Behind the scenes of GS: security affects us all

A CERN manager, supported by two outside companies, manages the three entities in the GS Department that are in charge of various aspects of security. In total, about 80 people, 300 cameras, a surveillance centre (CSA) and 22 kilometres of fences are responsible for ensuring that the Organization is secure. But in spite of these significant resources, the best strategy for maintaining a good level of security at CERN is the active support of its users.


CERN’s security service covers three main areas: access control, comprising the security guards and a patrol service that ensures the site is secure and monitors compliance with traffic and parking rules; registration; and locks and keys.

The 22 guards on the day shift and the seven on the night shift, who constantly monitor access, are spread across the two main sites and the four experiment sites. “The guards’ main job is to check that only those who are authorised to do so enter the site,” explains Didier Constant, head of security at CERN. “They also carry out random searches and patrols to ensure that the parking rules are respected.”

In fact, parking is a major problem, for users as much as for the guards, given that, out of some 5,000 parking spaces available, around 350 are occupied by “squatters”, i.e. cars that have been abandoned by their owner on the Organization’s site.

“When the security guards report abandoned vehicles, we launch a process that can lead to the car being removed,” warns Constant. “Unfortunately, this is not the only incivility we see. We also often find cars parked in disabled spaces, in front of emergency exits or next to fire hydrants.”

So mind where you park! It’s also worth noting that a completely new car park with 295 places – which are often empty – has recently been made available next to the Globe (see box).

Keys and access cards: use them!
CERN has more than 20,000 doors, about 20 different locking schedules, and 32,000 keys and 9,000 lock cylinders permanently in stock. All these locks are definitely necessary, as sadly thefts and petty crime are on the increase. Even though the guards spend a lot of time analysing videos, checking access and patrolling the site, unfortunately this is not always sufficient and criminals sometimes succeed in getting into the buildings. “Video surveillance sometimes allows us to identify the culprits, but it doesn’t allow us to solve every case,” laments Constant. “Property doesn’t protect itself. Everyone must take responsibility and do what they can to protect their own belongings and the Laboratory’s property.”

Recently, a CERN user who had noticed the presence of an unfamiliar person in his working area was able to help the guards to foil a criminal. “The person behaving strangely was in a car, and when he noticed him, the CERN user created a Service Desk ticket and sent it to the security control room,” explains Constant. “We carried out some checks and the vehicle was not registered at CERN. We sent out a patrol team, checked the cameras and found him at SM18. He had parked his car outside and gone in on foot. When we stopped him, he told us he was collecting scrap metal. We communicated his identity to the Swiss authorities and it turned out that his intentions were not very honest.”

Security affects us all. And this applies right from the moment we register at CERN. “It’s a tricky job,” emphasises Constant. “We issue around 22,000 access cards each year, with peaks of around 700 per week, particularly at the start of the year when lots of new people arrive at CERN, and at the start of July, when students and trainees arrive.”

Important synergies
The security guards are also there to help other vital services to carry out their work in ensuring the safety and security of the Laboratory's users. “We try to create a lot of synergies with the other GS services, particularly with ASE, which manages access to the machines, as well as the security cameras and number-plate readers, but also with the Medical Service, in terms of allowing access to the emergency services when necessary (particularly ambulances, which we must be able to direct to the correct location) and the Fire Brigade, so that we can develop emergency plans together,” notes Constant.

The security guards therefore have many different tasks. However, there is one thing they are not supposed to do in the course of their work: tolerate disrespectful behaviour from users. If you are unhappy and need to contact someone about a security issue, use the Service Desk. They will know to whom to direct your complaint… but it certainly won't be to the security guard himself, who is just trying to get people to respect the rules.

The Globe car park

With 295 spaces reserved for CERN (and visitors to CERN), 100 P+R spaces, 15 spaces for buses, 26 spaces for motorcycles and one taxi space, the Globe car park is an ideal location to park your vehicle, as you are almost guaranteed to find a free space.

The car park is accessible to all vehicles registered at CERN (CERN car sticker), as well as to a maximum of 100 P+R subscribers and all visitors (professional or otherwise) during their first visit. For subsequent visits, they must go to Building 33 to register their vehicle before they can use the car park again.


by Antonella Del Rosso