Movie star Drew Barrymore’s grandfather, old-time actor John Barrymore was dead wrong when he once said that “happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.”
Headaches can just as often walk in that door.
Whether an entertainment venue, office building, factory, airport or educational institution, that first door usually opens to a lobby or reception area which should project a warm welcome but also is the first line of defense and identification when it comes to security.
No doubt, how to protect and monitor entrances, lobby and reception areas and the subsequent traffic depends on such elements as the type of facility, an enterprise’s culture, level of customer service, budget, threats, use of technology, staffing and amount of visitors compared to employees or customers.
But, no matter the mission or tools, the bottom line more often is a multi-tasking approach to lobbies, reception areas and visitor management. There is technology ranging from intrusion detection and electronic access control to security video. Almost as often, there are receptionists or security officers, who blend protection and life safety with customer and visitor service.
More Lobby Services
When mixing access controls and security cameras with officers, for example, “the security team is looked upon as concierges for our residents,” says Robin Romo, director of management services at Titan Management.
In the heart of San Francisco stand the two towers of The Metropolitan, managed by Titan. Built in 2004, within walking distance of the Financial District and Union Square, The Metropolitan condominiums provide residents with luxurious living.
During construction, the property manager looked for a security provider with experience and knowledge in the hospitality industry. It was important that the facility’s security team understand the diverse culture and atmosphere and make customer service a priority. “The individuals on The Metropolitan’s security team are the first people residents and visitors come into contact with when they enter the facility. We need a team that is warm, welcoming and personable because individuals walking into our front doors are also walking into the front doors of their homes. In addition, we need our security team to be experts in residential security.”
Security officers must also complement the use of technology, especially access and video.
Another important aspect is being a first responder in an emergency situation. “The security team needs to be trained and poised to handle all situations, no matter the time of day, and work together with the local police department,” continues Romo. “Security officers must also be trained in first aid and building facilities such as where the water shut off valves and the power boxes are located.”
Understand the Culture
After an extensive review process, AlliedBarton was chosen to provide security services when the new condominium facility opened. The security team remains aware of challenges in the community, developing relationships with local law enforcement and businesses to keep informed. The team was also aware of the diverse culture at the facility and made sure to treat individuals with great care.
“The officers make everyone feel comfortable and really extend a helping hand to the residents,” says Romo. “The officers have been known to help with receiving and distributing dry cleaning and taking care of packages. What is best is they pride themselves on always being available to help the residents and their fellow teammates when in need.”
Another challenging lobby to protect is in a public building.
The administrators and security personnel of the Nantucket (Mass.) Police Department, for instance, wanted a new tech solution to secure and monitor their new public safety facility. This project posed some unique challenges due to the logistics of working on Nantucket Island, along with myriad access requirements of the facility. For example, the facility has a secure area for administrative personnel along with an area with open access by the general public. The facility also has a high security area with a dedicated secure entrance and detention cells for the non-law-abiding individuals. The segregation of access between these areas becomes critical.
Video Integrated with Access
Signet, the integrator, deployed an integrated access control and video surveillance security system. Working in partnership with the Nantucket Police Department, they installed the majority of the structured cabling for the IP cameras, as well as the network switches, servers and workstations. The integrated system provides a single user interface to monitor access in and out of the facility along with video surveillance.
“It is striking that balance of access and security,” says Greg Sparrow, director of project management integration with Signet.
Lobby and visitor security, especially with intelligent use of video, can get even more complex when applied to sprawling, mixed use facilities.
In New York City’s Harlem, and spanning an entire city block, the Taino Towers complex boasts a four-story central building surrounded by four 35-story towers. The project was known as a “pilot block,” meant to serve as a new urban model for the integration of low-income housing into large cities across the United States. Today, Taino Towers houses more than 3,000 tenants, a medical facility, Touro College, a Magic Johnson Foundation community office, pre-school, daycare and a block-wide underground parking garage.
Several analog security video projects over the years aimed at reducing crime; yet gang- and drug-related incidents continued to rise. Management felt that a move toward digital technology could help proactively prevent incidents and restrict access of unwelcomed guests to lobbies and other areas.
Buildings Have Multiple Uses
So Taino Towers Executive Director Maria Cruz and Assistant Director Manny Diaz hired IT and security integrator Plugout to deploy a digital security solution. Plugout deployed IP-based megapixel surveillance cameras throughout the entire square block running on a video management software platform. Inside the buildings, the cameras and software were integrated with a wireless two-way communication alert system in each elevator.
For the last phase, Plugout implemented an identification system as an access control solution for main building entry points, which allows residents as well as their approved visitors and service providers to conveniently enter buildings through a fusion of biometric recognition, voice and license plate recognition.
The overall design helped cut crime by 90 percent, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Then there are schools. Many schools now restrict access via the main entrance during school hours. While students enter or leave school at the beginning or the end of day, the doors are typically unlocked. At these times, most schools have additional staff at the entrance area to help monitor access to the building. During school hours, doors are locked and cameras monitor who rings the bell for access. Office personnel assess the visitor and allow access if appropriate.
As a second line of defense, some schools create an entrance vestibule that directs visitors to the office. The vestibule consists of walls and another set of doors inside the entrance. When someone comes through the main entrance, they don’t have free access to the school; the doors are locked, forcing the visitor to go to the office before they can go anywhere else. The doors can facilitate immediate lock-down because they typically have electrified hardware on them.
For Boulder Valley District Schools in Colorado, most main entrances have been renovated to incorporate a vestibule adjacent to the school’s office, which functions as an access control point. When visitors enter, they encounter a locked door leading into the school but an open one leading to the office, where they must stop and register. For authorized credential holders, the door to the school will open when they present the credential, either a proximity badge or keyfob.
Hardening School Lobbies
At schools where the vestibule has not yet been reconstructed, a visitor calls the office from a telephone intercom in the vestibule and the office staff verifies his or her identity using a video surveillance system before remotely unlocking the door. In either case, the doors are locked automatically once school is in session.
For college and university campuses, security gets more complex.
There may be more buildings with diverse uses, each with a lobby or reception area past the entrances. And, in most cases, there is significantly less of a closed campus aspect as compared to K-12 schools. Not surprisingly, higher education institutions are heavy users of security video in building lobbies as well as elsewhere inside and outside campus facilities.
Such video systems “are a simple, straight forward solution that is easy to use and does exactly what it is designed to do. It is great to view any of the cameras on campus or at remote location locations miles away, directly from your desktop. Searching for an incident on recorded video could not be easier,” points out Tony Artrip, executive director of public safety at the University of Miami, in talking about his end-to-end IP video solution.
At the university’s Miami Miller School of Medicine, Artrip had an upgrade challenge. The medical campus spreads out over 45 acres in downtown Miami; but it also has a number of remote sites, including one that is 100 miles north in Palm Beach County and another, home to the new Miami Institute for Human Genomics, located 25 miles southwest.
In adopting IP video, much of the original video infrastructure was re-used, including all of the cameras.
At Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota County, Fla., Richard Tubbs, the college’s director of public safety, took a creative attitude to protecting people coming and going from lobbies, reception areas and facilities on and around the campus.
“Assistance” Towers in Place
Already installed across the campus were antiquated solar powered radio emergency phones. Rusting and providing little help to anyone, Tubbs brought in an outside security consultant to find an upgrade for the units. Says Tubbs: “We decided to go with their wireless voice over IP units.”
Blue-light towers quickly sprouted up across the Ringling campus, but there was a glaring difference between these towers and others that you’d see at neighboring schools. “When we purchased the units we made it a point to not have the ‘emergency’ lettering on the side of the towers. Instead, all of our units say ‘assistance.’ We don’t use the towers strictly for emergencies. We use them as an all-around communication tool.”
On each tower, there are two buttons. One says “emergency” and the other says “info.” Says Tubbs, “We want to make sure that we help in all situations ranging from medical emergencies to flat tires. That’s how our department interacts with the community. That’s how we stay connected.”
In Healthcare: It’s a Caring Welcome
At hospitals and healthcare facilities, there is an essential twist on lobby and reception security. It is the emotion that impacts patients and visitors and the need for a caring, in addition to protective, welcome.
For years, the Athens (Ohio) Health Department used standard lock and key to secure its facility. “We were aware that if someone wanted to steal a key or make a copy, they could get into the building at any time,” observes Charles Hammer, department administrator. “This was a vulnerability that was unnecessary.
“The off-site, anytime control of the system was very appealing. Now, for example, if I get a call from a nursing director that she’s sending an authorized person to our building, I can grant access from home or anywhere I have the Internet. Also, I can configure access cards to operate in a very particular way, with very specific access privileges,” Hammer explains.
Atlanta’s Southside Medical Center faced security challenges, including gang-related activities, disputes among patients, on-site domestic violence, after-hour break-ins and theft.
As one of the oldest and largest community health centers in Georgia, “we are in a new era and are moving forward with plans to have the nation’s first Federally Qualified Health Center of Excellence,” says David Williams, MD, CEO at Southside. In its quest to provide advanced patient care, it has made security a top priority, deploying a high-definition surveillance system to ensure the safety of more than 30,000 patients, thousands of visitors, 30 physicians and 240 employees. “We also have armed individuals who are not necessarily gang members entering our facility on a regular basis, providing another layer of risk and concern,” explains Barlon Lundgren, JD, CHPA, and director of corporate affairs. “With a relatively small security team, we rely on the performance and image clarity of the high-definition system for around-the-clock surveillance and investigations as incidents occur,” providing protection from parking to lobby and reception to corridors and special treatment areas.
In another example, Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH), one of the largest hospitals in the United States, picked an integrated security solution to secure its 1,500-bed flagship teaching hospital and various other sites as part of its parent organization, Yale New Haven Health System.
“This new system not only provides critical information to our department so we can make timely, strategic decisions, but it also offers system intelligence to provide data to the rest of our organization,” says Marvin White, manager of physical security-protective services at YNHH. YHNN is migrating some of its digital recorders to VideoEdge network video servers; during the transition, YNHH will manage its IP and analog systems through one single interface.
Famous Lobby and Its Big Challenges
The Empire State Building lobby is one of the few interiors in New York to be designated a historic landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. As part of the building’s recent more than $550 million renovation and modernization initiative, the ESB lobby has been recreated to the original architects’ Art Deco design intent, while introducing a contemporary visitor processing system.
Over the many years, key design elements were obscured and lost. ESB restored the original 1930s lighting levels, tuning the overall lighting scheme to its original intensity to bring out the colors in the lobby’s stone walls and ceiling mural. In the 34th Street lobby corridor, a new Visitor Reception Desk (VRD) was installed for tenants’ visitors. Behind its marble desk, the VRD showcases a world-class glass artwork installation, featuring a multi-panel, illuminated glass wall mural.
For observatory visitors, everyone must go through a security check, similar to what is present at most airports and consists of a walk-through scanner and baggage check system.
No doubt, it has been a challenge, well met, to design in life safety and security gear as part of such a world-recognized and much used lobby.
A Warm Welcome? Think Outside the Box
Think Virtual Guarding– Huffmaster, which long has offered contract security officers, has two types of solutions related to video and perfect for lobbies, among other applications: Stand-alone virtual services and on-site guarding integrated with the virtual services. The former, from VirSec Virtual Security, a Huffmaster company, aims at reducing the cost of a proprietary or contract security staff. Virtual patrols, escorts and interventions make what the firm calls its remotely-located VirSec officer an option for everything from critical infrastructure to vacant real estate. The latter Huffmaster approach teams VirSec officers with existing on-site security personnel. There are also other security video services such as hosted storage and CFATS compliance.
Think Virtual Concierge– Consider a lobby bundle with reception, concierge, video security services and recording all provided remotely by a monitoring staff who knows the specific client business, tenants, building and location surroundings. According to Robert Cherun of UCIT Online Security, in addition to interactive video and audio, the approach can securely handle anytime package delivery including remote unlocking and locking of a package room or through use of unique on-site lockers which send out a recipient email when a package is placed inside.
Turn onto Turnstiles – Forget about those ballpark turnstiles. Ideal for supervised lobbies and transitions from public to secure areas within a building, there is a wide range of optical turnstiles and security lanes that combine contemporary styling with the security of precise optical detection technology. One example: Boon Edam optical turnstiles use multiple detection beams at three levels to ensure the passage of only one authorized user. There are waist high, barrier and barrier-free models to full-height optical turnstiles with glass partitions, compatible with electronic or biometric authorization solutions, too. Security video can easily integrate with the turnstiles.
Catch on to Kiosks– In numerous lobbies such as the ultra-tall Willis Tower in Chicago, visitors can issue themselves a pass that works seamlessly in the electronic access control system. Tenants to be visited can initiate and program passes for set times, floors, etc.
Kick Up the Card Strength– Starting with the lobby of government agencies and contractors and seeping into healthcare, access cards are getting more security muscle. Check out emerging commercial identity verification or CIV smartcards, suggests Julian Lovelock of HID Global.