Specifically Speaking with Terry Harless

Senior technology consultant with Burns & McDonnell
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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Security Systems News caught up with Terry Harless, senior technology consultant with Burns & McDonnell, who talked about his consulting career, the advancement of ground-based radar (GBR) technology and the future for security, in general.

What's your role at the company?

I have several roles within the company including mentoring physical security specialists, performing electronic security design, performing quality control for security design and assessment projects, and assist our business developer with marketing efforts.
 
What kinds of systems do you design/specify and what services does the company provide?

On a typical project we would design video surveillance, access control and intrusion detection systems. When we initially assess the site or building, we are also looking for other options, such as fencing, barriers and vegetation to assist with the security posture. We also include ground base radar systems, gunshot detection systems and/or drone (UAV) monitoring systems in our designs when appropriate.

Burns & McDonnell provides the following services for our clients: architecture, business consulting, commissioning, construction, engineering, operations & maintenance, program management, security consulting and technology consulting.

What vertical markets does the company specialize in? Any interesting projects that you can mention?

Burns & McDonnell is an employee-owned engineering/architecture/construction firm focused on the following vertical markets: aviation; chemicals, oil and gas; commercial, retail and institutional; environmental; government, military and municipal; manufacturing and industrial; power; telecommunications; transportation; water; and construction.

One of the projects that stands out that I can mention is a mixed-used development in Doha, Qatar. The development contained retail, office buildings, school and high-end townhomes and apartments, as well as a 5-star hotel, museum and cultural center. One of the challenges that occurred during the design of the project is integrating the security system with a commercial grade smart home system. At the time of the design, there were no off-the-shelf solutions so we had to bring together a couple manufacturers to program a solution that fit the customer’s need.

How did you get started in security and designing/specifying?

I applied for a drafting job at a consulting firm (Latta Technical Services) that primarily designs electronic security for justice facilities (prisons, jails, courthouses, for example). Once I developed a drafting manual for the company, I started to perform some design work. After a few site visits and security manufacturer presentations I was hooked. Each project is different and there is an art to assist architects during the preliminary design to build security envelopes so access-controlled doors can be minimized.

Can you talk about what new or emerging technologies you are seeing or specifying today?

Ground based radar (GBR) is a product we have been researching and recommending for applicable projects for a few years now. The advancement in GBR detection technology and affordability has made GBR a major player in the analytics game. Integrated with low light and/or thermal cameras allow security operators to quickly determine if a moving object is a person posing threat or an animal wondering around in a field.

Another technology that I see becoming a norm in the next few years is UAV monitoring systems. Currently the FAA does not allow non-federal government entities to defend against drones, but there are technologies you can use to currently monitor and, in the future, use to defend against drones if the law is ever adjusted. The electric utilities sector is looking at this technology to monitor drones near substations and/or transmission lines.

What is your view on the industry moving forward?

I think security design professionals need to be more aware of non-electronic security options like CPTED to use when mitigating vulnerabilities. It appears most of us always seems to be interested in the ‘bleeding edge’ solution when there could be a thorny bush or native landscaping stone available to serve the same purpose. IP based video surveillance systems and other technology doesn’t have the longevity as analog systems from the past, so ongoing maintenance fees are going to tremendously affect clients in the future.

There are a lot of cool new devices out there today, but we need to be cognizant of how much it costs to keep them performing optimally. Otherwise, we will have a bunch of cool little gadgets hanging off walls/poles that don’t serve a purpose anymore because the operators are growing tired of all the false alarms.

Specifically Speaking features Q-and-A with a security consultant provided to SSN by SecuritySpecifiers.