Some spaces can’t be secured under lock and key, alone. Government buildings and spaces devoted to the processing, storage, or discussion of highly sensitive information need extra security. That’s where SCIF doors come in.
What Are SCIFs?
SCIF is short for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, and it refers to areas that require extra levels of protection against not just intruders but also hackers and insider threats. These secure rooms are designed to block espionage attempts and retain the integrity of sensitive information. The U.S. government has specifications in place for SCIFs, and high-quality SCIF equipment may even be tested by the Pentagon.
Basic Room Requirements
The Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) is responsible for establishing standards for SCIFs. They are laid out in a document known as DCID 6/9. According to this detailed document, government-accredited installations must meet certain minimum standards. They include:
- Electronic intrusion detection systems
- Permanent drywall construction
- Availability of a rapid response force that can respond to alarms within 15 minutes
- Availability of a reserve response force to offer backup to initial responders
Use of appropriate containers that meet the GSA’s closed storage classifications for storing sensitive information
Specific Requirements for SCIF Doors
Doors are the most difficult parts of any room to secure, and SCIFs are no exception. Until recently, it was the case that the technical specifications for SCIFs limited designs to one primary entrance door unless otherwise approved by an Accrediting Official (AO). However, today’s specifications allow for the inclusion of a secondary access door, as well. Emergency exits should be included, as well, if required by local fire codes.
Primary SCIF doors must be composed in a way that limits acoustic transmission. Solid wood core, 16-gauge metal-clad wood, and metal fire doors are all acceptable. However, they must be at least 1 ¾” thick to meet DCID 6/9 standards. Those include offering the same level of acoustic protection as the room’s walls, which should be STC 45 or 50.
Swinging doors are the most secure option, but they must feature non-hold-open closers so that the doors will close on their own. The hardware should be rated for at least two million cycles, and the hinges should not be accessible from the outside of the facility.
Primary Door Lock Requirements
The specifications regarding SCIF door locks are particularly stringent. The door needs a deadbolt, which must comply with the standards outlined in Federal Specification FFL-2890. In addition to an approved deadbolt, the door also needs to have an FFL-2740-compliant spin-dial lock that must be used whenever the space is not occupied.
During the daytime, SCIF doors must be protected by two-factor access control systems in addition to electronic intrusion detection systems, which should be armed and disarmed from the primary entrance.
Secondary doors are helpful in large spaces that have many authorized employees working within them. However, they must not have spin-dial locks. Those are only included on primary doors.
Room designers should note that the inclusion of a secondary door can make plans difficult to approve. Authorizing officers (AOs) aren’t always aware of the recent changes in the relevant specifications. Be sure to discuss the inclusion of the extra door during the design phase.
Emergency doors must be alarmed 24/7. They shouldn’t have any exterior hardware but should be equipped with deadlocking panic hardware that allows egress during emergencies. SCIF room designers should incorporate emergency exits based on what’s required by the local fire codes, which must be followed even if there are contraindications in the federal standards for secured rooms.
Some SCIF rooms require radiofrequency (RF) shielding for protecting electronic devices from interference. While RF interference doesn’t pose a risk of information loss, it can interfere with sensitive devices and get in the way of critical missions. RF-shielded doors offer an adequate level of protection and are inherently compliant with acoustical emissions standards.
The Most Efficient Way to Build a SCIF
Not all SCIFs are permanent installations. For temporary applications, the best way to set up a SCIF is to work with a company that manufactures pre-engineered SCIF systems that meet U.S. government standards. Note, however, that efficiency and speed of deployment should never get in the way of security and compliance. Only work with temporary SCIF manufacturers that have government approval.