy jeskeJudy Jeske, Vice President, Code, Life Safety & Security
1-613-739-2910 x1022251


randy romaninRandy Romanin, Senior Architect, Security Specialist


Morrison Hershfield is a market leading, employee-owned professional engineering and management firm that has been making a difference since 1946. We deliver technically sophisticated, cost effective and sustainable infrastructure solutions across the globe.
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