The onset of a new year is a great time to revisit existing building security strategies and consider new approaches. Here are 31 Homeland Security hot tips and great ideas for your facility – one for every day in January, gleaned from friends and colleagues around the globe. Whether you’re a building owner, design professional, security expert, facility manager, administrator, public official, or wear several hats at once, there’s something here for you. These tips apply to all-hazards scenarios. Regardless of the cause, the end goals are to protect lives and assets.
If you have a security hot tip or best practice you’d like to share, please send it along. Have a safe, healthy year!
Security Tips and Homeland Security Ideas
Review your facility’s security plans and procedures. Validate the assumptions that you relied on when making these plans and update throughout the year.
Ensure that all personnel are trained to implement security plans. Review security training programs and schedule refresher courses.
Perform or update a vulnerability analysis for your site and facility to determine where security weaknesses exist. Incorporate any previous and anticipated changes that impact the site, such as adjacent uses, building occupancies, codes, regulations, large public events, and dignitary visits.
Identify and assess potential risks and threats to determine appropriate security measures. Consider the consequences of property damage, theft, disruption of business activities, and compromise of daily routines that are essential to building operations.
Create an effective Emergency Response Plan for your facility. Keep emergency control plans in a Ready Emergency Data (RED) book. Provide copies to supervisors and tenants. Include personnel, contact lists, and telephone numbers in the RED book and update it regularly.
Schedule regular fire drills and training exercises to familiarize staff with emergency response procedures, equipment locations, and medical plans.
Publish and post a copy of “Emergency Procedures” on the office bulletin board. Revise and edit emergency procedures year round.
Create procedures for what to do after a drive-by shooting into a building.
Schedule a January 2013 office meeting to discuss and review emergency procedures. “Some emergencies have the same procedures. The list can’t be too long or no one will read it. This list must be site specific to a building and city. Folks need to sit down and create procedures to fit their own situation.”
Invite the local fire marshal to come in and speak to employees about what causes fires in buildings and how to react.
Review locations of exits doors, exit corridors, and alarm pull stations with staff, including how to use them. “Our alarm system is mainly for fire detection and break-ins but during the day if an alarm is pulled, certain responses occur at the alarm headquarters so that we can summon the police without alerting the intruders.”
Design your building to be secure yet inviting, especiallyin civic, religious, and private settings.
Review perimeter security measures, vehicular and pedestrian circulation patterns, and building access at peak times to ensure the most appropriate security responses are in place for specific building occupancies and uses.
Walk around the outside of your facilities. Make sure procedures are being followed at the loading dock, vehicles park close to the building waiting to make deliveries, and exterior doors and windows appear secure and are in good repair.
Create procedures for handling deliveries when the loading dock is full.
Spend time in the lobby, watching traffic. Observe whether policies are being followed and if people slip through the perimeter. Adjust policies and procedures, educate and train personnel, and install new technology as needed to ensure security is effective.
Keep building exteriors clean and free of trash, indicating that you are paying attention to activities around the building.
Check closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems to ensure that features are present where they are most needed, whether zoom for license plates, pan for parking lots, high-resolution digital systems, or nighttime vision. “Cameras can cover most access points and provide 24/7 surveillance. But, that didn’t stop a thief with a very large truck from backing into a narrow alley to a loading dock door at our facility, going in, grabbing materials, and making a fast and easy getaway. No one was watching the camera monitors; we couldn’t even see the license plate to report it to the police.”
Illuminate indoor and outdoor spaces in a welcoming, inspiring way to promote optimism, happiness, and good visibility. Ensure lighting is working and set for the proper times and levels.
Develop or update facility standards to incorporate security measures for physical plant and operational procedures. “Facilities are often owned and operated by different sections of an agency or corporation. Applying security measures to facility standards can make the implementation more effective and systematic. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Facilities Standards included safety and security requirements after Sept. 11, 2001.”
Isolate rooms and areas housing utilities from main building entrances and parking areas. Conceal utility service entrances from the public.
Perform routine maintenance and testing for building security and technology systems to ensure that all systems are working properly. Follow up on repairs, replacement, staff training, and warranty coverage as needed.
Develop mutual aid agreements with local police or public safety agencies, fire department, country emergency services coordinators, hospitals, and ambulance services. Add contact information to Ready Emergency Data (RED) book.
Ensure that your business insurance policies are paid and up to date. Review coverage and what-if scenarios in the event your building is destroyed, irreparably damaged, or declared uninhabitable for any length of time, for any reason.
Eliminate potential risks by moving and securing places where money and valuables are stored. Increase surveillance to reduce opportunities for theft and vandalism in unattended spaces, especially for religious, cultural, and commercial facilities.
Review redundant emergency power and building system resources, from generators to back-up energy, water, and fuel storage. Plan for several days without power, not just several hours.
Assess potential impact of power loss, surges, and voltage fluctuations on critical equipment, operations, and electronic records, including during nights and weekends.
Back up electronic data and store critical information off-site.
Develop a contingency plan if your building is severely damaged, destroyed, or declared uninhabitable for any reason, or if there is an Avian flu outbreak impacting personnel.
Ascertain if your state has a Good Samaritan law that covers design professionals who volunteer their services during and after emergencies. Review the scope of the law and what your insurance policies will cover. Most states have Good Samaritan laws for medical personnel, but far fewer cover design professionals. Contact professional organizations for more information. Consider a lobbying effort if your state does not have such a law.
Collaborate with others and coordinate disaster planning and emergency response with professional organizations and local government. “It was only after the events of 9/11 in New York City, the Pacific Tsunami in Sri Lanka, and the Gulf of Mexico hurricanes, that New York City design and planning professionals realized they had no plans for a coordinated response to future natural or manmade catastrophes. An existing task force with representatives from the AIA New York Chapter (architects), SEAoNY (engineers), APA (planners), ASLA (landscape), and New York New Visions (20 NYC civic organizations) is working now to develop a protocol for such a response. Current issues being addressed include the support of Good Samaritan legislation, forging a Memo of Understanding with the NYC Office of Emergency Management, creating a disaster response library and database, and encouraging disaster response training. We believe this initiative might be applied in other locations and could benefit short- and long-term planning and design decisions.”