From the highest city buildings and sprawling office campuses to always-open gaming establishments and even on-the-water assets, security today is an intelligent mix of “welcome in” and “keep out.” Such assignments also blend people on duty in lobbies, walking corridors and patrolling parking areas with technology that ranges from traditional to unique.

Then, for building owners and managers and their security professionals, there are the challenges of codes and ordinances that can vary vastly by jurisdiction, increasingly important emergence preparedness mandates, Americans with Disabilities (ADA) requirements as well as the sometimes contradictory expectations of facility tenants and visitors.

That balancing act – call it the “velvet hammer” – is a tricky though crucial assignment, made all the more critical with the frightening rise in workplace violence incidents and, for many trophy high rises, homeland security threats. See “Close Work Violence Loop with 360-degree Communication” in this article on the role of communication in averting workplace violence at commercial properties.


Mixture of Security Technologies

At some properties, “velvet hammer” emphasis is on electronic access controls, often integrated with other systems such as visitor management and security video.

Capital Health is upgrading its electronic access control systems at key facilities including its Mercer Campus, Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton, N.J., and an outpatient facility in Hamilton. “The new Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell will be the model of advancements in healthcare design and technology,” says EDI Senior Consultant Jason Barton. “The security system will play an integral role in the day-to-day operations of the hospital and was a good fit because of integration features as well as the visitor management module that is included with the standard system. Capital Health security will be able to monitor all aspects of the security system and enroll visitors from the same user interface, which will make this system very easy and efficient to use.” EDI is a professional consulting and design firm.

Properties that include retail operations must also seek that essential balance of a secure welcome – too much security may discourage shoppers.

For example, Redner’s Warehouse Markets, a supermarket chain in eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware which stresses low prices, went high tech when top executives Richard and Gary Redner brought in a security video system with facial search capabilities for known criminals that alerts staff of their presence on-site. This technique has allowed the chain to identify and catch shoplifters by intercepting thieves as they enter another store after stealing from a separate location. Security managers can search across video from all locations to collect footage of organized retail crime activities and develop patterns in order to protect against them.

As a support arm of the vast and diverse property management needs of Nationwide Insurance, Jay Beighley, assistant vice president of corporate security, agrees that there are ways technology can do the job previously assigned to people, especially in lobby areas. “It is always a matter of doing more with less,” he says. “This is especially true these days.” One example: Beighley is installing turnstiles integrated with video at the firm’s international headquarters while shifting some officers to different, higher level duties. Look for the April 2011 issue of Securitymagazine for an article on gates and turnstiles that will, in part, cover Beighley’s project.


Shift to More Services

For many high rises, especially those that are also tourist attractions or with sophisticated tenants, security may swing more to velvet but without neglecting the hammer.

In Chicago, Willis Tower, the neck-cranking 110-story 1,450-foot skyscraper, has noticeably invested in its security staff and lobby technology.Securitymagazine featured the facility early last year when Keith Kambic, the tower’s director of security and life safety, pointed out how staff from the street-side valet to the Skydeck receive and respond to diverse questions from visitors looking for information that can range from the history of the property (It originally was Sears Tower.) to the best place in the area for lunch.

Kambic placed increased attention on the tenant lobby where turnstiles have upped protection, and kiosks can conveniently dispense visitor access cards and cards to tenants who may have forgotten their own IDs.

Smaller in stature than Willis, the 58-story Comcast Center, the tallest in Philadelphia, has gone one better. Liberty Property Trust, the building’s developer and owner, and Philadelphia-based Comcast Corporation, the principal tenant, partnered with AlliedBarton to change the profile of the traditional security officer to create highly effective and specialized security ambassadors.

The security ambassador concept was based on the model used by Ritz-Carlton hotels, Four Seasons hotels and Disney amusement parks, all recognized for outstanding customer service. Jim Birch, Liberty Property Trust’s director of security and life safety, says his organization wanted to make the Comcast Center a destination and experience for people in the Greater Philadelphia region. “The ultimate goal was to offer an environment that would be well-balanced, secure, and welcoming to visitors,” he says.

Gaming facilities can boast their own mixture of challenges in the casino, public areas, retail operations and parking garages and lots. On the video side, often these locations must support two different systems: One meets the needs of a state gaming commission or board relative to the casino floor, tables and machines and another for more traditional surveillance of public areas, stores and parking facilities. No matter the angle, there is growing attraction to high-definition cameras because the devil and cheaters tend to be in the image details.

Late last year, for example, the historic Golden Gate Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas did a surveillance upgraded that included high-definition IP video. “The clarity and detail that the HD cameras will deliver will transform our surveillance operation,” says Greg Stevens, Golden Gate’s co-owner. “However, one of the main reasons we chose the solution is the ability to deliver 30 fps, 720p high quality HD video with a guarantee of no lost frames under any circumstances, including lowlight conditions, typical on casino floors. The use of HD cameras in covert locations for crisp face shots will also enhance the use of facial recognition software and make it much more viable to thwart known cheats.”


Unique Casino Needs

Says Stevens, “Another advantage of the new system is the ability to view live or recorded video remotely, not just on a workstation in another part of the casino, but anywhere in the world. This is a major benefit for me to be able to personally keep an eye on my casino operations 24/7. The overall equipment footprint will also be much less with typically a single HD camera replacing two analog cameras and with fewer racks required for the video recorders.”

Facial recognition for facility security seems to be catching on beyond casinos.

As with colleagues in other business and government sectors, property management executives and their security team see increasing value in mobile image display looking into myriad properties from the office or on the road, according to Rodney Guinto, system solutions manager for EverFocus Electronics Corp., a manufacturer of security video and access control systems and components. Such a feature demands IP-based technology. 

Some properties are combining video analytics and biometrics to provide secure entry into a property and customized to each individual while also eliminating keys, cards and codes. Los Alamos Technical Associates (LATA) has installed a system called SafeRise from in its downtown Chicago office. The LATA entrance now allows access by recognizing employees by the way they look, talk and walk, as well as being aware if they are in distress, and can even carry a conversation with them and their visitors.

The system uses second-generation biometrics with a combination of face, voice, license plate and pattern of behavior recognition. Says Pat Anderson, department manager and manager of LATA’s Chicago Office, “This is leading edge technology with a fusion of biometric technologies that delivers what it promises…and it does more, which is exactly what LATA was looking for. Any single biometric may be circumvented or fooled, but a combination (fusion) of biometric systems becomes almost impossible to fool.”

Property management strategies can also apply to a selected technology to a specific need. For example, at the vast and sprawling facilities of the University of Georgia, Bill McGee, manager of UGA card services, has biometric hand readers in the University dining rooms, the Ramsey Recreation Center and all residence halls. “Solely, the owner of the card bearing the ID number and the person himself/herself are authorized to enter our doors,” McGee says.

Other properties can justify tighter access control needs but upgrading can challenge budgets for facilities such as school districts. The Ballston Spa School District in New York, about 25 miles north of Albany, wanted a simple, cost-effective and quick method to issue photo ID badges and compile data on who comes and goes from its buildings. The District now signs in visitors by requesting and scanning photo IDs, usually a driver’s license. If the visitor is known to the receptionist and has already been scanned and entered into the system before, a quick search in the visitor management system brings up the required information and one click prints the visitor a new photo badge for that day.


Tracking Visitors More Effectively

“From a security perspective, we now can reliably track everyone who visits, from arrival to departure, and issue temporary photo ID badges that our staff now expects to see on all visitors,” says Edwin Martin, the coordinator of facilities and security. “From a facilities perspective, we’re now also able to verify the arrival and departure time of outside contractors to ensure that they are on the job as specified.”

Even before getting to the lobby, observes Protection One’s Williams, there is the perimeter around a property and various entry points. The goal, he says, is “better controls of the building itself. Monitor that video and receive video shots or clips including access to authorities with jurisdiction” of incidents and alarms. “The bottom line is property owner and tenant satisfaction.”

Another property management strategy to help squeeze more out of the budget is the growing attraction of remote monitoring beyond the typical burglar and fire alarm. “It’s not for everyone,” comments David Ly, CEO at Iveda Solutions, but there are sources such as Ly’s firm which employ technology with human analytics where intervention specialists watch strategically-located cameras in real-time at a fraction of the cost of having security officers on properties. “It enables operational awareness,” he says.

Then there are other unique security assignments in which the property floats on purpose.

That is among the challenges at the Halifax (Canada) Regional Municipality (HRM), where Randy Stoddard is manager of corporate security. Representing more than 185 communities, HRM offers programs ranging from business planning and fire and emergency to recreation and transportation services and owns millions of dollars’ worth of assets and property that are accessible to the public. “It is vital that they are protected and used properly,” explains Stoddard, whose team focus has decidedly shifted beyond asset management to people protection.

One place where people, property and water all come together is the ferries. As part of an overall upgrade to an IP-based high-definition security video system, the technology easily expanded into a wireless solution on its ferries. Dedicating a section of its network to the surveillance system, HRM can monitor the ferries live at any time, on the boats themselves, and back at the central control room. “I can be a mile away and view live video footage, while the ferry captains can monitor passenger activity, as well as some of their systems like the engine room, onsite,” says Stoddard.

“There is a choke point at the main entrance where users have to pass through before they can board the ferry, so we have installed HD cameras for greater image clarity,” Stoddard says. “We can then follow those passengers through the facility and easily capture the evidence we need should an incident occur.”

Tech Partners

Some property management solutions are high tech. For example, since 1987, when Shelley Raja founded Scan Computers International, a family run business employing 150 members, emphasis has been naturally on its technology edge since the firm builds and supplies high-performance systems, PC hardware/software and consumer electronics from its Bolton, Great Britain headquarters. So it was also natural for Raja to bring in a new IP-based, high-resolution video surveillance system from Arecont Vision to protect the facility and for detailed documentation of various business activities.

   For Redner’s Warehouse Markets, a security video system from 3VR that includes facial search capabilities for known criminals alerts staff of their presence on-site. The technique has allowed the supermarket chain to identify and catch shoplifters by intercepting thieves as they enter another store after stealing from a separate location.

            Casinos have obvious high-tech security needs as well. For example, The Golden Gate Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas is using high definition IP video from IndigoVision, and it’s proving useful for lowlight conditions on the casino floors and to provide crisp facial shots.

Close Work Violence Loop with 360-Degree Communication

Mitigating the potential of work violence in commercial properties is a growingly important aspect of any security program. Here are some ideas as provided by J. Michael Coleman, a long-time executive with commercial real estate for AlliedBarton Security Services. He also serves as chair of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International National Associate Member Committee and a member of the Preparedness Special Interest Group.

Workplace violence has always been a difficult workplace security issue, and a pressing trend for property managers when establishing policies and procedures on workplace violence avoidance, if they do not already have a comprehensive plan in place. These policies should place a fundamental emphasis on 360-degree communications to ensure tenants, building managers, legal personnel, human resources management, risk management, security staff and law enforcement are all involved and working toward shared goals.

While a variety of personal or professional concerns can lead to violence in the workplace, one common source is employee termination. Property managers cannot predict if an employee’s angry spouse will show up on site or if an employee’s financial situation will lead to violent behavior, but a planned termination gives the manager time to put the resources and protocols in place that can help prevent workplace violence. Proactive property managers can work with their tenants before an exit interview is conducted. If the terminated employee reacts angrily and issues threats, for example, an established plan of action prepares the building for possible negative eventualities: Local law enforcement alerted, photo of the person circulated with building security and building access deactivated.

Property managers are the team leaders and have considerable responsibility for keeping tenants and visitors safe from violence. While properties may be split into different office spaces or businesses, and each may have their own plan, there should be a violence prevention plan for the building as a whole. The latter should include who to contact from property management and the necessary steps to take if an incident occurs. Savvy property managers understand that reducing their tenants’ risk and exposure is crucial to the reputation of their property.

The security team is involved implementing the plan. Through a team approach, and the combined efforts of the property manager and security team, a workplace violence avoidance plan helps ensure minor details do not fall through the cracks and human resources, employee relations and company policies are consistently applied. Security personnel are trained to identify warning signs and initiate emergency response plans and can also coordinate the dignified, yet controlled removal of the potentially violent employee.

Forward-thinking property managers should audit their service providers and engage in screening and background checks. Outside service providers or vendors are often a common part of the tenant or property manager’s daily population. They, too, should be screened as would any other employee. Additionally, these contract teams should serve as an extra set of eyes and ears in the effort to prevent workplace violence and should be made aware of response plans should an incident occur.

Still, the reality is that the vast majority of property managers nationwide have yet to adopt clear workplace violence avoidance policies. The security officer at the front desk is often not notified of the pending termination of a tenant’s employee or dangerous and threatening behavior.

Sophisticated property managers now spearhead tenant education programs featuring training that helps everyone understand the signs of potential workplace violence. Awareness is critical to the communications process as an integral part of new tenant orientation with refresher classes annually to everyone. Concentrated training is advised for security managers and first line supervisors. Physical drills bring the plan to life and should include all service providers. A well-trained security team can help facilitate the drill and will outline any missed details.

In addition, understanding violence-indicating behaviors, and having the appropriate communications channels, is crucial. Key behaviors to look for include:

•  Increased use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs

•  Unexplained increase in absenteeism linked to vague physical complaints

•  Noticeable decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene

•  Depression/withdrawal

•  Resistance and over-reaction to changes in policies and procedures

•  Repeated violations of company policies

•  Increased severe mood swings

•  Noticeably unstable, emotional responses

•  Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation

•  Increase in unsolicited comments about firearms, other dangerous weapons and violent crimes

•  Talk of previous incidents of violence

•  Escalation of domestic problems into the workplace

•  Paranoid behavior

•  Suicidal comments

While situations such as evictions, harassment, non-payment and public nuisance are part and parcel of what all property managers address, workplace violence has unfortunately become common place and prevention plans should be as well.

Workplaces with higher turnover can present increased risk, but all commercial properties are ultimately at risk. Many fatal workplace violence incidents have been followed by lawsuits brought by the aggrieved families of the victims. In the fact-finding that follows, organizations are legally compelled to provide information to the parties bringing the suit. All too often, managers and supervisors are called to testify to their lack of awareness of violence prevention issues, and management officials must testify as to their organization’s failure to prevent the tragedy. As a result, many companies have agreed to multi-million dollar settlements rather than make a public admission of negligence.

According to BOMA International, there are seven steps to improve security. 

1. Deploy visible security cameras and motion sensors.

2. Remove vegetation in and around perimeters, maintain regularly.

3. Institute a robust vehicle inspection program to include checking under the undercarriage of vehicles, under the hood, and in the trunk.  Provide vehicle inspection training to security personnel.

4. Deploy explosive detection devices and explosive detection canine teams.

5. Conduct vulnerability studies focusing on physical security, structural engineering, infrastructure engineering, power, water, and air infiltration, if feasible.

6. Initiate a system to enhance mail and package screening procedures (both announced and unannounced).

7. Install special locking devices on manhole covers in and around facilities.