Most security professionals protecting parking lots and garages believe their end users feel secure at their facilities. They believe the most effective security efforts include card access, lighting and security video. But, they also admit that their facilities are not as prepared in terms of an up-to-date risk analysis nor in terms of a cooperative relationship with first responders.

In March 2005, Security magazine, in conjunction with Parking magazine, a publication of the National Parking Association, conducted an online survey of building owners and managers, parking executives and security professionals assigned to protect parking lots and garages.

One aim of the survey was to look at what equipment these individuals use.

There is a diversity of products and systems now in use to protect parking garages and lots. The most common is lighting but many (14 percent of respondents) employ security video while 13 percent have some form of card access control. About one in ten employs gate and gate operators to control access while fewer use guard booths, guard patrols, emergency telephones and a parking attendant.

When asked to indicate the most effective security effort, a surprising 26 percent of respondents say it is a card access control system followed by lighting (20 percent) and security video at 14 percent.

The top three most used types of lighting are mercury vapor, metal halide and sodium. Metal halide is viewed by security professionals as the most effective of lighting choices.

Vulnerability analysis

Facing myriad parking security challenges ranging from liability to terrorism, the joint survey asked security professionals if a risk/vulnerability analysis been completed on their parking facility(ies) within the last 12 months. More than half (53 percent) report they have not, while 35 percent said they had.

For those who have conducted a risk/vulnerability analysis, 42 percent reported employees and/or tenants have been briefed as to the implementation of improvements.

When asked if there is an emergency plan and emergency lock down plan that includes the parking facility(ies), parking management personnel and parking management firm, less than half (45 percent) answered yes, while 46 percent answered no.

Today, many officials – especially homeland security and first responders – urge security professionals at parking lots and garages to coordinate emergency evacuation plans and emergency lock down plans with Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and Emergency Management Agency representatives. The need still exists, according to the Security magazine and Parking magazine joint survey. Less than four in ten of respondents (39 percent) said they have such coordinated plans in place. A majority (51 percent) does not as yet while another 10 percent say they plan on a coordinated effort this year.

Most security officers assigned to parking lots and garages have had some level of emergency response training while fewer parking attendants have such training.

Liability issues, including security negligence, are the common worry of security professionals and their organizations. According to survey respondents, a little less than one in ten (nine percent) said there had been a lawsuit or liability action involving a parking lot or garage in the past twelve months. However, a vast majority (81 percent) reported that – compared with three years ago – the number of lawsuits or liability actions remained the same.

In a separate study released late last year by Liability Consultants, Inc., Sudbury, Mass., in which lawsuits brought by victims of violent crime against property owners were analyzed across 1992-2001, parking facilities were the leading location for all business categories where crimes committed on property led to a lawsuit.

In writing the report, Major Developments in Premises Security Liability III, Norman Bates, Esq., provided an overview of premises security law. "It arises," he wrote, "when a business is sued by an individual who was the victim of a violent crime on the property of the business and is claiming that the lack of security was a factor in allowing the crime to occur."

Bates added that a claim of inadequate security is a claim that the property owner failed to provide a reasonable level of security, given the risk of crime at the property during the time of the attack. There also is a strong link between risk and foreseeability. This latter element is, according to Bates, essentially a question of whether the criminal act or incident was one that a reasonable person would have foreseen or reasonably anticipated, given the risk of crime that existed at the time of the incident at the property in question.

Go to for ordering information on the Norman Bates study or telephone (978) 440-9906.

Automated Vehicle Identification, which is the process of identifying and allowing access to vehicles using hands-free RFID technology in concert with gate control systems, is an emerging, cost-effective means of protecting lots and garages. Photo courtesy: AWID

Side bar: AVI Comes Of Age (And Within Budget!

According to Doug Cram of AWID, Monsey, N.Y., Automated Vehicle Identification (AVI) in the parking arena is the process of identifying and allowing access to vehicles utilizing hands free RFID technology in concert with gate control systems. The concept of being able to approach a gate or barrier and have access granted by simply reading a tag affixed to the vehicle and creating an easily manipulated audit trail has always been on the wish lists of most commercial garage operators and property managers alike.

With the advent and maturation of “passive tag” technology, the cost of AVI technology has been slashed so dramatically that facilities are installing the hands free access control systems in staggering numbers. The “active tag” systems use a battery-powered transponder commonly mounted inside a vehicle that sends a signal to the receiver or reader and is capable of reads from 20 feet and beyond, and can also read vehicles at speed. A “passive tag” system uses a tag with no battery that absorbs the RF from the reader and reflects the signal back.