THE BANK STORES GOLD...
The Bank stores gold in the form of bars that resemble construction bricks and stacks them on wooden pallets like those used in warehouses. To reach the vault, the bullion- laden pallets must be loaded into one of the Bank's elevators and sent down five floors below street level to the vault floor. The elevator's movements are controlled by an operator who is in a distant room and communicates by intercom with the armed guards accompanying the shipment.
Once inside the vault, the gold bars become the responsibility of a control group consisting of representatives of three Bank divisions: Auditing, Vault Services, and Protection. A member of each division must be present whenever gold is moved or whenever anyone enters the vault.
All bars brought into the vault are inspected and weighed. These steps are critical, because the weight and purity of a bar determine its value and acceptability in International transactions. A modern electronic balance scale weighs each bar to the nearest 1/1000 of a troy ounce. The vault control group verifies the weight, serial number, and purity measure stamped on each bar against an accompanying manifest
AN INDISPENSABLE SECURITY SYSTEM
Storing almost $86 billion of gold makes extensive security measures mandatory at the New York Fed. An important measure is the background investigation required of all Bank employees. Continuous supervision by the vault control group also prevents problems from arising by ensuring that proper security procedures are followed.
The Bank and its vaults are guarded by the Bank's own uniformed protection force. Periodically, each guard must qualify with a revolver on the Bank's firing range. Although the minimum requirement is a marksman's score, most qualify as experts. In addition, the Bank's guards must be proficient with other weapons. Security also is provided by closed-circuit television monitors and by an electronic surveillance system that alerts the central guardroom when a vault door is opened or closed. The alarm system can signal guards to seal all security areas and Bank exits, which can be closed within seconds.
The gold also is secured by the vault's design, which is a masterpiece of protective engineering. The vault is actually the bottom floor of a three-story bunker of vaults arranged like strongboxes stacked on top of one another. The massive walls surrounding the vault are made of a steel-reinforced structural concrete.
There are no doors into the gold vault. Entry is through a narrow ten-foot passageway cut in a delicately balanced, nine-feet-tall, 90-ton steel cylinder that revolves vertically in a 140-ton, steel-and-concrete frame. The vault is opened and closed by rotating the cylinder 90 degrees. An airtight and watertight seal is achieved by lowering the slightly tapered cylinder three-eighths of an inch into the frame, which is similar to pushing a cork down into a bottle. The cylinder is secured in place when two levers insert large bolts, four recessed in each side of the frame, into the cylinder. By unlocking a series of time and combination locks, Bank personnel can open the vault the next business day. The locks are under "multiple control" no one individual has all the combinations necessary to open the vault.
The weight of the gold - just over 27 pounds per bar - makes it difficult to lift or carry and obviates the need to search vault employees and visitors before they leave the vault. Nor do they have to be checked for specks of gold. Gold is relatively soft, but not so soft that particles will stick to clothing or shoes, or can be scraped from the bars. The Bank's security arrangements are so trusted by depositors that few have ever asked to examine their gold.