Last month we touched on preparing yourself for an emergency by training your brain. (Train your brain – think differently – react effectively.) Now that you have the right mindset, let’s look at the property. What are some things you can do to prepare the property or harden the target? Changes as easy as situating benches in strategic locations or planting thorny bushes are simple keys to keeping your building safe.
Creating a completely safe building may often impossible, but making it a harder target than next one may be just enough. And as many have realized, even though it is not 100% safe from all threats, being able to quickly implement policies or effectively communicate with the tenants often makes a valuable difference. Here are a few items that don’t take long to check and are usually a quick, economical fix.
– CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) is the creation of natural barriers to deter unwanted activity. Holly bushes, bougainvillea or even cactus are perfect around exterior windows or fence lines. Large planters or benches keep vehicles from getting too close. CPTED can also create an environment where tenants are able to see what is going on around them and naturally feel safer.
– Landscape – Is your landscaping overgrown or does it provide areas a person may be able to conceal themselves or hide stolen property?
– Parking – Are customers and employees informed to lock their vehicles and not to leave anything of value in plain sight? Mark reserved spaces with numbers not the name or title of the person.
– Lighting – Is there enough lighting in the parking areas and around the building? Is lighting covered by overgrown trees or shrubs? The lights may be on and working but the landscape may be inhibiting the correct amount of light from getting to the target areas. Do not rely on security patrol to recognize insignificant lighting; instead consult a lighting or security consultant.
– How are visitors and deliveries monitored? If there is not a security officer monitoring entry into a building, are people working the front desk trained to monitor visitors? At a minimum, make sure they are briefed on the proper procedure of checking people in and brief them on potential situations such as handling an irate customer.
-Are all entries properly monitored or secure? Many times a back door will be left unlocked or propped open for convenience allowing easy access to anyone. Exits such as stairs should be kept locked to prohibit reentry from outside the building (check fire code). Make sure exits are clearly marked and unobstructed.
-Are mechanical rooms, store rooms and all non-public areas kept locked and regularly inspected?
Notification or PA Systems – How and when are tenants notified of a potential threat? Are all staff members trained how to use the system and what to say? Don’t wait to train or think of something to say during a stressful situation. Post typical announcements and procedures on or next to the panel.
Evacuations – Are drills held regularly and are all parties required to participate? Involve the Fire Department; they are always a good motivator. Are floor plans up-to-date and available for police or fire department? Be sure to evaluate the drill. During once such review we found that the evacuation path and rally point actually obstructed the fire department’s entry.
Develop a relationship with the local police department/representative – A quick assessment, along with periodic reviews, of the surrounding neighborhood (i.e. crime stats, proximity to a high risk property), type of tenants (are they high risk?) and what similar properties are doing is also necessary in evaluating potential risks or threats. The local police representative should be able to assist with this and chances are they will do a risk assessment/evaluation for free.
If you have the budget and/or determined the building is high risk, hire a security consultant. Consultants will do an in-depth risk and vulnerability assessment, set up programs, polices and systems. These measures are elaborate, but they work.
If you do not have the budget, don’t give up. Lack of funds should not prevent you from examining and understanding your current safety plan and keeping a low risk level at your property. We hope you take these steps to ensure that your property is as safe as possible.