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Reserve space for parking lot security.

THE SHADOWY, OPEN SPACES OF parking lots have long served as the perfect cover for criminal activities. Crimes ranging from car theft to assault, robbery, and rape occur in parking lots day and night.

Businesses, too, face risks ranging from theft and computer tampering to arson when the wrong people can obtain access to facilities via elevators or stairways connected to inadequately secured parking lots. Reports of unauthorized visitors entering offices through these routes are routinely documented by the police following a crime.

More and more businesses realize that parking areas designated for either personnel or the public may be high-risk security areas that require constant surveillance. Indeed, those responsible for lots may no longer have a choice when it comes to addressing this important topic.

In recent years, the courts have found parking lot owners liable when security measures that could have been taken to deter a crime were ignored, according to Gary Cudney, vice president at Carl Walker Engineers, a parking engineering and consulting firm in Kalamazoo, MI. Owners may even be held liable if security devices or personnel are in place but do not adequately secure the facility.

To fully understand where potential security violations might occur, owners must study not only the lot but also the patterns of traffic and the threat environment in the surrounding areas. Security managers need to balance these factors, along with such concerns as the location and number of unlighted areas and possible hiding spots, to determine when and how to supplement human monitoring with high-tech surveillance.

A wealth of products has come on the scene in recent years to provide help with parking lot management, guard tour control, and elevator control activities. These products include but are not restricted to access control instruments, CCTV, alarm monitoring and sound-switching installations, and motion detection and integrated security systems.

To obtain equipment that best addresses security needs, traffic patterns and frequency of use must be studied, including the number of vehicles that use the lot on a regular basis, semi-regular basis, and at random.

Questions that need to be answered include:

* What percentage of drivers parking regularly in the lot can be identified as tied to particular businesses?

* Are drivers of these vehicles required by their businesses to carry identification?

* Does the identification restrict user access to certain zones of the building at certain times of the day?

* Has new business come into the facility since security measures in the lot were last studied, and does it include additional lot traffic?

* If the building houses new tenants, have they been identified by any means other than an exchange of glances with the security officer on duty during regular business hours?

* Have particular aspects of a parking lot been studied in detail to identify and secure vulnerable spots? Such areas could include unmonitored stairways, elevators, or exit doors; areas of inadequate lighting; isolated areas where cars might park away from other spaces; and areas of easy accessibility where people may be able to obtain access to other levels of the structure via low walls that can be vaulted or gates that can be bypassed on foot.

Studying traffic--not only vehicular but human traffic--over a fixed period of time provides answers to many of these questions and aids in the final selection of security products for most lots. Managers may be surprised by the level of customization that goes into evaluating security needs for a parking lot, but using this approach has proven far more effective than simply making decisions based on cost or, in a worst case scenario, in response to an event.

REGULAR VERSUS RANDOM TRAFFIC IS one of the foremost topics that must be addressed in parking lot security. Some lots hold a relatively stable and accountable car population. Car rental agencies, for example, stock such lots. For such corporations, their cars represent inventory that must be accounted for and protected from theft.

Many of these businesses have chosen vehicle ID systems where the emphasis is on vehicle security. Each vehicle allowed to enter or exit the lot must be identified by a magnetized or banded tag that is attached to the car. Tagging helps security track the car if it is stolen.

Clients using the rental cars have already been documented by other means. They have to produce identification, such as a driver's license, to rent the car. Therefore, human traffic on the lot has some measure of protection outside of traditional security measures.

Compare this scenario to highly random traffic activity in a typical public parking lot, where both vehicles and visitors change on a minute-by-minute basis. At Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, for instance, many solutions helped monitor the unpredictable traffic in a highly vulnerable area.

When the city government mandated that every parking structure in Pittsburgh be monitored by alarm systems or security officers in 1985, the hospital was forced to face the issue head on. The local legislation required all parking structures to have some form of around-the-clock security in terms of devices or personnel. On its most basic level, it required that an alarm system, equipped with two-way voice communication capabilities, be installed.

When Carl C. Sandulli, vice president of engineering services with Security Systems of America in Pittsburgh, was called in to help the hospital meet the new standards, he learned that the facility had built up security for its parking structure around two-way communications capabilities. He had a double incentive for making improvements in this area, if necessary.

At the time, the parking lot was equipped with conventional alarms that required a person in distress to sound an alarm by hitting it. It was also patrolled hourly by police. When the alarm was set off, it would signal an operator in the control room. After the victim communicated his or her problem, the control room officer could direct someone patrolling the area to provide assistance. Sandulli saw numerous ways in which technology would allow the officers to operate more efficiently while not changing procedures for response already built into the system.

"In studying the system, I noticed that two problems came up right away," says Sandulli. "First, the control room was staffed by one officer with multiple duties, and second, as a result of that, it was possible that the officer might be distracted or busy and fail to handle a call effectively.

"We turned our attention to making the entire system more audible and automated," Sandulli notes. "At the same time, we put in technology that performed numerous tasks tracking the location and circumstances surrounding an event." It would no longer be necessary for the one officer in the control room to perform these tasks before an officer on patrol could be dispatched.

"When moments can mean life or death in an emergency situation, you can appreciate how important it is to streamline this system," says Sandulli.

Control panels, in this case the N-1000-II, were installed to track automatically the location of anyone who activates one of the 24 alarms placed throughout the four hospital garages. An activated alarm signals the control panel which, in turn, forwards the signal to a control room where a police officer can be alerted. Through parallel processing, the control panel allows the person sounding the alarm to communicate via hands-free intercom channel connections with the officer.

The control panel provides an instantaneous printout recording the location of the event and the time it occurred. It automatically interfaces with CCTV monitors. By touching a button, the officer on duty can transfer any pictures recorded at a given moment by CCTV onto a central-viewing screen and record the event on a VCR stationed in the control room. As the camera has time-lapse recording capabilities, the event can be studied later to provide officers with additional clues.

A control panel handling these three activities automatically (instantaneous printout, closed-circuit video monitoring, and an intercom that opens for two-way communications throughout the call) allows the officer in the control room to focus his or her attention on talking to the victim and directing a patrol officer to the scene of an event.

"The control panel has also increased worker productivity in nonemergency situations," Sandulli says. While officers were previously required to make a tour of the parking structure once every hour, they can now be redirected to patrol other areas of the hospital complex if needed. Operating CCTVs keep a continuous watch on the lot.

According to Sandulli, one of the greatest myths is that new equipment means fewer jobs. "That's simply not true in the case of security systems. Technology can handle certain mundane tasks, such as surveillance or documentation, while security personnel can direct their energies to jobs that require quick response and skill."

Of course, security officers or police would not be the only people handling these security devices. The public would have to use the alarms in two-way communications, and Sandulli took their concerns into consideration for the installation.

Because he was designing for a hospital, he took into account guidelines for individuals with disabilities and placed alarms at heights that would be accessible to people in wheelchairs. The Americans with Disabilities Act demands that many lot owners now look at their alarm installations in terms of accessibility to individuals with disabilities.

In deciding where to place alarms throughout the garages and what distance to leave between alarms, Sandulli says he followed guidelines issued by the National Fire Protection Association. As an added deterrent to crime, he installed strobe lights over the alarms. When the alarm is hit, the strobe lights flash for a set time.

While addressing these fundamental security needs, Sandulli also kept his eye on other potential scenarios for crime. As the hospital served children and their families, its police and safety personnel had to identify a number of situations that could occur in the parking structure affecting these groups.

The hospital, for instance, deals with child abuse victims as patients. Their abusers--mostly parents or other relatives--were known to become violent when they learned that their children were made wards of the court. To compound difficulties, the hospital was located in an area that at that time had the second-highest crime rate in the city.

Anticipating such potential incidents of violence, the security system was designed to provide all administrative, social service, and service personnel staffing stores, parking booths, and other areas in the complex with wireless panic transmitters. Control panels were situated near their stations. The entire hospital was wired for the control panel components so that the units could feed information directly to the security control room.

In a situation where a parking attendant is threatened with violence, he or she can simply trigger a panic alarm, which alerts the control room to the emergency through the control panel. By hitting the alarm, the individual's location in the complex can be identified by police in the control room. Improvements to key two-way communications in the control room allowed these additional security devices to be introduced to the system at any time.

The parking structure in the hospital's nearby Rangos Research Center was secured at all possible access points, including perimeter doors, indoor parking areas, and elevators, by use of access cards tailored to interact with the system. This measure was taken since hospital officials wanted to keep police to a minimum in research areas while maintaining a high degree of protection.

Were the added features in the system overkill? No, says Sandulli. "These days, the law requires lot owners to prove that measures have actually been taken to not only deter crime, but protect people. If you can't prove that, you may be opening the door to a lawsuit."

An integrated system that allows a company to add capabilities over time makes the most sense. Adding onto a core system can control the costs of the system over the long run. "It also pays to build onto a security system that already exists on a lot, rather than starting from scratch," says Sandulli. "Look at what you have in place, and complement it with additional security tools."

WHILE THE FLOW OF HUMAN AND VEHICULAR traffic in a lot should rank highly in assessing security needs, other factors must also be considered. Changes in weather, for example, should be studied over a period of time when security needs for an outdoor parking lot are evaluated. While this point may seem obvious, it is often overlooked in making equipment purchases. The most sophisticated system will prove useless if it has not been tailored to cope with extremes in temperature and humidity.

Luckily, these factors were considered when a proximity access control system was installed for vehicle entry at Orlando International Airport. By using proximity access cards, authorized employees can gain access to various gated areas of the airport simply by waving their card 6 to 12 inches away from a card reader. The reader additionally records point access and exit history.

Damaging effects of the weather on the reader were minimized by using fiber-optic cable during installation. Wire can be inactivated by lightning or flood, while fiber-optic cables are more likely to withstand the elements.

Most recently, a new wireless technology that bypasses most obstacles presented by the weather or the environment has been incorporated into some access control products. Spread spectrum technology, which is still used to protect sensitive military communications of some governments, presents a viable alternative to the expensive cabling that previously was required in most parking lot security systems.

As a wireless technology, spread spectrum can be used in long-distance, line-of-site communications where any hard-wire system could be installed. This technology allows access control devices to communicate across distances of 2,000 feet. Coupling an appropriate antenna to the system permits communication to distances of 3,500 feet or more.

Unusual considerations. The most unlikely aspects of parking lot security play a dominant role in the design and implementation of a system. Consider, for example, situations where immediate and unhampered access into a building can be an essential element of a person's job. Paramedics and police officers, for instance, have to be able to get onto the premises where they work at a moment's notice.

This concern was factored into security designs when the Lexington, KY, police department remodelled its four-story headquarters. Seven doors on different levels opened to the garage. Employees of the station required one hand-held item that would permit access to all seven doors, when necessary. A Wiegand card was chosen to make access to the garage a quick and manageable procedure.

Six-card access security system units monitored 12 access points to police headquarters, including the garage. Finally, software was developed to work with any IBM or IBM-compatible system to allow operators to monitor various access points throughout the building and provide detailed history reports of those people entering and exiting the facility.

The result for Lexington? One card per employee opened all doors, except in cases where access to an area in the building was restricted to authorized personnel. Additionally, if an employee leaves the force under adverse conditions, his or her card can be eliminated from the system through the PC. The potential ability of an ex-employee to duplicate keys or gain unauthorized entry into the building is minimized.

Another example of an unique security application in business involved a storage facility company and centered around difficulties it experienced with some of its clients. The company, Stor-A-Way of Pittsburgh, found that many of its renters were emptying storage units of their contents in the middle of the night and leaving the city without paying their bills.

To remedy this problem, Stor-A-Way linked up access control to storage units with its accounting department. Customers now enter four-digit access codes into a keypad at the locked main gate of the facilities. The keypads are tied into a control panel and software, which are linked via modem to the computer that generates billing for the firm. When a code is inserted, the software is able to verify the status of an account. Customers who are delinquent in paying their bill are not allowed into the storage facility.

This system is also equipped with an antipassback feature that requires customers to enter their codes onto the keypad when leaving the facility. When this information is entered, a record is created that indicates the time and length of the customer's stay at the facility. If a theft occurs, activity on the grounds during a particular period can be studied.

Given the numerous security tools equipped to deal with emergency events in a parking lot, it would be easy to overlook the importance of assessing what is routine. Typically, a security officer will acknowledge the entry of regular lot users with no more than a passing nod or wave. If the officer can identify users by name and position in a company, this method may suffice.

The potential for trouble exists if these greetings substitute for actual knowledge of the person in question, or if his or her authorization into the company is subsequently denied and the officer is not informed. Too often, there are reports and incidents of former employees returning to work to threaten or injure their former coworkers.

Video documentation can guard against these intrusions. Using CCTV images, an officer can visually compare the on-camera image of a person seeking entry to the building with a stored image and professional history on file.

Customizing must be the foremost consideration when putting together the right mix of security tools. Security manufacturers have lines of products dedicated to parking lot applications, and they can work with companies to accommodate their budgets.

Joel Konicek is president of Northern Computers Inc., Milwaukee. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:security system for parking areas
Author:Konicker, Joel
Publication:Security Management
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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