HOUSTON – (By Dale King) – The need for emergency preparedness and crisis management designed to protect humans and intellectual capital in commercial properties has spiraled upward in the modern era of evolving threats from natural and man-made sources.
Facing a variety of dangers, from terror strikes and cyber-crimes to armed attacks inside and outside office and retail buildings, owners and occupants of commercial properties must continually take stock of their threat level and response capabilities.
In the latest edition of its publication, Insights, Transwestern, a Houston-based commercial real estate firm, explores how security within data centers, office buildings and leased space has advanced to handle more sophisticated dangers.
In fact, in the section on dealing with security at high-profile events, the article takes note of the safekeeping methods used in Houston for Super Bowl 51 earlier this year. “Transwestern team members at the 13 office buildings in the Memorial City area managed by MetroNational prepped security guards and tenants to minimize the risks associated with the Atlanta Falcons staying at a nearby hotel.”
“The asset protection manager for MetroNational briefed property managers to expect extra vehicle traffic as fans sought to catch a glimpse of players around the hotel, and to watch out for suspicious activity. In particular, property teams kept an eye out for anyone who might be tracking the Falcons’ movements or scouting the positions of law enforcement officers stationed around the property.”
Properties today are more likely to use multi-tiered access control systems and to prepare response protocols for a variety of threats and emergencies. Depending on the tenant’s preferences, or government-mandated security requirements, the management team follows a written protocol that spells out how it will provide security and incident response.
Lobby ambassadors, often used in tandem with receptionists or at businesses with no specific or staffed receiving area, are trained not only in customer-service skills of the hospitality industry, but in crisis response as well.
“An enthusiastic lobby ambassador will instill a positive atmosphere while learning the building occupants, which elevators they use and their usual arrival and departure times,” says the Insights article.
In addition, “making eye contact and engaging people is more than customer service; it is a key practice in screening for threats and detecting suspicious behavior.”
Today, the entire management team must rehearse its responses to bomb threats, active shooters and other crises – situations once deemed too remote to merit special training.
“Property and security team members must act in synchronicity, achieved through joint training,” says the Insights article. “Owners and occupiers expect this level of sophistication from those entrusted with the safety of commercial buildings.”
Regularly practiced fire drills remain a mainstay in any building, the article points out. “These exercises also prepare managers, engineers and even groundskeepers to assist in various types of evacuation. They may direct occupants to interior corridors during a tornado, for example, or to various positions of safety on and off the property, depending on the scenario.”
Leased offices generally come equipped with basic security measures, but it is chiefly up to the tenant to choose those that will safeguard employees and property. Fortunately, evolving technology and competitive pressure on prices have placed an unprecedented assortment of tools at tenants’ disposal.
Keys pose challenges that increase with the number of locks and clearance levels in the system, and number of keys issued.
Proximity readers, which identify an embedded microchip from several feet away, can grant access to a garage or unlock an elevator lobby’s doors when an authorized employee approaches.
Biometric readers, which scan fingerprints or retinas, are still rare due to the price of equipment and the necessity of contracting with a service provider.
In addition, turnstiles, rotating doors or other physical barriers offer added protection, while cameras provide color, high-resolution recordings that can extend the security team’s view throughout the property.
Not all properties exercise the same degree of watchfulness, but there is a common goal of vigilance that drives most building security programs.