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Protecting today's office building.

It was a Saturday night Chicago television viewers would never forget. Earlier on that August day, a gunman had ducked into a local TV station's open garage after robbing a nearby downtown pizzeria. Police evacuated the 13-story building and conducted a four hour, floor-by-floor search with canine teams for the suspect, who was believed to be armed with a .38-caliber revolver. When the police reported that no one was found, employees were allowed to re-enter the television studios.

The crisis was far from over; the gunman was spotted in one of the building's stairwells just a few hours later, and a second search was soon underway. Once again, the building was evacuated, but this time station employees, fearing for their safety, refused to return inside.

Network programming allowed the station to continue broadcasting uninterrupted until 10 at night, the time of the local nightly newscast. But no news was reported at that hour. Instead, all that appeared on the screens of thousands of Chicagoland television sets were the solid lines of a color bar.

Sporadic attempts to broadcast from the station's transmitter atop Sears Tower were made. Meanwhile, back at the station, the unsuccessful search for the gunman had exhausted itself, ultimately turning up empty.

Having lost what the station general manager referred to as "a substantial amount of dollars," in addition to suffering public humiliation, the TV station resumed its regular programming at 7 a.m. the next morning.

Although this TV tale sounds more like grist for a prime time movie-of-the-week than a real life incident, every word is true. Equally alarming is the most important point of the story: this kind of security nightmare is not an isolated episode. It could happen anywhere, anytime without the proper protection.

Effective security required

The need for effective building security has never been greater--and not necessarily because of rising crime rates or the growing incidence of crime in office building settings. For property owners and managers today, these factors, though important, are secondary to the consequences of failing to provide adequate security protection for the people who use their buildings.

What would have happened if the gunman had shot and injured, or killed, an employee of the Chicago television station while in the building? Lawsuits from victims of theft and assault which take place on building premises are a major threat for property management organizations.

Fortunately, property owners and managers can fight back. Security systems that reflect the sophistication of today's technology are available and for a fraction of the cost spent by the Chicago television station during its two-day plight. Viewed from this perspective, high-quality security often is, indeed, a relatively cheap form of insurance.

But what distinguishes one security system from another? Most security companies sell only one form of protective service, whether that be locks, security guards, alarms, or access control systems. None of these sources are unbiased. Therefore, they frequently promote the security service that satisfies their own expertise and needs rather than the service or combination of services which are best suited for a particular corporation, building, or site.

Integrated security

In the case of the Chicago television station, as with any high-rise building, two fundamental security issues need to be addressed--horizontal and vertical security. Also, a security system must not impede building operations. It should be inconspicuous, yet effective enough to perform the job.

Horizontal security is the first line of defense in securing a building. This means perimeter, common area protection, which includes the ground floor, concourse levels of a building, and connected parking or garage facilities. Usually achieved with locks, door monitoring equipment, security officers, and access control systems, horizontal security is very important. However, it does not provide the comprehensive security required for today's modern office building.

In building without vertical security from the lowest sublevel to the top-most floor, once a felon (as in the case of the TV station's gunman) gains access to the elevators, he or she virtually has free access to all floors and any unsecured doors and office areas. Similarly, when entry from stairwells is not controlled, these can become a conduit for criminal activity.

Vertical security

Vertical security requires that stairwell entry be strictly controlled, forcing all unauthorized personnel to use the elevators. Stairwell entry control can be achieved in a variety of ways compatible with ensuring the safety of building occupants in the event of fire or other emergency.

Special locking mechanisms, such as the vestibule function lock, leave the inside knob free. The outside or stairwell entry knob cannot be left unlocked and can only be opened with a key which is issued to authorized personnel. While cleaners may have master keys, the keys issued to employees generally will permit them entry only to the floor where their office is located or to the main emergency exit--ensuring that most people are restricted to using the elevator.

Electromagnetic locks approved for use of stair doors and fire exists serve a similar function. But locks, no matter how sophisticated, have their limitations. Specifically, there is no way of determining who has used them--or when.

Card reader systems overcome this problem. In card reader systems, employees are issued individualized cards to be used in conjunction with card readers controlling door entry. The employee inserts his or her card in the reader, which opens the door only for persons authorized to use it. These cards may permit employees access through exit doors to other floors occupied by their firm in addition to the floor on which they work.

The card reader provides an audit trail which records who entered and exited, the time, and date. Again, this restricts people other than authorized personnel to using elevators.

All these precautions are of no use if doors are left ajar or unsecured. One tactic used by felons is to tape locks to permit entry after working hours. Many entry systems are programmed to detect such situations as well as intrusions and to register an alarm.

Elevator control systems

With strict control of stairwell access, visitors and other unauthorized personnel must use elevators to reach floors in building.

Intercon's elevator system employs card readers to determine who can activate an elevator, when they are permitted to do so, and what floors they can access. This system is compatible with all types and makes of elevators. Elevator control systems may be activated solely for after-hours security, or used during regular business hours as well depending on building security requirements.

Within the system, card holders are allowed access only to the floors for which their cards are programmed. Should the card holder press any other elevator button for floors for which his or her card is not programmed, he or she will be denied access to those floors. This feature curtails the possibility for tailgating, or following in, as the tailgater is unable to access floors other than the one selected by an authorized cardholder.

Cost saving and convenience

There is also the issue of convenience. Late night pizza for evening brain-storming sessions, after-hours deliveries, or visits by clients--all present the problems of how to admit unauthorized personnel without having to physically escort or meet them.

"Beam Me Up" visitor entry systems are a solution. Using a telephone, the visitor alerts the tenant-employee of his or her presence. The employee identifies the visitor, then releases the elevator to travel to the correct floor only. If the visitor presses a button for any other floor, access will be denied.

Furthermore, sophisticated security systems provide many other advantages for the building owner/manager and building tenants. For example, 24-hour security can be maintained on empty floors, including construction areas, and on floors which tenants wish designated as non-public floors. "Sensitive" floors or non-supervised floors can be controlled through card readers and stairwell exit controls, which restrict who can gain access to the floor.

Multi-floor tenants do not need a receptionist on each floor. All save one floor can be zoned off to elevator access by visitors. Substantial space savings can be realized with the elimination of duplicate reception and corridor space. Most importantly for security purposes, such a system makes it possible to ascertain who was in the building, at what time, and what floors

were entered.

Security is a high priority concern in today's business sector. Ignoring the realities of proper protection could result in costly ramifications, both legally and through public perception. Dennis Ferguson is the general manager of Intercon Security Inc., the newly formed U.S. arm of Intercon Security Limited, Canada's largest protective services company. Mr. Ferguson develops and supervises the firm's various divisions as well as Intercon's 24-hour electronic monitoring hub--the Central Operations Center.
COPYRIGHT 1991 National Association of Realtors
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Ferguson, Dennis
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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