face-off / buzz ::
ONE QUESTION, TWO IREM MEMBERS “ “
WHEN SECURING YOUR OFFICE BUILDING, HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
DO YOU THINK ENTRANCE DOORS SHOULD BE LOCKED DOWN AND THAT ELEVATORS
SHOULD REQUIRE CARD ACCESS, OR SHOULD THEY BE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC?
JEFF BURCK, CPM, RPA
LEED GREEN ASSOCIATE
BROOKFIELD OFFICE PROPERTIES
JAMES SINCLAIR, CPM, RPA, CCIM
LEED GREEN ASSOCIATE
Yes, you should lockdown entrance doors and have card access only on elevators. Office buildings have been and will
continue to be targets for theft, unlawful entry, kidnapping,
bombings, forcible occupation and sabotage. Since most
crimes are directed toward individuals or offices that have
little or no security planning in place, it is imperative to take
stock of your present measures and possible weak points.
Understand that building tenants differ in the kinds of
risk they bring with them. Some tenants have a high-traffic
volume of visitors; some tenants could be controversial; and
some might face the possibility of problems with former or
disgruntled employees. All these things dictate that precaution is prudent and necessary. So, how much is too much?
In the words of Dirty Harry, “Do I feel lucky?” Ask yourself:
What kind of physical security systems and controls are presently used? Are they enough? Do the available security resources,
policies and procedures meet the potential threat?
In all likelihood the answer is a resounding, No! So what
must be done? First, install key-card access systems at main
entrances and on all elevators. This limits and controls ingress
and egress. Next, install a metal detector or CCTV (
closed-circuit television) camera or other device to monitor people
once they are given access to come into a building entrance.
Also, each tenant should issue access control badges, with recent photographs, to all employees and authorized contractors. Last, tenants should install key-card access systems at
Now that you have the building in full lockdown, how
do you feel? You should feel safe—very safe—and you don’t
have to depend on luck. So what is the cost to you to feel safe?
Aside from the actual equipment costs that can be depreciated and amortized over their useful lives, the true cost is a
little inconvenience of time from tenants, invitees and guests.
Yes, there is that inconvenience factor, similar to going
through an airport checkpoint screening. Not fun, but effective. Since buildings are open to the public just like airports, we must accept that our way of life and thinking has
been altered and changed since 9/11. Let’s not ever become
too relaxed; we don’t want to “make someone’s day.” We must
remain vigilant and keep our guard up by maintaining appropriate measures in buildings by locking down entrances and
initiating card-key access limits on all elevators.
Since 9/11, property managers and tenants have had a different view of security. Prior to 9/11, office buildings and other
facilities were open and accessible. Employees, contractors,
service providers, and most importantly, customers, were
able to enter and exit at-will during normal business hours.
Business was transacted without real thought to specialized
security precautions. Most office doors were secured with
locks and keys, and occasionally a security guard was present
at a desk in the lobby. After business hours, landlords either
secured their buildings using key locks, or in some cases installed electronic locks at entries, and issued access cards to
those tenants and employees who needed to enter the building. Some tenants who had special needs installed electronic
security on their premises, and required employees to use access cards, with visitors entering through a reception area. The
overall perception was one of trust, openness and accessibility.
Flash forward to today’s modern office building—
employees are required to go through certain entrances, showing
their access cards with their pictures, and in some cases having their belongings screened. They are required to use their
cards, or punch in a special code, to access an elevator which
takes them to their specific floor, and then use their cards or
codes again to access their work areas. To go between departments, they may be forced to use their cards and codes again.
And, they are forced to display their badges with their pictures
while in their work areas. Pity the poor visitor to the building,
who is stopped at the door, asked for his or her identification, required to go through a screening process before being
given a visitor’s badge and sent to a holding area where he or
she is then escorted to meet their contact. The same process
gets repeated when they leave. The overall perception is one of
caution, concern and intimidation.
Calvin Coolidge once said that “…the chief business of the
American people is business.” He did not say that the chief
business of America is security. Should we lock down our
buildings and elevators? By doing so, we change the focus
from business to security, and in changing the focus, we allow those who want to destroy our way of life an undeserved
victory. As property managers, our job is to provide an open
and unhindered environment for our tenants to do business.
Locking down doors and elevators is counterproductive to
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