By Charles C. Carpenter, CFM
from the July/August 2015 issue
Warning signs of violence was a topic addressed in this column back in 2013. Since that time, things may not have improved for facility executives as violence in various facility types continue to occur. This column serves not to comment on the recent events but to encourage facility executives to take stock of security vulnerabilities and procedures or refocus their attention. [The May 2013 FM Frequency column, “Warning Signs,” can be found here.]
Certain organizations cannot take security for granted—jewelers, pharmaceutical suppliers, weapon retailers, and cash based businesses, for instance. Those are obvious targets for violent crime. So, are there facilities that do not need to make security a top priority? Are cake decorators or libraries exempt from violent crime?
The answer, of course, is no. The asset that virtually all organizations have is people. When an employee’s relationship turns sour, any facility—be it a pet shop or a post office—could witness domestic violence. With the increase in active shooters, you have to wonder if any facility is safe. Maybe the more than 1,500 people who applied for four postal jobs available in Antarctica this past February were on to something.
Security starts at the front door, literally. More and more firms are making their entries require card access. Once past the door, organizations generally rely on four security approaches: dedicated internal security, outsourced guard services, internal employees who monitor security while performing other tasks, and nobody. Budgets are tight, so you have to make sacrifices somewhere.
You may have heard recent reports of 67 out of 70 weapons making it past TSA checkpoints. Think about that for a moment. Most people would find three out of 70 to be unacceptable. One would imagine that the training and technology used by the TSA is superior to that used by most outsourced guard services. So, when the better of the better performs so poorly, you have to wonder what service your facility receives on an average day.
Whoever is watching or not watching the front door, it is important to consider if your facility is equipped the best that it can be. For instance, cameras have become inexpensive, and Power over Ethernet (PoE) allows cameras to be quickly deployed and watched from any connected device. These cameras can be made available to whomever needs them, be it a guard, receptionist, shipping clerk, or the graveyard shift staff. Assuming it is not a violation of privacy, is there real harm in letting a worker check a parking garage camera before leaving? You also cannot forget that hackers may want to get a crack at the cameras.
In case of an emergency, does your first line of security have a panic button? A panic button could trigger an internal alarm, a monitoring station, or an armed response. With current technology, a panic button could also initiate a lockdown of a card access system or trigger a text message to anyone from a select list to everyone at the facility. And how valuable would it be to deactivate the access card of the person who owns the panic button? Odds are that cardholder has access to more areas of a facility than most, beneficial to an active shooter.
One resource for expert advice is local law enforcement. Law enforcement should be willing to take a candid look at a facility given that they benefit from the reduction in easily preventable crime as well as a chance to methodically study the facility in the event they have to respond under the worst of circumstances. Partnering with local law enforcement, facility staff can gain an understanding of what matters to them. If you have a volatile workforce, you can have your law enforcement nearby during tumultuous terminations, as most jurisdictions require a criminal trespass warning to be issued by law enforcement before they will arrest someone on your property.
Like a review of a business continuity plan, security should be evaluated at least annually. Who are your neighbors, and what risks do they present to your facility? Landscaping may look nice but, as it grows, it could provide a place to hide or conceal a point of entry. Are loading dock doors left open and unattended during hot weather months? While self-evaluation is great, an outsider’s view brings a fresh perspective, and a fellow facility executive may be willing to trade insights.
While you are making that review, do employees understand what they should watch for? Security should not be like the leaky faucet that everyone assumes someone else will report. Do employees have an easy way to call or text when they see something out of the ordinary? Does Facilities need to speak to Human Resources and the C-suite about active shooter training?
Most facility executives cannot prepare for everything. There will always be random targets. What you do not want to be is the easy target. Do not give criminals easy access or present crimes of opportunity. You do not have to be the fastest antelope on the plains, as long as you are not one of the slowest.
Carpenter ([email protected]) is site manager, global real estate for HP in Austin, TX. He has worked in facility management since 1995.