By David A. Reiss, CPP
Selecting an access control system for a commercial building is one of the important decisions a commercial owner or manager can make. These systems are critical both in protecting commercial buildings in the post-9/11 world and maintaining smooth day-to-day operations.
In recent years, major digital and biometric advances have evolved to combat ever-changing threats, which can make navigating the security landscape more difficult. It is important to understand that the best security system for a property does not always equate to the most advanced system. Careful assessment of security needs and goals will help property managers select a system to best match their building needs and lay the foundation for a secure building.
Anything that could harm the critical operations and assets of a business is considered a security threat. Common threats include intruders, criminals, disgruntled employees, terrorists, and natural disasters. To help select an access control system, consider the following factors:
LOCATION, HISTORY AND TYPE OF PROPERTY
Buildings located near transportation centers, tourist attractions and cultural centers are inherently at a higher risk of both crime and terrorist activity. It is important to research any history of threats to the building and surrounding area, which can be done by contacting the local police department. Landmarked properties are often located in historic, high-risk areas and require higher level systems.
TENANT NEEDS AND GOALS
Consider whether tenant companies are high-risk. While all businesses have unique security concerns, tenants like chemical companies, government offices and banks require additional security precautions that must be taken into consideration when selecting an access control system for the entire building.
Learn tenants’ security goals, risks and plans. For most tenants, the chief concern will likely be guarding physical safety and maintaining the integrity of information systems. Go one step further and inquire into the mindset of employees towards security. Do employees feel safe at work? What types of security systems do tenants feel comfortable using? Getting tenants on board with an access control system will make the execution of security measures far more effective.
After assessing individual tenants, evaluate the collective tenant base. A retail tenant or health care provider with walk-in visitors will greatly increase the amount of traffic in the building. Come up with a program for handling visitors and be consistent in following protocol at all times. Lobby congestion can be an issue with higher level systems which can sometimes take more time to get people through. Property managers may sometimes feel the inconvenience to employees outweighs the added level of security.
New security developments include biometric systems, CCTV and smart cards, with biometrics generally being the most expensive and smart cards the least expensive. Building owners should find a system that is both effective and affordable; many have found creative ways to offset the cost of an upgrade to more advanced and expensive security systems. For example, if the tenants hire building security to administer security systems for their individual offices, the entire building system is both better integrated and more affordable.
LIFE OF THE SYSTEM
Consider the useful life of the systems and any future building needs. Security technology will continue to advance, coming up with both better and more cost-effective methods. Security systems should be reviewed every three to five years to ensure systems are up to date.
The security industry is making enormous advances as it progresses toward technological independence, but we have found that there is also no true substitute for the watchful eye of a highly-trained security officer. We recommend a combination of state-of-the-art digital access and guard system; with multiple layers of security precautions, building owners can be confident they have provided the building and their tenants with a safe and secure place to work.
David A. Reiss, CPP, is Senior Vice President of Classic Security (www.alliancebuildingservices.com).
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