9 Keys to Building Security

08/29/2016 | By Michael Fickes

Effective building security requires these key techniques. Does your building use all nine?


A building security program has many components. In fact, security directors must apply at least nine key techniques – some may even require more.

Security directors must research risks and create a comprehensive program. They must define their own role as security director and determine  whether to employ security officers on staff or to outsource security to a third party company.

Then come the specifics. People, technology or both must be implemented at all of the building’s entry points for access control. Policies for interior common area doors are also necessary. Parking facilities need close attention too. What about the elevators? How will you manage them? What policies will you implement to manage the flow of visitors?

Active Shooter Security

Active shooters have become so worrisome that many high-rise building security directors have made active shooter education and drills standard components of their security programs.

“We’ve always believed that our physical security is strong, but we have tried to educate our tenants and staff about active shooters,” says Richard Henneberry, Jr., CPM, a property manager with a large national property management firm. “We periodically bring in a national security firm for a lunch and learn presentation with tenants.”

Henneberry has trained his staff and tenants in what has become the gold standard response to an active shooter: If you hear shots, run. If you can’t run, hide. If you can’t hide, fight.

In this context, running means running away from the sound of gunfire. Keep running. Get out of the building and run until you find a place of certain safety.

Where can you hide? In today’s open offices, that is a fair question. Find rooms with doors: restrooms, closets, storage rooms – any place with a door and hopefully a lock. Once in another room, hide again behind boxes or shelving.

Then wait for the response team to come and find you. Don’t come out just because the noise has stopped. The response team has been trained to find those that have hidden. The goal of the response team will be to account for everyone.

If you can’t run or hide, stand and fight. This last piece of advice might seem foolish. How can someone fight a person firing a gun? It is a last resort, professionals note. If you are about to be shot, fight back – throw something or dive at the person. It might startle the shooter and give others nearby a chance to help.

Finally, consider the logistics of enforcing the building’s security policies. Security officers must patrol the grounds regularly, greeting and assisting tenants and visitors as well as deterring trouble – and stopping it when it arises. How will they get around?

Here’s a look at how Robert Thomas, Director of Security for the Baltimore-based Harbor East Management Group, LLC, applies these security techniques to an eight-building portfolio that stretches along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

1) Planning a Security Program

Thomas signed on at Harbor East 11 years ago, bringing 28 years of experience as a police officer. “As a former policeman, I had quite a bit of experience handling situations and protecting people and assets,” he says.

His assignment is to apply what he has learned about law enforcement and crime over the course of his career to building a security program that protects people and property.
Thomas developed a plan that began with a call for a security assessment to analyze the existing security program, identify new problems created by the changing nature of the city neighborhood over the years and develop a plan to bring the program up to date. The plan would start with the most pressing security needs and move ahead as the budget allowed. He has implemented the plan with an eye to hiring and training security officers and applying technology to areas where the officers need support.

2) Determining Whether to Outsource Security

Thomas doesn’t employ a security staff. Instead, he manages a contract with a security firm that provides on-site officers and supervisors.

Why outsource? It eliminates the time required to hire and manage personnel. If a patrol or station officer isn’t performing, Thomas need only request a different officer from the supervisor. Replacing an in-house officer would likely be time-consuming and expensive.

Outsource companies can also call in more officers to meet situational problems. Downtown Baltimore, for instance, has recently seen a number of protest marches, and Thomas has called upon his security firm to staff up on those days to ensure safety.

Of course, in-house security organizations have benefits, too. Staff security officers, for example, have a direct relationship with the company. Often, that inspires greater levels of commitment from security officers.

3) Identifying Responsibilities for the Security Director

Different buildings require different security programs. The first responsibility of a security director is to commission an assessment and use the results to tailor a security program to the needs of the tenants and the building. What resources will be required in terms of security officers, vehicles, radios, access control and video technology, uniforms, weapons and so on? Will the building be better off retaining an outsource security firm or hiring its own people and buying its own technology?

Next, the security director must determine how to deploy resources. What routes will officers patrol? How often will they patrol? What will the cameras watch? Which doors will require card access? Which will offer uncontrolled access at the beginning and end of the day? Where will the security stations be?

Finally, the security director must monitor and manage all of these tasks.

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